xt7msb3wtd0h_47 https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7msb3wtd0h/data/mets.xml https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7msb3wtd0h/data/72m2.dao.xml unknown 166 Cubic Feet 381 document boxes, seven textile items, three map folders, one artwork archival material 72m2 English University of Kentucky The physical rights to the materials in this collection are held by the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.  Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Frederick Moore Vinson papers Economic stabilization. Elections -- United States -- Congresses. Judges -- Correspondence. Judges -- United States. Judicial opinions Judicial process -- United States Legislators -- Correspondence. New Deal, 1933-1939. World War, 1914-1918 -- Veterans. World War, 1939-1945. Restricted Covenant Cases - nos. 72-87 text Restricted Covenant Cases - nos. 72-87 2019 https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7msb3wtd0h/data/72m2/Box_185/Folder_6/Multipage5771.pdf 1947 1947 1947 section false xt7msb3wtd0h_47 xt7msb3wtd0h SUPREME COURT 0F THE UNITED STATES
Nos. 72 AND ST.~OCT()BEH TEnM, 1047.

.l. D. Shelley. Ethel Lee Shelley, His 0n ll'rit of (lei‘tio-

Wife. Petitioners, rari t0 the S11-

2 r. preine (‘ourt of

Louis Krueiner and Fern ‘3'. Krae— the State of His—
11101‘. His Wife. souri.

Orsel Kit-Ghee and )linnie 5“. Tale-
(1l1ee, His Wife. Petitionms,
RT 2'.

0n W'rit of (‘ertio—
rari to the {\‘n—
preine Court of

Benjmnin .l. Sipes and, Anna (l. t h e .‘4 t a t e, of
Sipes. .lznnes A. Coon und Addie Txliehie'an


A. ( ‘oon.

[May 7—. 19-18,]

Mn. (‘iincr .lt‘s'riei; ‘(iysox delivered the Opinion of
the (hurt.

These eases present for our consideration questions re—
lutine‘ to the \‘zili ity of enforcement of private
agreements. generally deseril as restrietiye eoyenunts.
\\'lll(‘ll have as their pu=' "230 the exclusion of persons of
desiunnted ruee or eolo‘r jl'UlII the (nri'iership or occupancy
of real property. insie eonstitutimml 1.: 1' .,: of oliyieus
importance have been ruisrrd.

The first ol’ these ears-es ('onies to this ("onrt on em": iornri
to the Supreme (‘ourt of .\li>"s0tn'i. On Animist it}.
1911. thirty out of 3. total of thirty-nine owners of prop—
erty fronting: hoth sides of littlindie Avenue, between
Taylor Avenue and Com Avenue in the city of St. Louis.
signed an agreement. which was subsequently reeorrled,
providinuin part:

“. . . the said property is hereby restrieted to the
use and oeeupuney for the term of Fifty (.30) years
from this date. so that, it shall he a condition all the


 '72 LQ: ST

time and whether recited and referred to as [sic]
not in subsequent conyeyances and shall attach to
the land. as a condition precedent to the sale 01 the
same, that hereafter no part of said property or any
portion thereof shall be. for said term of Fifty-years,
occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race.
it, being intended hereby to restrict the use of said
property for said period of time against the occu—
pancy as owners or tenants of any portion of said
property for resident or other purpose by people of
the Negro or Mongolian Race.”

The entire district described in the agreement includer
fifty—seven parcels of land. The thirty
the. agreement held title to forty—seven parcels. inc
the particular parcel involved in this case. At the tiin,
the agreement was signed. fire of the parcels in the dis—
trict were owned by Negroes. One of those had been
occupied by Negro families since 1882, nearly thirty years
before the restrictive agreement was executed. The trial
court found that owners of seven out of nine homes on
the south side of Labadie Axenue. within the restricted
district and “in the immediate Vicinity" of the premises
in question. had failed to sign the restrictive agreement
in 1911. At the time this action was brought. four of
the premises were occupied by Negroes. and. had been so
occupicd for periods ranging from tit'enty-three to sixty—
thrce years. A fifth parcel had been occupied by Negroes
until a year before this suit was instituted.

On August 11. 1945, pursuant to a contract of sale.
petitioners Shelley. who are Negroes. to: valuable con»
sideration receiyed from one Fitzgerald a warranty deed
to the parcel in question? The trial court found that

"Hie trial court iound Iliul title to Eh:- pi'opt'rty which 1'::=tit"o‘ici's

Shelley sought to purclmsr- w:.s hrhl by on.“ bishop, a real i‘stat

(.lt’nlt‘l‘, who placed the p1‘t)p(=it}' in the Ilztllli‘ o!" .loscplrnc Fit I‘nlil.

Bishop, who acted as :tEItlll for petitioners in the purchase, concrulcil
the fact of his ownership.


 72 & 87

petitioners had no actual knowledge of the restrictive
agreement at the time of the purchase.

011 October 9 194-5 respondents. as owners of 0the1
propert-V subject to the terms of the restrictive covenant,
brought: suit in the C“i1cuit Court 01 the cit1'o t St. Louis
pragyin 1‘ that petitioners Shellev be restrained trom tak—
ing possession ot the piopc1t1' and that judqnient be e11—
tei ed divesting; title cut 0t petitioners Shelle1'1nd 1e1' est—
ing); title in the immediate grantor or in such other person
as the court should direct. The t1 rial (:10 urt de enied the
requested relief on the ground that tne res it“. he agree—
ment. upon which respondents based their action. had
never become final and complete because it was the inten—
tion of the parties to that agreement that it 1111s not to
become, effective until sinned hv all pro11e1‘t1' 011‘1‘1ersin
the district and si1'11atu1es of all the o1.“1neis h: l ne1 e1
been obtained.

The Supreme Court of Missouri sitting: e11 hanc reversed
and directed the trial court to grant the relief for which
respondents had pra' 'ed. That court held the eteemen .
eftecti1e and concluded that enforcement of its pi o1isions
violated no rights gua1anteed to petitioners by the Fed—
eral Constitution." At. the time the court renoel ed its
decision. petitioners were occupying the 1roperty in

The second of the cases under consir erati on comes to
this (ourt 110111 the S11 meme Court 0t Michigan ’1 he
circumstances presented do not diffe1 materially trom the
1\"[issouri case. In June. 1934. one Ferguson and his wife.
who then o11‘ncd the property located in the city 01." De—
troit which is involved in this case, executed :1 contract
pro1r'idinc; in part:

“This property shall not be used or occupied by
any person or persons except those of the Caucasian

L’l’x’l‘aemcr 1'. Shelley/,5 355 Mo. 814,198 S. \V. 2d 679 (1046).



“It is further agreed that this restriction shall not
he effectiye, unless at least eighty percent of the prop—
erty fronting on both sides of the street in the block
where our land is located is subject to this or a similar

The agreement In'oyided that the restrictions were to
remain in effect until January 1. 1060. The contract \as
subsequently recorded; and similar agreements were exe—
cuted with respect to eighty percent of the lots in the
block in which the premerty in question is situated,

By deed dated November l. 1044. petitioners, who were
found by the trial court to be Xegroes. acquired title to
the property and thereupon entered into its occupancy.
On January 30. 19471. respondents. as owners of property
subject to the terms or" the restrictiye agreement. liaroxgjht:
suit against petitioners in the Circuit Court of Vt‘ayne-
County. After a hearing; the court entered a decree
directing); petitioners to more from the property within
ninety days. Petitioners were further enjoined and re—
strained from rising or occupying the premises in the
future. On appeal. the Supreme Court of Michigan at—
firmed. deciding: adversely to petitioners contentions t lat
they had been denied rights jin‘otected by the Fourteenth

Petitioners hsye placed primary reliance on their con~
tentions. first raiscd in the state courts. that judic'al en-
forcement of the restrictive agreements in these cases has
violated rights guaranteed to petitioners by the Four-
teenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution and Acts
of Congress passed pursuant to tha Amendment." Spe—
cifi tally. petitioners urge that they have been denied the

1‘ Sipcs \'. .lch/tw. 3113 )lich. 61—1, L35 N. W. 13d (ii-SS (lfl-lTl.

"l‘he first section of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: “All
persons horn or naturalized in the ['nitcd States and subject to the
jurisdiction thereof, are citizens. of the l’nitcd States and 0f the
Slate wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law


 7‘2 & ST

equal p1oteeti on oft he .aws dep11ved of 111 one1tv v. ithout.
due process of la 1‘.\\ and have been denied p1i\ileees and
imnuniities 01 cit1zens 01 the l nited States. V1 e 1111 sst

a consideration of those issues.


\Vliether the equa protection clause. of the Fourteenth
Amendment inhibits judicial (111101 ceme 1t bv state courts
of restrictive covenants based on race or color is a question
which this (11111-1 has not h eretofore been called upon to
consider. Only two ases 11:11. been decided by this
Court which in any 11.213.1(l.ave involved the enforcement of
such agreements. lhe first of these was the ca se of
(701777an v Burn/1711.21} TC. 9.323 (1926). There. suit
was brought in the couits 01 the Dist1iet of C0111111bia to
enjoin a threatened violation of certain iestrietiw cov—
enants relating; to lands situated in the ei ty of \1 9.11111111—
ton. telief was granted 11111 the case was orought her ,
on appeal. It. is apparent that that. case. which had
originated 111 the federal courts and involved the enforce-
ment of covenants on land located 111 the District of
Columbia. could present no issues under the Four1tee .th
.»\1nendment; for that Amendment by its terms applies
only to the States. Nor was the, question of the validity
of court. enforcement of the restrictive covenants under
the, Fifth -\1nendnient properly before the Court. as the,
opinion 01 this ( ourst specifically 1eco11111/es The only
eonstitutitnial issue, 1 hich the appellants had raised in
the lower courts and hence the onlv constitutional iss 11e
before this Coutt on appeal. was the. validity ol the cov-
enant agreements as such. This Court concluded that

which shall abridge the privilege or innnunities of citizens o?" the
United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life. liberty,
or property, without due process of law; nor denv to any person
within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

5Corrigan v. Bite/(try. 37l 1". S. 1;), 130—3? (192(1).



since the inhibitions of the constitutional provisions in—
voked. apply only to governmental action, as contrasted
to action of private individuals. there was no showing that.
the covenants. which were simply agreements between
private property owners. were invalid. .~\icc01‘dingly, the
appeal was dismissed for want of a substantial question.
Nothing in the Opinion of this Court. therefore. may prop-
erly be regarded as an adjudication on the merits of the
constitutional issues presented by these cases, which raise
the question of the validity, not of the private agreements
as such, but of the judicial enforcement. of those agree-

The second of the cases involving racial restrictive
covenants was Hansbcrry v. Lee, 311 TC. S. 32 (1940).
In that case. petitioners. white property owners. were
enjoined by the state courts from violating the terms
of a restrictive agreement. The state Supreme Courthad
held. petitioners bound by an earlier judicial determina—
tion. in litigation in which petitioners were not parties.
upholding the validity of the restrictive agreement. al—
though. in fact. the agreement had not been signed by
the number of owners necessary to make it effective under
state law. This Court reversed the judgment of the state
Supreme Court upon the ground that petitioners had
been denied due process of law in being held estopped
to challenge the validity of the agreement on the theory.
accepted by the state court. that the earlier litigation.
in which petitioners did not participate. was in the nature
of a class suit. In arriving at its result. this Court did
not reach the issues presented by the cases now under

It is well. at the outset. to scrutinize. the terms of the
restrictive agreements involved in these cases. In the
Missouri case. the covenant declares that no part of the
affected property shall be “occupied by any person not



of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby to restrict
the use of said property . . . against the occupancy as
owners or tenants of any portion of said property for
resident or other purpose by people of the Negro or Mon—
golian Race.” As construed by the Missouri courts. this
restriction is directed against both occupancy and own—
ership of the affected properties by members of the ex—
cluded class. The restriction of the covenant in the
Aliichigan case seeks to bar occupancy by such persons.
It provides that “This property shall not be used or occu—
pied by any person or persons except those of the Can—
casian race.”

It should be obseryed that these covenants do not
seek to proscribe any particular use of the affected prop—
erties. 1 se of the propeIties for residential occupancy
as such is not forbidden The lestiictions of tliese aoi‘ee—
'111ents rather a1e di1ected to“ a1d a designated class of
persons and seek to detelmine who 111ay and who may

not own 01 make use of the 11ro11eities loi es1dent1al

purposes V2. The excluded class is defined \\ hohy 111 te1ms

0t race 01 color; “simply that and nothing: more.” ‘

It cannot be doubted that among the ciyil rights i11-
tended to be protected from discriminatory state action
by the Fourteenth A111end1nent are the rights to acquire,
enjoy, own and dispose of property. Equality in the
enjoyment of property rights was regarded by the framers
of that A111endment as an essential pie-condition to
the realization of other basic ciyil rights and liberties
which the Amendment was intended to guarantee.T Thus, 1

$1078 of the Reyi sed Statutes. derived from § 1 of the
(, ivil Rights Act of 1866 which was enacted by Congress 1

“ Buchanan y. ll'arlcy. 34:3 in P‘ .1107 3(1917l.
Th'lnug/lztrr Home ('rmt‘s. lb “’11“. ill», 7 l, 8'1 (lSTB). Sec Flack,



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 72 & 87

The precise question before this Court in both the
Buchanan and Harmon cases. involved the rights of white
sellers to dispose of their properties free from restrictions
as to potential purchasers based on considerations of race
or color. But that such legislation is also offensive to
the rights of those desiring to acquire and occupy property
and barred on grounds of race or color. is clear. not only
from the language of the opinion in Buchanan v. ll'arlcg,
supra, but from this Court's disposition of the case of
City of Ric/unend v. Deans, 281 1'. S 704 (1930'). There
a Negro. barred from the occupancy of certain property
by the terms of an ordinance similar to that in the
Buchanan case. sought injunctive relief in the federal
courts to enjoin the enforcement of the ordinance on
the grounds that its provisions violated the terms of
the Fourteenth Amendment. Such relief was granted.
and this Court affirmed. finding the citation of Buchanan
v. ll'arlcy, supra, and Harmon v. Tyler, supra, sufficient
to support its judgment.

But the present cases. unlike those just discussed. do
not involve action by state legislatures or city councils.
Here the particular patterns of discrimination and the
areas in which the restrictions are to operate. are deter-
mined. in the first instance. by the terms of agreements
among private individuals. Participation of the state
consists in the enforcement of the restrictions so defined.
The crucial issue with which we are here confronted is
whether this distinction removes these cases from the
operation of the prohibitory provisions of the Fourteenth

Since the decision of this Court in the Civil Rights
Cases, 109 If. S. 3 ( 1883‘), the principle has become firmly
embedded in our constitutional law that the action in—
hibited by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment.
is only such action as may fairly be said to be that of




the States. That Amendment erects no shield against
merely private conduct. however wrongful.“

We conclude. therefore. that the restrictive agreements
standing alone cannot be regarded as a violation of any
rights guaranteed to petitioners by the Fourteenth
Amendment. So long as the purposes of those agree—
ments are effectuated by voluntary adherence to their
terms, it would appear clear that there has been no action
by the State and the provisions of the Amendment have
not been violated. Cf. Corrigan v. Buckley, supra.

But here there was more. These are cases in which
the purposes of the agreements were secured only by
judicial enforcement by state courts of the restrictive
terms of the agreements. The respondents urge that
judicial enforcement of private agreements does not
amount to state action; or. in any event. the participation
of the State is so attenuated in character as not to amount

to state action within the meaning of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Finally. it is suggested. even if the States
in these cases may be deemed to have acted in the consti—
tutional sense, their action did not deprive petitioners
of rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. We
move to a consideration of these matters.


That the action of state courts and of judicial officers
in their official capacities is to be regarded as action of
the State within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amend-
ment, is a proposition which has long been established
by decisions of this Court. That principle was given ex—
pression in the earliest cases involving the construction
of the terms of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus. in
Virginia v. Ifz'rcs, 100 F. S. 313, 318 (1880). this Court

" And sec (VIII'U'I/ States v. Harris. 100' U. S. 6‘39 (18%); (Mite/l
States V. (,'/'Iti/.'.s'/Hm/.'. 02 f. S. 542 (1871i).


 72 & 87

stated: “It is doubtless true that a State may act through
different agencies—either by its legislative. its executive.
or its judicial authorities: and the prohibitions of the
amendment extend to all action of the State denying
equal protection of the laws. whether it be action by one
of these agencies or by another.” In Er partc l'irginia,
100 U. S. 339. 346—347 (1880). the Court observed: “A
State acts by its legislative, its executive. or its judicial
authorities. It can act in no other way.” In the Cizril
Rig/It's Cases, 109 Y. S. 3. 11. 17 (1893‘). this Court pointed
out that the Amendment makes void “State action of
every kind” which is inconsistent with the guaranties
therein contained. and extends to manifestations of “State
authority in the shape of laws. customs, or judicial or
executive proceedings.” Language to like effect is em—
ployed no less than eighteen times during the course of
that opinion.”

Similar expressions. giving specific recognition to the
fact that judicial action is to be regarded as action of the
State for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. are
to be found in numerous cases which have been more
recently decided. In Twining v. New Jersey, 211 I'. S.
78, 004M (1908). the Court said: “The judicial act of the
highest, court of the State, in authoritatively construing
and enforcing its laws, is the act of the State.” In Brink-
crlIofl—Faris Trust it? Savings Co. v. Hill, 281 II. S. 673,
680 (1930), the Court. through Mr. Justice Brandeis,
stated: “”he federal guaranty of due process extends to

IL’Among the phrases appearing in the opinion are the following:
"the operation of State laws, and the action of State officers executive
or judicial”; “State laws and State proeetalings"; “State law . . .
or some State action through its officers or agents"; “State laws and
acts done under State authority”; “State laws, or State action of
some kind"; "sueh laws as the States may adopt or enforce"; “such
acts as the States may commit or take"; “State legislation or action";
"State law or State :mthority."


 7‘2 & 87

state action through its judicial as well as through its
legislative, executive or administrative branch of gov—
ernment.” Further examples of such declarations in the
opinions of this Court are not lacking.”

One of the earliest applications of the prohibitions con—
tained in the Fourteenth Amendment to action of state
judicial officials occurred in cases in which Negroes had
been excluded from jury service in criminal prosecutions
by reason of their race or color. These cases demonstrate.
also. the early recognition by this Court that state action
in violation of the Amendments provisions is equally
repugnant to the constitutional commands \vhether di—
rected by state statute or taken by a judicial official in the
absence of statute. Thus. in Strauder v. ll'est Virginia,
100 1'. S. 303 (1880). this Court declared invalid a state
statute restricting jury service to white persons as
amounting to a denial of the equal protection of the
laws to the colored defendant in that case. In the same
volume of the reports. the Court. in Er partc Virginia,
supra. held that a similar discrin‘iination imposed by the
action of a state judge denied rights protected by the
Amendment. despite the fact. that the language of the
state statute relating to jury service contained no such

The action of state courts in imposing penalties or de—
priving parties of other substantive rights Without pro-

” Veal v DI’lHIl'III't’. 103 1'. S. 370, 51117 (18811: Scott v. JIcNenl,

154 1'. . 1-,14 4) (131141; ('liirugo Burlington (rm/ Qnincg It. ('1).
v. (Imago. 1011 1. S. 2211 2iifii~21$3 (1S‘1T1; Hol'eg v. Elliott. 1117
1'. S. 41111, 417—418 (18971; (II/"te/ \'. T1’.‘.l(l\ 177 T'. #142,447 (1110(1);
.l/(lrtin v. Turns. "200 1' \ 1103111 1111001: Raj/mom] v. (lb/(71.00
l'nion Traction ('o.. ‘207 1'. 3.201, 3.3430 (111071: Home Telephone
and Telegraph ('0. V. Los :111gcl(.\'.2‘27 1': q. 278', “280—287 (1‘1131;
Prudential Insurance ('0. \' Clive], “2.50 1." A 10, 548 (1(1221 , Amen-
(‘un [tailzrng Ei'presv ("o .Ixentnclg 7 S 20 .1, 271) (19271;

27'; 1

Mooney v. Hnlolmn 20-1 1'. 105,1 112—113(111351;H(1nsl)e1rg v.
Lw'..‘1111’.{\‘. 32,41 (1:140).


 72 & 87

viding adequate notice and opportunity to defend. has.
of course, long been regarded as a denial of the due process
of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
BriaIver/toff—Faris Trust (t' Savings Co. v. Hill, supra. Cf.
Pcnnoycr v. Nefl, 95 [7. S. 714 (1878).”

In numerous cases. this Court has reversed criminal
convictions in state courts for failure of those courts to
provide the essential ingredients of a. fair hearing. Thus
it has been held that convictions obtained in state courts
under the domination of a mob are void. .lIoore v.
Dempsey, 261 1'. S. 86 (1923:). And see Fran/r v. JIan—
gum, 237 F. S. 300 (1015). Convictions obtained by
coerced confessions.” by the use of perjured testimony
known by the prosecution to be such.” or without the
effective assistance of counsel.IT have also been held to be
exertions of state authority in conflict with the funda-
mental rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

But the examples of state judicial action which have
been held by this Court to violate the Amendment's com-
mands are not restricted to situations, in which the judi-
cial proceedings were found in some manner to be pro—
cedurally unfair. It has been recognized that the action
of state courts in enforcing a substantive common—law
rule formulated by those courts. may result in the denial
of rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. even
though the judicial proceedings in such cases may have
been in complete accord with the most rigorous concep—

" And see Standard Of] ('11. v. JI/ssmtri. 22-1 1'. S. ‘270, 2Sl~' “
(1012); Hansberri/ v. Lee. I'll] U. S‘. 32 (1040).

'7' Brown v. Mississippi. “2.07 [7. S. 278‘ (19343); ('lzambcrs v. Florida,
30!! U. S. 2‘27 (1040‘); Asheraft v. T(‘HH(’.\‘.\'(’(’. 322 U. $7.143 (19-14);
Lee v. illisxissiz)1)i.5‘332 U. S. 742 (Ill-liq).

1“ See Mummy v. Hula/um. 2.04 l'. S. 103 (1935); Pyle v. Kansas,
2:17 U. s 21:; (1942}.

‘7 I’ml‘ell v. Alabama. 287 1'. S. 45 (1932] ; ll'iU/ams v. Kaiser. 323

[7. q_ 471 (1945): Tom/{ins V. .l[[.\‘s()!1)‘i. 3‘33 F. S. 43:") (1945};
DrJINerlm'r v. Michigan. 3'20 U. S. (363 (1947).



tions of procedural due process.13 Thus. in American
Federation. of Labor Y. Swim, 312 U. S. 321 (1941), en—
forcement by state courts of the common—law policy of
the State, which resulted in the restraining of peaceful
picketing, was held to be state action of the sort pro-
hibited by the Amendments guaranties of freedom of
discussion.” In Cantircll V. Connecticut, 310 If. C. 296
(1040). a conviction in a state court of the common—law
crime of breach of the peace was, under the circumstances
of the case. found to be a, Violation of the Amendment’s
commands relating to freedom of religion. In Bridges Y.
California, 314 U. S. 252 (1941). enforcement of the
state’s common-law rule relating to contempts by publi—
cation was held to be state action inconsistent with the
prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendmentf” And cf.
Chicago, Burlington di' Quincy R. Co. V. Chicago, 166
U. s. 226 (1397‘).

The short of the matter is that from the time of the
adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment until the present.
it has been the consistent ruling of this Court that the ac—
tion of the States to which the Amendment has reference.
includes action of state courts and state judicial officials.
Although. in construing; the terms of the Fourteenth
Amendment. differences have from time to time been ex—
pressed as to whether particular types of state action may
be said to offend the Amendments prohibitory provisions.
it has never been suggested that state court action is im—

'“ In applying: the rule of Eric If. ('0. V. Tompkins, 30-1» II. S. (H
(1938!, it is clear that the connnon-law rules enunciated by state
courts in judicial opinions are to be regarded as a part of the law
of the State.

]”And see Bfl/H’I‘j/ Drircrs Local V. Wold. 315 U. S 700 (1942);
(,Vlfrtcria. Employees [XII/on \‘. Ame/o8. 320 [7. S. 293 (1943).

'-‘"And sec 1)("/lll(’/.'(IIII]) V. Florida. 3:.8 U. S. 33331 (194(3); ('I'aig V.
Horncy, 2531 [7. S. 357 (1947).


 72 & 87

munized from the operation of those provisions simply
because the act is that of the judicial branch of the state
government. '


Against this background of judicial construction. ex—
tending over a period of some three-quarters of a century.
we are called upon to consider whether enforcement by
state courts of the restrictive agreements in these cases
may be deemed to be the acts of those States; and, if
so, whether that action has denied these petitioners the
equal protection of the lavs which the Amendment was
intended to insure.

We have no doubt that there has been state action
in these cases in the full and complete sense of the phrase.
The undisputed facts disclose that petitioners were willing
purchasers of properties upon which they desired to es—
tablish homes. The owners of the properties were willing
sellers; and contracts of sale were accordingly consum—
mated. It is clear that but for the active intervention
of the state courts. supported by the full panoply of state
power. petitioner‘s would have been free to occupy the
properties in question without restraint.

These are not cases. as has been suggested. in which
the States have merely abstained from action. leaving
private individuals free to impose such discriminations
as they see fit. Rather. these are cases in which the States
have made available to such individuals the full coercive
power of government to deny to petitioners. on the
grounds of race or color. the enjoyment of property rights
in premises which petitioners are willing and financially
able to acquire and which the grantors are willing to sell.
The difference between judicial enforcement and non-
enforcement of the restrictive covenants is the difference
to petitioners between being denied rights of property


 72 & 87

available to other members of the community and being;
accorded full enjoyment of those rights on an equal

The enforcement of the restrictive agreements by the
state courts in these cases was directed pursuant to the
common-law policy of the States as formulated by those
courts in earlier decisions."1 In the Missouri case. en—
forcement of the covenant was directed in the first in—
stance by the highest court of the State after the trial
court had determined the agreement to be invalid for
want of the requisite number of signatures. In the Mich—
igan case. the order of enforcement by the trial court was
affirmed by the highest state court}: The judicial action
in each case bears the clear and unmistakable imprimatur
of the State. We have noted that previous decisions of
this ("ourt have established the proposition that judicial
action is not immunized from the operation of the Four—
teenth Amendment simply because it is taken pursuant
to the state's common—law policy?“ Nor is the Amend—
ment ineffective simply because the particular pattern
of discrimination. which the State has enforced, was de—
fined initially by the terms of a private agreement. State
action, as that phrase is understood for the purposes of
the Fourteenth Amendment. refers to exertions of state
power in all forms. And when the effect of that action
is to deny rights subject to the protection of the Four-
teenth Amendment. it is the obligation of this Court to
enforce the constitutional commands.

Koch/('1‘ v. Rowland. 275 M0. .573, '30. f‘. \V. 17 (1918). See also
l’arma/w v. .llm'ris. 218 Mich. (3'35, 133 N. \V. 330 (1922}. Cf.
l’artcr v. Barrett. 233 Mich. 373, 206 N. W. 532 (1925).

'33 (,‘l‘. Hmnc Tclcplmnc and ’I'clcr/rap/r ('0. v. Log gingeics. 2127
l". S. 278 (1013); Raymond v. Chicago Union Traction (70., 207
138.20 (1907).

35‘1-1r1'r/grs v. California. 314 U. S. 252 (19-11); American Federation
of Labor v. Sarina. 312 U. 3,321 (19-11).

'-'1 See Swain \‘. .l/a.t‘urcl/. 3-375 M0. 448 106 \. “V. 2d 750 (1041?);
5 2



We hold that in granting judicial enforcement of the
restrictive agreements in these cases. the States have
denied petitioners the equal protection of the laws and
that, therefore, the action of the state courts cannot stand.
We have noted that freedom from discrimination by the
States in the enjoyment of property rights was among
the basic objectives sought to be ett'ectiiatecl by the
framers of the Fourteenth Amendment. That such dis—
crimination has occurred in these cases is clear. Because
of the race or color of these petitioners they have been
denied rights of ownership or occupancy enjoyed as a
matter of course by other citizens of different race or
color.“ The Fourteenth Amendment declares “that all
persons, whether colored or white. shall stand equal before
the laws of the States. and. in regard to the colored race,
for whose protection the amendment was primarily de—
signed, that no discrimination shall be made against them
by law because of their color. . . .” '5' Straudcr \'. West,
Virginia, supra at 307. Only recently this Court has had
occasion to declare that a state law which denied equal
enjoyment of property rights