364 U.S. 177 (1960), 7, Wolfe v. North Carolina

Docket Nº:No. 7
Citation:364 U.S. 177, 80 S.Ct. 1482, 4 L.Ed.2d 1650
Party Name:Wolfe v. North Carolina
Case Date:June 27, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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364 U.S. 177 (1960)

80 S.Ct. 1482, 4 L.Ed.2d 1650

Wolfe

v.

North Carolina

No. 7

United States Supreme Court

June 27, 1960

Argued October 19-20, 1959

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA

Syllabus

Appellants and other Negroes obtained from a Federal District Court an injunction against the operation on a racially discriminatory basis of a golf course owned by a North Carolina City but leased and operated by a club. Appellants had previously been charged with, and were subsequently tried in a state court for, violating a state criminal trespass statute by persisting in playing on the course after having been denied permission to do so and after having been ordered to leave. The jury was clearly instructed that appellants could not be found guilty if they were excluded because of their race; but they were convicted. At this trial, the unpublished findings and judgment of the Federal Court were offered in evidence, but were excluded. Appellants omitted these facts from the record on appeal to the State Supreme Court, wherein they contended that, notwithstanding the jury's verdict, the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment required a holding that the findings and judgment of the Federal Court conclusively established that the criminal trespass statute was used to enforce a practice of racial discrimination by a state agency. The State Supreme Court declined to rule on that contention on the ground that, under state law, the findings and judgment of the Federal Court were not before it,.and it affirmed the convictions.

Held: an appeal to this Court is dismissed, and certiorari is denied for want of a substantial federal question, since the judgment of the State Supreme Court was independently and adequately supported on state procedural grounds. Pp. 178-196.

(a) Even if the judgment and findings of the Federal Court were offered in evidence and excluded by the trial judge, these facts did not appear in the record filed by appellants in the State Supreme Court and, therefore, were not properly cognizable by that Court under state practice. Pp. 185-187.

(b) In declining to go outside the record in order to ascertain the true facts, the State Supreme Court did not discriminate against appellants; it acted in accordance with a practice which it had followed consistently for many years in considering appeals in criminal cases. Pp. 187-192.

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(c) The Federal Court's findings and judgment in the civil case were not properly brought before the state courts by appellants' motion to quash at the outset of the trial, which allege the effect of the Federal Court's proceedings and requested leave to offer the record of that Court in evidence in support of the motion, since the settled state practice does not permit consideration of extraneous evidence in passing upon such a motion. Pp. 192-193.

(d) Under established state practice, the Federal Court's findings and judgment in the civil case were not properly brought before the state courts by appellants' motion at the end of the trial to set aside the verdict. Pp. 193-194.

(e) The State Supreme Court did not arbitrarily deny appellants an opportunity to present their federal claim. Pp. 194-195.

248 N.C. 485, 103 S.E.2d 846, appeal dismissed.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellants were convicted of violating a North Carolina criminal trespass statute,1 and their convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court of North Carolina, 248 N.C. 485, 103 S.E.2d 846. This appeal, grounded

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on 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2),2 attacks the constitutional validity of the statute as applied in this case. Because of doubt as to whether any substantial federal question was presented to or decided by the state courts, we postponed further consideration of the question of jurisdiction until the hearing of the case on the merits. 358 U.S. 925. For reasons to be stated, we have concluded that the appeal must be dismissed.3

There is no dispute as to the basic circumstances which led to the prosecution and ultimate conviction of the appellants. In December, 1955, Gillespie Park Golf Club, Inc., operated an 18-hole golf course on land which it leased from the City of Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Board of Trustees of the Greensboro City Administrative Unit. The bylaws of the lessee limited the use of the golf course to its "members" and persons in certain other specifically restricted [80 S.Ct. 1484] categories.4 On December 7, 1955,

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the appellants, who are Negroes, entered the club's golf shop and requested permission to play on the course. Their request was refused. Nevertheless, after placing some money on a table in the golf shop, the appellants proceeded to the course and teed off. After they had played several holes the manager of the golf course ordered them to leave. They refused. The manager then summoned a deputy sheriff, and, after the appellants were again ordered to leave the course and they had again refused, they were arrested upon warrants sworn to by the manager.

The appellants were tried and convicted of violating the state criminal trespass statute. Pending their appeal to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, they and others commenced an action against the City of Greensboro, the Greensboro Board of Education, and the Gillespie Park Golf Club, Inc., in the Federal District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, asking for a declaratory judgment and an injunction forbidding the defendants from operating the golf course on a racially discriminatory basis. The federal court granted the injunction. Simkins v. City of Greensboro, 149 F.Supp. 562. Its judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on June 28, 1957. City of Greensboro v. Simkins, 246 F.2d 425. On the same date, the Supreme Court of North Carolina, acting on the appeal from the criminal convictions in the state court, held that there had been a fatal variance in amendments to the warrants under which the appellants had been tried, and arrested

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the judgments against them. State v. Cooke, 246 N.C. 518, 98 S.E.2d 885.

The appellants were again tried de novo in the Superior Court of Guilford County, North Carolina, for violating the state criminal trespass statute. At the outset, they made a motion to quash, which was denied. The State presented evidence as to what had happened on the golf course on December 7, 1955. At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial judge instructed the jury explicitly and at length that the defendants could not be convicted if they had been excluded from the golf course because of their race. Specifically, the trial judge charged the jury that

. . . the law would not permit the City and, therefore, would not permit its lessee, the Gillespie Park Golf Club, Inc., to discriminate against any citizen of Greensboro in the maintenance and operation and use of a golf course. It could not exclude either defendant because of his race or for any other reason applicable to them alone; that is to say, they were entitled to the same rights to use the golf course as any other citizen of Greensboro would be, provided they complied with the reasonable rules and regulations for the operation and maintenance and use of the golf course. They would not be required to comply with any unreasonable rules and regulations for the operation and maintenance and use of the golf course.5

The jury returned a verdict of guilty. A motion to set aside the [80 S.Ct. 1485] verdict was denied.

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The Supreme Court of North Carolina affirmed the convictions. In doing so, the court recognized that,

[s]ince the operator of the golf club was charged with making a public or semi-public use of the property, it could not deny the use of the property to citizens simply because they were Negroes. . . . Since the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, separation of the races in the use of public property cannot be required.

248 N.C. at 491, 103 S.E.2d 850-851. The court quoted with approval the trial judge's instructions to the jury on this aspect of the case. It is from this judgment of the Supreme Court of North [80 S.Ct. 1486] Carolina that the present appeal was taken.

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The appellants contend that the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment required the North Carolina Court to hold that the findings of fact and judgment of the federal court in the civil case of Simkins v. City of Greensboro, 149 F.Supp. 562, conclusively established, contrary to the verdict of the jury in this case, that the state statute was used here to enforce a practice of racial discrimination by a state agency. The Supreme Court of North Carolina took cognizance of the federal court's published opinion in the Simkins case and commented with respect to it:

Examining the opinion, it appears that ten people, six of whom are defendants in this action, sought

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injunctive relief on the assertion that Negroes were discriminated against and were not permitted to play on what is probably the property involved in this case. We do not know what evidence plaintiffs produced in that action. It is, however, apparent from the opinion that much evidence was presented to Judge Hayes [in the Federal District Court] which was not before the Superior Court when defendants were tried. It would appear from the opinion that the entry involved in this case was one incident on which plaintiffs there relied to support their assertion of unlawful discrimination, but it is manifest from the opinion that that was not all of the evidence which Judge Hayes had. We are left in the dark as to other incidents happening prior or subsequent to the conduct here complained of, which...

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