Hurd v. Hodge
334 U.S. 24 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hurd v. Hodge, 334 U.S. 24 (1948)

Hurd v. Hodge

No. 290

Argued January 15-16, 1948

Decided May 3, 1948*

334 U.S. 24

Syllabus

1. Covenants incorporated in private conveyances of real estate in the District of Columbia which forbid the rental, lease, sale, transfer, or conveyance of the land to any Negro are valid, but their enforcement by the courts of the District of Columbia is prohibited by R.S. § 1978 guaranteeing to all citizens of the United States equal rights to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property. Pp. 334 U. S. 30-34.

(a) The District of Columbia is included in the phrase "every State and Territory," as used in R.S. § 1978. P. 334 U. S. 31.

(b) Congress has the constitutional power to enact such legislation for the District of Columbia. P. 334 U. S. 31.

(c) The action toward which R.S. § 1978 is directed is governmental action, and it does not invalidate private agreements, so long as their purpose is achieved through voluntary adherence to their terms. P. 334 U. S. 31.

(d) Judicial enforcement of such discriminatory covenants is prohibited by R.S. § 1978, which is derived from the Civil Rights Act and closely related to the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 334 U. S. 31-34.

2. The power of the federal courts to enforce the terms of private agreements is at all times exercised subject to the restrictions and limitations of the public policy of the United States as manifested in the Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, and applicable legal precedents. Pp. 334 U. S. 34-35.

3. Even in the absence of a statute such as R.S. § 1978, it is not consistent with the public policy of the United States to permit federal courts in the Nation's capital to exercise general equitable powers to compel action denied the state courts by the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 334 U. S. 34-36.

82 U.S.App.D.C. 180, 162 F.2d 233, reversed.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed a judgment of the District Court

Page 334 U. S. 25

decreeing enforcement of a covenant incorporated in conveyances of land and forbidding its rental, lease, sale, transfer, or conveyance to any Negro. 82 U.S.App.D.C. 180, 162 F.2d 233. This Court granted certiorari. 332 U.S. 789. Reversed, p. 334 U. S. 36.

Page 335 U. S. 26

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