Shelley v. Kraemer
334 U.S. 1 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948)

Shelley v. Kraemer

Argued January 15-16, 1948

Decided May 3, 1948*

334 U.S. 1

Syllabus

Private agreements to exclude persons of designated race or color from the use or occupancy of real estate for residential purposes do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment; but it is violative of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for state courts to enforce them. Corrigan v. Buckley,271 U. S. 323, distinguished. Pp. 334 U. S. 8-23.

(a) Such private agreements, standing alone, do not violate any rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 334 U. S. 12-13.

(b) The actions of state courts and judicial officers in their official capacities are actions of the states within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 334 U. S. 14-18.

(c) In granting judicial enforcement of such private agreements in these cases, the states acted to deny petitioners the equal protection of the laws, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 334 U. S. 18-23.

(d) The fact that state courts stand ready to enforce restrictive covenants excluding white persons from the ownership or occupancy of property covered by them does not prevent the enforcement of covenants excluding colored persons from constituting a denial of equal protection of the laws, since the rights created by § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment are guaranteed to the individual. Pp. 334 U. S. 21-22.

Page 334 U. S. 2

(e) Denial of access to the courts to enforce such restrictive covenants does not deny equal protection of the laws to the parties to such agreements. P. 334 U. S. 22.

355 Mo. 814, 198 S.W.2d 679, and 316 Mich. 614, 25 N.W.2d 638, reversed.

No. 72. The Supreme Court of Missouri reversed a judgment of a state trial court denying enforcement of a private agreement restricting the use or occupancy of certain real estate to persons of the Caucasian race. 355 Mo. 814,198 S.W.2d 679. This Court granted certiorari. 331 U.S. 803. Reversed, p. 334 U. S. 23.

No. 87. The Supreme Court of Michigan affirmed a judgment of a state trial court enjoining violation of a private agreement restricting the use or occupancy of certain real estate to persons of the Caucasian race. 316 Mich. 614, 25 N.W.2d 638. This Court granted certiorari. 331 U.S. 804. Reversed, p. 334 U. S. 23.

Page 334 U. S. 4

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Primary Holding

Although racially restrictive real estate covenants are not per se illegal, since they do not involve state action, a court cannot enforce them under the Fourteenth Amendment.