256 F.3d 416 (6th Cir. 2001), 99-3970, Chapman v. Higbee Co.

Docket Nº:99-3970.
Citation:256 F.3d 416
Opinion Judge:EDMUNDS, District Judge.
Party Name:Lynette CHAPMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The HIGBEE COMPANY, d/b/a Dillard Department Stores, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:David R. Grant (argued and briefed), Smith & Condeni, Cleveland, OH, for Plaintiff-Appellant. John B. Lewis (argued and briefed), Thomas J. Piatak (briefed), and Gregory V. Mersol (briefed), Baker & Hostetler LLP, Cleveland, OH, Gregory E. O'Brien (briefed), Timothy D. Johnson (briefed), Weston, ...
Judge Panel:Before: SUHRHEINRICH and MOORE, Circuit Judges; EDMUNDS, District Judge. SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judge, concurring. MOORE, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
Case Date:July 05, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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256 F.3d 416 (6th Cir. 2001)

Lynette CHAPMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

The HIGBEE COMPANY, d/b/a Dillard Department Stores, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 99-3970.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

July 5, 2001

Argued Oct. 27, 2000.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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David R. Grant (argued and briefed), Smith & Condeni, Cleveland, OH, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

John B. Lewis (argued and briefed), Thomas J. Piatak (briefed), and Gregory V. Mersol (briefed), Baker & Hostetler LLP, Cleveland, OH, Gregory E. O'Brien (briefed), Timothy D. Johnson (briefed), Weston, Hurd, Fallon, Paisley & Howley, Cleveland, OH, for Defendant-Appellee.

Gino J. Scarselli (briefed), Assoc. Legal Dir., Cleveland, OH, Michael W. Donaldson (briefed), Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, Columbus, OH, for Amici Curiae.

Before: SUHRHEINRICH and MOORE, Circuit Judges; EDMUNDS, District Judge. [*]

OPINION

EDMUNDS, District Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant, Lynette Chapman, brought suit against Defendant-Appellee, Dillard Department Store, alleging that her rights were violated when a department store security officer stopped and searched her due to a suspicion of shoplifting. Chapman alleges that the stop and search were racially motivated and violated her right to the "full and equal benefit of the law" under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and her right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case raises two issues: 1) whether section 1981 provides a cause of action against a private party under the equal benefit clause and 2) whether the security guard in this case acted "under color of law." The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Dillard on these issues, and Chapman now appeals. 1 We AFFIRM.

I.

Lynette Chapman is an African-American. On February 20, 1997, Chapman was shopping at Dillard Department Store in Cleveland, Ohio. She chose some clothing to try on, and a sales assistant pointed out a fitting room for her use. A white woman

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had just exited the fitting room and when Chapman entered, she noticed a sensor tag called a "kno-go" on the floor. After trying on some clothing, Chapman decided not to purchase anything and hung it back on the hangers. She left the fitting room to return the clothing to the racks. A sales assistant then entered the fitting room and noticed the sensor on the floor. Believing that the sensor had not been on the floor prior to Chapman's use of the fitting room and suspecting Chapman of shoplifting, the sales assistant notified security. A Dillard security guard then stopped Chapman and directed her back to the fitting room. He and a female manager checked Chapman's purse. Nothing was found. The female manager then accompanied Chapman into the fitting room and searched Chapman's clothing. The manager found nothing. Chapman pointed out the white woman whom she had seen exit the fitting room before she entered, but the security guard did not detain the white woman. Satisfied that Chapman had not stolen anything, the manager apologized to her, and Chapman left the store.

The Dillard security guard was an off-duty sheriff's deputy. He wore his official sheriff's department uniform, badge, and gun while working at Dillard. While he stopped and searched Chapman, he did not threaten to, or attempt to, arrest her.

As a result of this incident, Chapman brought suit against The Higbee Company, doing business as Dillard Department Stores, Inc., alleging 1) a violation of the full and equal benefit clause of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 2) violations of Chapman's right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and her right to due process under the Fifth Amendment, which rights Chapman may enforce via 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dillard moved for summary judgment. A magistrate judge, acting pursuant to the consent of the parties, granted Dillard's motion for summary judgment finding: 1) Chapman does not have a claim under the full and equal benefit clause of § 1981 because the clause does not apply to private action; and 2) Chapman does not have a claim under § 1983 because the Dillard security officer was not acting "under color of state law." Chapman moved for reconsideration, and the magistrate denied the motion and reaffirmed its prior ruling. Chapman now appeals.

II.

The standard of review for appeal of a summary judgment is de novo. See Wolotsky v. Huhn, 960 F.2d 1331, 1334 (6th Cir.1992). Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The central inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). After adequate time for discovery and upon motion, Rule 56(c) mandates summary judgment against a party who fails "to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party bears the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

III.

A.

Chapman argues that the Magistrate erred in finding that the full and equal benefit clause of § 1981 does not apply to private action. Section 1981 provides:

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(a) Statement of equal rights

All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.

(b) "Make and enforce contracts" defined

For purposes of this section, the term "make and enforce contracts" includes the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship.

(c) Protection against impairment

The rights protected by this section are protected against impairment by nongovernmental discrimination and impairment under color of State law.

42 U.S.C. § 1981 (emphasis added). 2

Congress amended § 1981 in 1991 by designating the original section as subsection "(a)" and by adding subsections (b) and (c). Pub.L. 102-166, § 101.

Chapman claims that the addition of subsection (c) to the statute makes it clear that the full and equal benefit clause applies to private action. Chapman argues that subsection (c) is unambiguous and thus the Court should not look to legislative history in order to interpret the statute. Further, Chapman contends that subsection (c) refers to "the rights protected by this section" and that the plural word "rights" must mean all of the rights protected by subsection (a), the right to the full and equal benefit of the laws as well as the right to make and enforce contracts. Moreover, Chapman argues that the absence of limiting language distinguishes this provision from other civil rights laws. For example, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 applies to persons who act "under color of law." Because Congress chose not to limit the application of subsection (c), Chapman argues that subsection (c) must apply to all of the rights protected by § 1981.

It is axiomatic that a court may not look to legislative history in order to interpret a statute that is clear on its face. "There can be no construction where there is nothing to construe." United States v. Hartwell, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 385, 396, 18 L.Ed. 830 (1867); Mahone v. Waddle, 564 F.2d 1018, 1028 (3d Cir.1977). If "the statute's language is plain, the sole function of the courts is to enforce it according to its terms." Vergos v. Gregg's Enters., Inc., 159 F.3d 989, 990 (6th Cir.1998) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

We agree with Chapman that the statute is unambiguous and that it is not necessary to look to legislative history in order to interpret the statute's language. We disagree with Chapman's conclusion that the equal benefit clause applies to private action. Chapman's reading of subsection (c) is plausible only if subsection (c) is read in isolation. Yet, the statute must be read as a whole. Implicit in the concept of "full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property" is state action. In

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other words, because the state is the sole source of the law, it is only the state that can deny the full and equal benefit of the law. See Mahone, 564 F.2d at 1029. Thus, the full and equal benefit clause of subsection (a) can only refer to state action. With this understanding of the full and equal benefit clause, subsection (c) is properly understood as clarifying the nature of the various "rights" enumerated in subsection (a). That is, the "rights ... protected against impairment by nongovernmental discrimination" applies to the "make and enforce contracts" clause, while the "rights ... protected against ... impairment under color of State law" refers to such clauses as the "full and equal benefit" clause of subsection (a). Because Chapman's reading places subsection (a) and (c) in conflict, we reject it.

Even if Chapman's interpretation were correct, we could still look beyond the language of the statute if a literal interpretation would lead to 1) internal inconsistencies, 2) an absurd result, or 3) an interpretation inconsistent with the intent of Congress. See Vergos, 159 F.3d at 990. First, Chapman's reading of subsection (c) leads to an internal inconsistency. As discussed, subsection (c) cannot protect the right to equal benefit of all laws and proceedings from nongovernmental...

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