231 F.Supp. 393 (N.D.Ga. 1964), Civ. A. 9017, Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 9017
Citation:231 F.Supp. 393
Party Name:Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States
Case Date:July 22, 1964
Court:United States District Courts, 11th Circuit, Northern District of Georgia

Page 393

231 F.Supp. 393 (N.D.Ga. 1964)

HEART OF ATLANTA MOTEL, INC., a Georgia corporation, Plaintiff,


The UNITED STATES of America and Robert F. Kennedy as the Attorney General ofthe United States, Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 9017.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia

July 22, 1964

Moreton F. Rolleston, Jr., Atlanta, Ga., for plaintiff.

Charles L. Goodson, U.S. Atty., Atlanta, Ga., and Burke Marshall and St.

Page 394

John Barrett, Asst. Attys. Gen., Washington, D.C., for defendants.

Before TUTTLE, Circuit Judge, and HOOPER and MORGAN, District Judges.


This is a complaint filed by Heart of Atlanta Motel, a large downtown motel in the city of Atlanta, regularly catering to out of state guests, praying for a declaratory judgment and injunction to prevent the Attorney General of the United States from exercising powers granted to him under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1971, as amended. The suit also attempts to obtain recovery from the United States for substantial damages alleged to result from a partial taking of the complainant's property without just compensation.

Conceding, as it does, that it is regularly engaged in renting sleeping accommodations to out of town guests, seventy-five percent of whom come from without the state of Georgia, and that it 'has refused and intends to refuse to rent sleeping accommodations to persons desiring said accommodations, for several different reasons, one of which is based on the grounds of race, unless ordered by this Court to comply with the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,' the suit attacks the constitutionality of the public accommodations sections of the Civil Rights Act as applied to such a motel.

Since this is a suit seeking an injunction against the enforcement of a Federal statute on the alleged grounds that it is in violation of the United States Constitution, a three-judge court was convened as provided for in 28 U.S.C.A. § 2282.

The Attorney General filed a counterclaim seeking, on behalf of the United States, a temporary and permanent injunction against future violation of the Civil Rights Act by the plaintiff. The case was set down for hearing, and after the introduction of oral testimony on behalf of the United States, the signing of stipulations between the parties, and oral statement made by counsel for the plaintiff in open court, it appeared that no factual issues remained. The parties also conceded in open court that the matter might be treated as a hearing on the petition for the final permanent injunction.

In the first place, the claim of the plaintiff for damages against the United States on the alleged ground of deprivation of property without just compensation alleges no grounds for relief, entirely aside from the question whether such alleged deprivation would be justified by reason of the power of Congress to enact this particular legislation. This is so, because such a claim for damages or recovery for value of property taken by the Federal Government must be asserted in the United States Court of Claims unless the amount sought is not in excess of $10,000. However, in the view we take of the law, such a suit is not maintainable in any event.

The real question presented by this complaint and counterclaim is whether Section 201(a), (b), (1) and (c) is constitutional. 1

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In substance, this section of Title II declares the right of every person to full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services and facilities of any hotel or motel which provides lodging to transient guests if it contains more than five rooms for rent or hire. The section is a congressional ascertainment and declaration of the fact that such 'an establishment affect(s) commerce within the meaning of this title.'

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution provides:

'Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power * * * Clause 3: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;' and Clause 18 'To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers * * *.'

In United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 118, 61 S.Ct....

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