268 F.2d 845 (4th Cir. 1959), 7867, Williams v. Howard Johnson's Restaurant

Docket Nº:7867.
Citation:268 F.2d 845
Party Name:Charles E. WILLIAMS, Appellant, v. HOWARD JOHNSON'S RESTAURANT, Russell V. Keys and Mary Barnes, Appellees.
Case Date:July 16, 1959
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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268 F.2d 845 (4th Cir. 1959)

Charles E. WILLIAMS, Appellant,


HOWARD JOHNSON'S RESTAURANT, Russell V. Keys and Mary Barnes, Appellees.

No. 7867.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

July 16, 1959

Argued June 15, 1959.

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Charles E. Williams, Lexington, Va., pro se.

James H. Simmonds, Arlington, Va. (Howard M. Murphy, Arlington, Va., on brief), for appellees.

Before SOBELOFF, Chief Judge, and SOPER and HAYNSWORTH, Circuit judges.

SOPER, Circuit Judge.

Charles E. Williams, an attorney in the Internal Revenue Service of the United States, brings this suit on his own behalf and on behalf of all others similarly situated against Howard Johnson's Restaurant in the City of Alexandria, Virginia, complaining that he was wrongfully refused service by the restaurant on the morning of April 20, 1958, because he is a Negro. He seeks a declaratory judgment that his exclusion on racial grounds amounted to discrimination against a person moving in interstate commerce and also interference with the free flow of commerce in violation of the Constitution of the United States, as well as a violation of the Civil Rights Acts of 1875, 18 Stat. 335. He prays for an injunction restraining the defendant from denying him and persons similarly situated access to the restaurant and also a money penalty for the infraction of the statute. On motion of the defendant his suit was dismissed by the District Court. Notwithstanding the substantial inconvenience and embarrassment to which persons of the Negro race are subject in the denial to them of the right to be served in public restaurants, the dismissal of the suit was in accord with the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States and other Federal courts.

Sections 1 and 2 of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, upon which the plaintiff's position is based in part, provided that all persons in the United States should be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of inns, public conveyances and places of amusement, and that any person who should violate this provisions by denying to any citizen the full enjoyment of any of the enumerated accommodations, facilities or privileges should for every such offense forfeit and pay the sum of $500 to the person aggrieved. The Supreme Court of the United States, however, held in Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S.Ct. 18, 27 L.Ed. 835, that these sections of the Act were unconstitutional and were not authorized by either the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. The Court pointed out that the Fourteenth Amendment was prohibitory

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upon the states only, so as to invalidate all state statutes which abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States or deprive them of life, liberty or property without due process of law, or deny to any person the equal protection of the laws; but that the amendment did not invest Congress with power to legislate upon the actions of individuals, which are within the domain of state legislation. The Court also held that the question whether Congress might pass such a law in the exercise of its power to regulate commerce was not before it, as the provisions of the statute were not conceived in any such view (109 U.S. 19, 3 S.Ct. 27). With respect to the Thirteenth Amendment, the Court held that the denial of equal accommodations in inns, public conveyances and places of amusement does not impose the badge of slavery or servitude upon the individual but, at most, infringes rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from state aggression. It is obvious, in view of this decision, that the present suit cannot be sustained by reference to the Civil Rights Act of 1875. 1

The plaintiff concedes that no statute of Virginia requires the exclusion of Negroes from public restaurants and hence it would seem that he does not rely upon the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment which prohibit the states from making or enforcing any law abridging the...

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