379 U.S. 294 (1964), 543, Katzenbach v. McClung

Docket Nº:No. 543
Citation:379 U.S. 294, 85 S.Ct. 377, 13 L.Ed.2d 290
Party Name:Katzenbach v. McClung
Case Date:December 14, 1964
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 294

379 U.S. 294 (1964)

85 S.Ct. 377, 13 L.Ed.2d 290




No. 543

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 14, 1964

Argued October 5, 1964




Appellees, whose restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, caters to local white customers with take-out service for Negroes, serving food a substantial portion of which has moved in interstate commerce, sued to enjoin appellants from enforcing against their restaurant and others Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which they claimed was unconstitutional. A three-judge District Court granted an injunction, holding that there was no demonstrable connection between food purchased in interstate commerce and sold in a restaurant and Congress' conclusion that discrimination in the restaurant would affect commerce so as to warrant regulation of local activities to protect interstate commerce.


1. Since interference with governmental action has occurred and the constitutionality of Title II is before the Court in a companion case, the Court reaches the merits of this case by considering the complaint as an application for declaratory judgment, instead of denying relief for want of equity jurisdiction as it would ordinarily do on the ground that appellees should have waited to pursue the statutory procedures for adjudication of their rights. Pp. 295-296.

2. Congress acted within its power to protect and foster commerce in extending coverage of Title II to restaurants serving food a substantial portion of which has moved in interstate commerce, since it had ample basis to conclude that racial discrimination by such restaurants burdened interstate trade. Pp. 300-305.

233 F.Supp. 815, reversed

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CLARK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case was argued with No. 515, Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, decided this date, ante, p. 241, in which we upheld the constitutional validity of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against an attack by hotels, motels, and like establishments. This complaint for injunctive relief against appellants attacks the constitutionality of the Act as applied to a restaurant. The case was heard by a three-judge United States District Court and an injunction was issued restraining appellants from enforcing the Act against the restaurant. 233 F.Supp. 815. On direct appeal, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1252, 1253 (1958 ed.), we noted probable jurisdiction. 379 U.S. 802. We now reverse the judgment.

1. The Motion to Dismiss

The appellants moved in the District Court to dismiss the complaint for want of equity jurisdiction and that claim is pressed here. The grounds are that the Act authorizes only preventive relief; that there has been no threat of enforcement against the appellees and that they have alleged no irreparable injury. It is true that ordinarily equity will not interfere in such cases. However, we may and do consider this complaint as an application for a declaratory judgment under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202 (1958 ed.). In this case, of course, direct appeal to this Court would still lie under 28 U.S.C. § 1252 (1958

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ed.). But even though Rule 57 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits declaratory relief although another adequate remedy exists, it should not be granted where a special statutory proceeding has been provided. See Notes on Rule 57 of Advisory Committee on Rules, 28 U.S.C.App. 5178 (1958 ed.). Title II provides for such a statutory proceeding for the determination of rights and duties arising thereunder, §§ 204-207, and courts should, therefore, ordinarily refrain from exercising their jurisdiction in such cases.

The present case, however, is in a unique position. The interference with governmental action has occurred and the [85 S.Ct. 380] constitutional question is before us in the companion case of Heart of Atlanta Motel as well as in this case. It is important that a decision on the constitutionality of the Act as applied in these cases be announced as quickly as possible. For these reasons, we have concluded, with the above caveat, that the denial of discretionary declaratory relief is not required here.

2. The Facts

Ollie's Barbecue is a family owned restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, specializing in barbecued meats and homemade pies, with a seating capacity of 220 customers. It is located on a state highway 11 blocks from an interstate one and a somewhat greater distance from railroad and bus stations. The restaurant caters to a family and white-collar trade with a take-out service for Negroes. It employs 36 persons, two-thirds of whom are Negroes.

In the 12 months preceding the passage of the Act, the restaurant purchased locally approximately $150,000 worth of food, $69,683 or 46% of which was meat that it bought from a local supplier who had procured it from outside the State. The District Court expressly found that a substantial portion of the food served in the restaurant

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had moved in interstate commerce. The restaurant has refused to serve Negroes in its dining accommodations since its original opening in 1927, and, since July 2, 1964, it has been operating in violation of the Act. The court below concluded that, if it were required to serve Negroes, it would lose a...

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