11 So. 948 (La. 1893), 11,134, Ex parte Plessy

Docket Nº:11,134
Citation:11 So. 948, 45 La.Ann. 80
Opinion Judge:FENNER, J.
Attorney:Albion W. Tourgee and Jas C. Walker for the Relator. Lionel Adams for the Respondent.
Case Date:January 01, 1893
Court:Supreme Court of Louisiana

Page 948

11 So. 948 (La. 1893)

45 La.Ann. 80


No. 11,134

Supreme Court of Louisiana

January 1, 1893

Rehearing refused.

APPLICATION for Certiorari and Prohibition.

Albion W. Tourgee and Jas C. Walker for the Relator.

Lionel Adams for the Respondent.



[45 La.Ann. 81] We have held that when a party is prosecuted for crime under a law alleged to be unconstitutional, in a case which is unappealable, and where a proper plea setting up the unconstitutionality has been overruled by the judge, a proper case arises for the exercise of our supervisory jurisdiction in determining whether the judge is exceeding the bounds of judicial power by entertaining a prosecution for a crime not created by law. State ex rel. Walker vs. Judge, 39 An. 132; State ex rel. Abbott vs. Judge, 44 An. 583.

Relator's application conforms to all the requirements of this rule. He alleges that he is being prosecuted for a violation of Act No. 111 of 1890; that said act is unconstitutional; that his plea of its unconstitutionality has been presented to, and overruled by, the respondent judge; and that the case is unappealable. He, therefore, applies for writs of certiorari and prohibition in order that we may determine the validity of the proceedings and, in case we find him entitled to such relief, may restrain further proceedings against him in the cause.

The judge, in his answer, maintains the constitutionality of the law and the validity of his proceeding.

The legislative act in question is entitled:

"An act to promote the comfort of passengers on railway trains; requiring all railway companies carrying passengers on their trains, in this State, to provide

Page 949

equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races, by providing separate coaches or compartments [45 La.Ann. 82] so as to secure separate accommodations; defining the duties of the officers of such railways; directing them to assign passengers to the coaches or compartments set aside for the use of the race to which such passengers belong; authorizing them to refuse to carry on their trains such passengers as may refuse to occupy the coaches or compartments to which he or she is assigned; to exonerate such railway companies from any and all blame or damages that might proceed from such refusal, to prescribe penalties for all violations of this act," etc.

The first section of the act requires that "all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this State shall provide equal, but separate accommodations for the white and colored races, by providing two or more passenger coaches for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger coaches by a partition so as to secure separate accommodations," and that "no person or persons shall be permitted to occupy seats in coaches other than the ones assigned to them on account of the race they belong to."

The second section provides, "That the officers of such passenger trains shall have power and are hereby required to assign each passenger to the coach or compartment used for the race to which such passenger belongs; any passenger insisting on going into a coach or compartment to which by race he does not belong shall be liable to a fine of $ 25, or in lieu thereof to imprisonment for a period of not more than twenty days in the parish prison;" and a like penalty is imposed on "any officer of any railroad insisting on assigning a passenger to a coach or compartment other than the one set aside for the race to which said passenger belongs;" and it is further provided that "should any passenger refuse to occupy the coach or compartment to which he or she is assigned by the officer of such railway, said officer shall have power to refuse to carry such passenger on his train, and for such refusal neither he nor the railway company shall be liable for damages in any of the courts of this State."

The 3d section provides penalties upon officers, directors and employees of railway companies who shall refuse or neglect to comply with the provisions of the act.

We have had occasion very recently to consider the constitutionality of this act as applicable to interstate passengers, and held that, if so applied, it would be unconstitutional because in...

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