Barrows v. Jackson - 346 U.S. 249 (1953)


U.S. Supreme Court

Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249 (1953)

Barrows v. Jackson

No. 517

Argued April 28-29, 1953

Decided June 15, 1953

346 U.S. 249

Syllabus

The enforcement of a covenant forbidding use and occupancy of real estate by non-Caucasians, by an action at law in a state court to recover damages from a co-covenantor for a breach of the covenant, is barred by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 346 U. S. 251-260.

(a) The action of a state court in thus sanctioning a racial restrictive covenant would constitute state action within the prohibition of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 346 U. S. 254.

(b) State action in allowing damages for breach of a covenant not to permit non-Caucasians to use and occupy their property would deprive such non-Caucasians, unidentified but identifiable, of equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 346 U. S. 254.

(c) The principle that a person cannot challenge the constitutionality of a statute unless he shows that he himself is injured by its operation has no application to the instant case, in which respondent has been sued for damages totaling $11,600, and in which a judgment against respondent would constitute a direct pocketbook injury to her. Pp. 346 U. S. 254-256.

(d) Under the peculiar circumstances of this case, the reasons which underlie the rule denying standing to raise another's constitutional rights, which is only a rule of practice, are outweighed by the need to protect the fundamental rights which would be denied by permitting the damages action to be maintained. P. 346 U. S. 257.

(e) The principle that the right to equal protection of the laws is a "personal" right, guaranteed to the individual, rather than to groups or classes, is not here violated, since it is not non-Caucasians as a group whose rights are asserted by the defendant in the damages action, but the rights of particular non-Caucasian would-be users of restricted land. Pp. 346 U. S. 259-260.

(f) The provision of Art. I, §10 of the Federal Constitution, that "No State shall . . . pass any . . . Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts," is not violated by the refusal of a state court

Page 346 U. S. 250

to enforce a racial restrictive covenant, since that provision is directed against legislative action only, not against the judgments of courts. P. 346 U. S. 260.

(g) The plaintiffs in an action for damages for breach of a racial restrictive covenant are not denied due process and equal protection of the laws by the state court's refusal to enforce the covenant, since the Constitution confers upon no individual the right to demand action by the State which would result in the denial of equal protection of the laws to others. P. 346 U. S. 260.

112 Cal. App. 2d 534, 247 P. 2d 99, affirmed.

Petitioners sued respondent in a California state court to recover damages for an alleged breach of a racial restrictive covenant. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the complaint. The district Court of Appeal affirmed. 112 Cal.App.2d 534, 247 P.2d 99. The State Supreme Court denied a hearing. This Court granted certiorari. 345 U.S. 902. Affirmed, p. 346 U. S. 260.

Page 346 U. S. 251



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