396 U.S. 229 (1969), 33, Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 33
Citation:396 U.S. 229, 90 S.Ct. 400, 24 L.Ed.2d 386
Party Name:Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc.
Case Date:December 15, 1969
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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396 U.S. 229 (1969)

90 S.Ct. 400, 24 L.Ed.2d 386

Sullivan

v.

Little Hunting Park, Inc.

No. 33

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 15, 1969

Argued October 13, 1969

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA

Syllabus

Little Hunting Park is a Virginia nonstock corporation operating playground facilities and a community park for residents in an area in Fairfax County, Virginia. A membership share entitles a shareholder and his family to use its facilities, and, under the bylaws, when he rents his house, he may assign the share to his tenant, subject to approval by the board of directors. The facilities have been open to any white persons in the geographic area. Petitioner Sullivan, who owned and lived in a house in the area, leased to petitioner Freeman another house which Sullivan owned therein and assigned to Freeman his membership share. The board refused approval of the assignment because Freeman was a Negro, and thereafter expelled Sullivan from the corporation for protesting that action. Petitioners each then sued for injunctive relief and monetary damages. The trial court, concluding that Little Hunting Park was a private social club, dismissed the complaints. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia denied the appeals on the ground that they were not perfected as provided by law in that opposing counsel had not been given reasonable notice and opportunity, as required by a procedural rule of that court, to examine and correct the transcripts. Opposing counsel had been given three days' notice for that purpose, and had not complained that the period was unreasonable. This Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgments, and remanded the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals for further consideration in light of Jones v. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409. That court again rejected the appeals on the basis of its previous position that it lacked jurisdiction because of petitioners' failure to comply with its procedural rule. This Court again granted certiorari. Freeman no longer resides in the area served by Little Hunting Park, and his claim is confined to damages.

Held:

1. The notice rule is discretionary and not jurisdictional, not having been so consistently applied by Virginia's highest court as to deprive it of jurisdiction to entertain the federal claim presented here or to bar this Court's review of this case by certiorari. Pp. 232-234.

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2. Petitioner Sullivan's membership share in Little Hunting Park (which is clearly not a private social club) was an integral part of the lease, and respondents' racially discriminatory refusal to approve the assignment to Freeman constituted a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1982, cf. Jones v. Mayer Co., supra, the right to lease being protected by that provision against the action of third parties as well as against the action of the lessor. Pp. 234-237.

3. Sullivan has standing under § 1982 to maintain this action as the "effective adversary" in Freeman's behalf. Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249, 259. P. 237.

4. The Public Accommodations provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not affect the coverage of 42 U.S.C. § 1982. See Jones v. Mayer Co., supra, at 413-417. Pp. 237-238.

5. The state court's power to grant general injunctive relief includes the power to protect the federal right under § 1982 here involved. P. 238.

6. Petitioners are entitled to compensatory damages for violation of their rights under § 1982 and, though such damages are measured by federal standards, both federal and state rules on damages may be used. Pp. 238-240.

7. The fair-housing provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which was enacted long after petitioners brought their suits, do not foreclose relief here. P. 240.

Reversed. See: 209 Va. 279, 163 S.E.2d 588.

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DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

Opinion of the Court by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, announced by MR. JUSTICE BLACK.

This case, which involves an alleged discrimination against a Negro family in the use of certain community facilities, has been here before. The Virginia trial court dismissed petitioners' complaints and the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia denied the appeals saying that they were not perfected

in the manner provided by law in that opposing counsel was not given reasonable written notice of the time and place of tendering the transcript and a reasonable opportunity to examine the original or a true copy of it

under that court's Rule 5:1, § 3(f).1

The case came here and we granted the petition for certiorari and vacated the judgments and remanded the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals for further consideration in light of Jones v. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409. 392 U.S. 657. On the remand, the Supreme Court [90 S.Ct. 402] of Appeals restated its prior position stating,

We had no jurisdiction in the cases when they were here before, and we have no jurisdiction now. We adhere to our orders refusing the appeals in these cases.

209 Va. 279, 163 S.E.2d 588. We brought the case here the second time on a petition for certiorari. 394 U.S. 942.

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I

When the case was first here respondents opposed the petition, claiming that Rule 5:1, § 3(f), was not complied with. Petitioners filed a reply brief addressing themselves to that question. Thus, the point now tendered was fully exposed when the case was here before, though we ruled on it sub silentio.

In this case, counsel for petitioners, on June 9, 1967, gave oral notice to counsel for respondents that he was submitting the transcripts to the trial judge. He wrote counsel for respondents on the same day to the same effect, saying he was submitting the transcripts to the trial judge that day, filing motions to correct them, and asking the trial court to defer signing them for a ten-day period to allow counsel for respondents time to consent to the motions or have them otherwise disposed of by the court. The judge, being absent from his chambers on June 9, ruled that he had not received the transcripts until June 12. The motions to correct came on for a hearing June 16, at which time the judge ruled that he would not act on the motions until counsel for respondents had agreed or disagreed with the changes requested. After examining the transcripts between June 16 and June 19, counsel for respondents told counsel for petitioners that he had no objections to the corrections or to entry of orders granting the motions to correct. Counsel for respondents then signed the proposed orders which counsel for petitioners had prepared. The proposed orders were submitted to the trial judge on June 20, and on the same day he signed the transcripts, after they had been corrected.

As we read its cases, the Supreme Court of Appeals stated the controlling principle in the following language:

The requirement that opposing counsel have a reasonable opportunity to examine the transcript sets out the purpose of reasonable notice. If, after

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receipt of notice, opposing counsel be afforded reasonable opportunity to examine the transcript, and to make objections thereto, if any he has, before it is signed by the trial judge, the object of reasonable notice will have been attained.

Bacigalupo v. Fleming, 199 Va. 827, 835, 102 S.E.2d 321, 326.

In that case, opposing counsel had seven days to examine the record and make any objections. In the present case, he had three days. But, so far as the record shows, he did not at the time complain that he was not given that "reasonable opportunity" he needed to examine and correct the transcripts.

Petitioners' counsel does not urge -- nor do we suggest -- that the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has fashioned a novel procedural requirement for the first time in this case; cf. NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 457-458; past decisions of the state court refute any such notion. See Bacigalupo v. Fleming, supra; Bolin v. Laderberg, 207 Va. 795, 153 S.E.2d 251; Cook v. Virginia Holsum Bakeries, 207 Va. 815, 153 S.E.2d 209.2 But those same [90 S.Ct. 403] decisions do not enable us

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to say that the Virginia court has so consistently applied its notice requirement as to amount to a self-denial of the power to entertain the federal claim here presented if the Supreme Court of Appeals desires to do so. See Henry v. Mississippi, 379 U.S. 443, 455-457 (BLACK, J., dissenting). Such a rule, more properly deemed discretionary than jurisdictional, does not bar review here by certiorari.

II

Little Hunting Park, Inc., is a Virginia nonstock corporation organized to operate a community park and playground facilities for the benefit of residents in an area of Fairfax County, Virginia. A membership share entitles all persons in the immediate family of the shareholder to use the corporation's recreation facilities. Under the bylaws, a person owning a membership share is entitled when he rents his home to assign the share to his tenant, subject to approval of the board of directors. Paul E. Sullivan and his family owned a house

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in this area and lived in it. Later he bought another house in the area and leased the first one to T. R. Freeman, Jr., an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and assigned his membership share to Freeman. The board refused to approve the assignment because Freeman was a Negro. Sullivan protested that action and was notified that he would be expelled from the corporation by the board. A hearing was accorded him and he was expelled, the board tendering him cash for his two shares.

Sullivan and Freeman sued under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982 for injunctions and monetary damages. Since Freeman no longer resides in the area served by Little Hunting Park, Inc., his claim is limited solely to damages.

The trial court denied relief to each petitioner. We reverse those judgments.

In Jones v. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, we reviewed at length the legislative history of 42 U.S.C. § 1982.3 We concluded that it...

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