Palmer v. Thompson
403 U.S. 217 (1971)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217 (1971)

Palmer v. Thompson

No. 107

Argued December 14, 1970

Decided June 14, 1971

403 U.S. 217

Syllabus

Following the Court of Appeals' affirmance of a District Court judgment invalidating enforced segregation on equal protection grounds, the city council of Jackson, Mississippi, desegregated its public recreational facilities, including its five public parks, except for their swimming pools. Stating that the pools could not be operated safely and economically on an integrated basis, the council closed four city-owned pools and surrendered its lease on a fifth, which the lessor, the YMCA, continued to operate for whites only. Petitioners, Negro citizens of Jackson, then brought this action, mainly on equal protection grounds, to force the city to reopen and operate the pools on a desegregated basis. The District Court held that there was no denial of equal protection. The Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting the contention that, since the pools had been closed to avoid desegregation there was a denial of equal protection.

Held:

1. The closing of the pools to all persons did not constitute a denial of equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Negroes. Pp. 403 U. S. 219-226.

(a) This case is distinguishable from Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County,377 U. S. 218, and Reitman v. Mulkey,387 U. S. 369, on both of which petitioners rely. In Griffin, there were many facets of state involvement in the segregated operation of "private" schools; here there is no city involvement in the operation or funding of any pool. In Reitman, the evidence was deemed sufficient to show that the State, by enacting a constitutional amendment establishing the right of private persons to discriminate in realty transactions, thereby repealing two housing anti-discrimination laws, was abetting refusal to rent apartments on racial grounds; here there was no evidence that the city conspired with the YMCA that its pool be segregated. Pp. 403 U. S. 221-224.

(b) In this case, where there was substantial evidence to support the council's stated reason for closing the pools and there

Page 403 U. S. 218

was no evidence of state action affecting Negroes differently from white, petitioners' contention that equal protection requirements were violated because the pool-closing decision was motivated by anti-integration considerations must also fail, since courts will not invalidate legislation based solely on asserted illicit motivation by the enacting legislative body. Pp. 403 U. S. 224-226.

2. The city council's action in closing the pools, instead of keeping them open on an integrated basis, did not create a "badge or incident" of slavery in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. Pp. 403 U. S. 226-227.

419 F.2d 1222, affirmed.

BLACK, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and HARLAN, STEWART, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., post, p. 403 U. S. 227, and BLACKMUN, J., post, p. 403 U. S. 228, filed concurring opinions. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 403 U. S. 231. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 403 U. S. 240. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and WHITE, JJ., joined, post, p. 403 U. S. 271.

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