Wolfe v. North Carolina
364 U.S. 177 (1960)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Wolfe v. North Carolina, 364 U.S. 177 (1960)

Wolfe v. North Carolina

No. 7

Argued October 19-20, 1959

Decided June 27, 1960

364 U.S. 177

Syllabus

Appellants and other Negroes obtained from a Federal District Court an injunction against the operation on a racially discriminatory basis of a golf course owned by a North Carolina City but leased and operated by a club. Appellants had previously been charged with, and were subsequently tried in a state court for, violating a state criminal trespass statute by persisting in playing on the course after having been denied permission to do so and after having been ordered to leave. The jury was clearly instructed that appellants could not be found guilty if they were excluded because of their race; but they were convicted. At this trial, the unpublished findings and judgment of the Federal Court were offered in evidence, but were excluded. Appellants omitted these facts from the record on appeal to the State Supreme Court, wherein they contended that, notwithstanding the jury's verdict, the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment required a holding that the findings and judgment of the Federal Court conclusively established that the criminal trespass statute was used to enforce a practice of racial discrimination by a state agency. The State Supreme Court declined to rule on that contention on the ground that, under state law, the findings and judgment of the Federal Court were not before it,.and it affirmed the convictions.

Held: an appeal to this Court is dismissed, and certiorari is denied for want of a substantial federal question, since the judgment of the State Supreme Court was independently and adequately supported on state procedural grounds. Pp. 364 U. S. 178-196.

(a) Even if the judgment and findings of the Federal Court were offered in evidence and excluded by the trial judge, these facts did not appear in the record filed by appellants in the State Supreme Court and, therefore, were not properly cognizable by that Court under state practice. Pp. 364 U. S. 185-187.

(b) In declining to go outside the record in order to ascertain the true facts, the State Supreme Court did not discriminate against appellants; it acted in accordance with a practice which it had followed consistently for many years in considering appeals in criminal cases. Pp. 364 U. S. 187-192.

Page 364 U. S. 178

(c) The Federal Court's findings and judgment in the civil case were not properly brought before the state courts by appellants' motion to quash at the outset of the trial, which allege the effect of the Federal Court's proceedings and requested leave to offer the record of that Court in evidence in support of the motion, since the settled state practice does not permit consideration of extraneous evidence in passing upon such a motion. Pp. 364 U. S. 192-193.

(d) Under established state practice, the Federal Court's findings and judgment in the civil case were not properly brought before the state courts by appellants' motion at the end of the trial to set aside the verdict. Pp. 364 U. S. 193-194.

(e) The State Supreme Court did not arbitrarily deny appellants an opportunity to present their federal claim. Pp. 364 U. S. 194-195.

248 N.C. 485, 103 S.E.2d 846, appeal dismissed.

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