Curtis v. Loether 8212 1035 8212 1973, No. 72

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation415 U.S. 189,39 L.Ed.2d 260,94 S.Ct. 1005
Decision Date20 February 1974
Docket NumberNo. 72
PartiesJulia Rogers CURTIS, Petitioner, v. Leroy LOETHER et al. —1035. Argued Dec. 4—5, 1973

415 U.S. 189
94 S.Ct. 1005
39 L.Ed.2d 260
Julia Rogers CURTIS, Petitioner,

v.

Leroy LOETHER et al.

No. 72—1035.
Argued Dec. 4—5, 1973.
Decided Feb. 20, 1974.

Syllabus

The Seventh Amendment of the Constitution entitles either party to demand a jury trial in an action for damages in the federal courts under § 812 of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which authorizes private plaintiffs to bring civil actions to redress violations of the Act's fair housing provisions. Pp. 191—198.

467 F.2d 1110, affirmed.

Jack Greenberg, New York City, for petitioner.

Robert D. Scott, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Mr. Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 812 of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 82 Stat. 88, 42 U.S.C. § 3612, authorizes private plaintiffs to bring civil actions to redress violations of Title VIII, the fair housing provisions of the Act, and provides that '(t)he court may grant as relief, as it deems appropriate, any permanent or temporary injunction, temporary restraining order, or other order, and may award to the plaintiff

Page 190

actual damages and not more than $1,000 punitive damages, together with court costs and reasonable attorney fees . . ..' The question presented in this case is whether the Civil Rights Act or the Seventh Amendment requires a jury trial upon demand by one of the parties in an action for damages and injunctive relief under this section.

Petitioner, a Negro woman, brought this action under § 812, claiming that respondents, who are white, had refused to rent an apartment to her because of her race, in violation of § 804(a) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a). In her complaint she sought only injunctive relief and punitive damages; a claim for compensatory damages was later added.1 After an evidentiary hearing, the District Court granted preliminary injunctive relief, enjoining the respondents from renting the apartment in question to anyone else pending the trial on the merits. This injunction was dissolved some five months later with the petitioner's consent, after she had finally obtained other housing, and the case went to trial on the issues of actual and punitive damages.

Respondents made a timely demand for jury trial in their answer. The District Court, however, held that

Page 191

jury trial was neither authorized by Title VIII nor required by the Seventh Amendment, and denied the jury request. Rogers v. Loether, 312 F.Supp. 1008 (ED Wis.1970). After trial on the merits, the District Judge found that respondents had in fact discriminated against petitioner on account of her race. Although he found no actual damages, see n. 1, supra, he awarded $250 in punitive damages, denying petitioner's request for attorney's fees and court costs.

The Court of Appeals reversed on the jury trial issue. Rogers v. Loether, 467 F.2d 1110 (CA7 1972). After an extended analysis, the court concluded essentially that the Seventh Amendment gave respondents the right to a jury trial in this action, and therefore interpreted the statute to authorize jury trials so as to eliminate any question of its constitutionality. In view of the importance of the jury trial issue in the administration and enforcement of Title VIII and the diversity of views in the lower courts on the question,2 we granted certiorari, 412 U.S. 937, 93 S.Ct. 2770, 37 L.Ed.2d 396 (1973). 3 We affirm.

The legislative history on the jury trial question is sparse, and what little is available is ambiguous. There seems to be some indication that supporters of Title VIII were concerned that the possibility of racial prejudice on juries might reduce the effectiveness of civil

Page 192

rights damages actions.4 On the other hand, one bit of testimony during committee hearings indicates an awareness that jury trials would have to be afforded in damages actions under Title VIII.5 Both petitioner and respondents have presented plausible arguments from the wording and construction of § 812. We see no point to giving extended consideration to these arguments, however, for we think it is clear that the Seventh Amendment entitles either party to demand a jury trial in an action for damages in the federal courts under § 812.6

The Seventh Amendment provides that '(i)n suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be pre-

Page 193

served.' Although the thrust of the Amendment was to preserve the right to jury trial as it existed in 1791, it has long been settled that the right extends beyond the common-law forms of action recognized at that time. Mr. Justice Story established the basic principle in 1830:

'The phrase 'common law,' found in this clause, is used in contradistinction to equity, and admiralty, and maritime jurisprudence. . . . By common law, (the Framers of the Amendment) meant . . . not merely suits, which the common law recognized among its old and settled proceedings, but suits in which legal rights were to be ascertained and determined, in contradistinction to those where equitable rights alone were recognized, and equitable remedies were administered . . .. In a just sense, the amendment then may well be construed to embrace all suits which are not of equity and admiralty jurisdiction, whatever might be the peculiar form which they may assume to settle legal rights.' Parsons v. Bedford, 3 Pet. 433, 446—447, 7 L.Ed. 732 (1830) (emphasis in original).

Petitioner nevertheless argues that the Amendment is inapplicable to new causes of action created by congressional enactment. As the Court of Appeals observed, however, we have considered the applicability of the constitutional right to jury trial in actions enforcing statutory rights 'as a matter too obvious to be doubted.' 467 F.2d, at 1114. Although the Court has apparently never discussed the issue at any length, we have often found the Seventh Amendment applicable to causes of action based on statutes. See, e.g., Dairy Queen, Inc. v. Wood, 369 U.S. 469, 477, 82 S.Ct. 894, 899, 8 L.Ed.2d 44 (1962) (trademark laws); Hepner v. United States, 213 U.S. 103, 115, 29 S.Ct. 474, 479, 53 L.Ed. 720 (1909) (immigration laws); cf. Fleitmann v. Welsbach Street Lighting Co., 240 U.S. 27, 36 S.Ct. 233, 60 L.Ed. 505 (1916) (antitrust laws), and the

Page 194

discussion of Fleitmann in Ross v. Bernhard, 396 U.S. 531, 535 536, 90 S.Ct. 733, 736—737, 24 L.Ed.2d 729 (1970).7 Whatever doubt may have existed should now be dispelled. The Seventh Amendment does apply to actions enforcing statutory rights, and requires a jury trial upon demand, if the statute creates legal rights and remedies, enforceable in an action for damages in the ordinary courts of law.

NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 57 S.Ct. 615, 81 L.Ed. 893 (1937), relied on by petitioner, lends no support to her statutory-rights argument. The Court there upheld the award of back pay without jury trial in an NLRB unfair labor practice proceeding, rejecting a Seventh Amendment claim on the ground that the case involved a 'statutory proceeding' and 'not a suit at common law or in the nature of such a suit.' Id., at 48, 57 S.Ct. at 629. Jones & Laughlin merely stands for the proposition that the Seventh Amendment is generally inapplicable in administrative proceedings, where jury trials would be incompatible with the whole concept of administrative adjudication 8 and would substantially interfere with the NLRB's role in the statutory scheme. Katchen

Page 195

v. Landy, 382 U.S. 323, 86 S.Ct. 467, 15 L.Ed.2d 391 (1966), also relied upon by petitioner, is to like effect. There the Court upheld, over a Seventh Amendment challenge, the Bankruptcy Act's grant of summary jurisdiction to the bankrutpcy court over the trustee's action to compel a claimant to surrender a voidable preference; the Court recognized that a bankruptcy court has been traditionally viewed as a court of equity, and...

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1038 practice notes
  • Meyers v. Pennypack Woods Home Ownership Assn., No. 76-2223
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • July 6, 1977
    ...(1) the defendant's conduct, (2) the plaintiff's injury, and (3) the relief requested. Relying on the dictum in Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 195-96 n. 10, 94 S.Ct. 1005, 39 L.Ed.2d 260 (1974), Pennypack urges that for statute of limitations purposes we treat Meyers' complaint as if it a......
  • Hill v. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n, Civil Action No. 1:15–CV–1801–LMM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • June 8, 2015
    ...equity or admiralty." Granfinanciera, S.A. v. Nordberg, 492 U.S. 33, 42, 109 S.Ct. 2782, 106 L.Ed.2d 26 (1989) (citing Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 193, 94 S.Ct. 1005, 39 L.Ed.2d 260 (1974) ).The form of [the Court's] analysis is familiar. "First, we compare the statutory action to 18th......
  • Tamosaitis v. Urs Inc., No. 12–35924.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • November 7, 2014
    ...if the statute creates legal rights and remedies, enforceable in an action for damages in the ordinary courts of law.” Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 194, 94 S.Ct. 1005, 39 L.Ed.2d 260 (1974). “Consistent with the textual mandate that the jury right be preserved, ... interpretation of the......
  • Panzardi-Santiago v. University of Puerto Rico, No. CIV. 95-2316(CCC/ADC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • March 19, 2002
    ...823, 829 (4th Cir.1994). Moreover, money damages are "the traditional form of relief offered in the courts of law." Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 196, 94 S.Ct. 1005, 39 L.Ed.2d 260 As noted above, the UPR acknowledged that there is no right to a jury trial, absent a showing of intentiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1035 cases
  • Meyers v. Pennypack Woods Home Ownership Assn., No. 76-2223
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • July 6, 1977
    ...(1) the defendant's conduct, (2) the plaintiff's injury, and (3) the relief requested. Relying on the dictum in Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 195-96 n. 10, 94 S.Ct. 1005, 39 L.Ed.2d 260 (1974), Pennypack urges that for statute of limitations purposes we treat Meyers' complaint as if it a......
  • Hill v. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n, Civil Action No. 1:15–CV–1801–LMM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • June 8, 2015
    ...equity or admiralty." Granfinanciera, S.A. v. Nordberg, 492 U.S. 33, 42, 109 S.Ct. 2782, 106 L.Ed.2d 26 (1989) (citing Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 193, 94 S.Ct. 1005, 39 L.Ed.2d 260 (1974) ).The form of [the Court's] analysis is familiar. "First, we compare the statutory action to 18th......
  • Tamosaitis v. Urs Inc., No. 12–35924.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • November 7, 2014
    ...if the statute creates legal rights and remedies, enforceable in an action for damages in the ordinary courts of law.” Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 194, 94 S.Ct. 1005, 39 L.Ed.2d 260 (1974). “Consistent with the textual mandate that the jury right be preserved, ... interpretation of the......
  • Panzardi-Santiago v. University of Puerto Rico, No. CIV. 95-2316(CCC/ADC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • March 19, 2002
    ...823, 829 (4th Cir.1994). Moreover, money damages are "the traditional form of relief offered in the courts of law." Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 196, 94 S.Ct. 1005, 39 L.Ed.2d 260 As noted above, the UPR acknowledged that there is no right to a jury trial, absent a showing of intentiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • List of Cases Referenced
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 28-1, March 1975
    • March 1, 1975
    ...Cole v. Richardson, 405 U.S. 676 (1972)Colorado Air Pollution Variance Board v. Western Alfalfa, 94 S.Ct. 2114 (1974) Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189 (1974)Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967)DeFunis v. Odegaard, 94 S.Ct. 1704 Eisen v. Carlisle and Jacquelin Inc., 94 S.Ct. 21......
  • A Review of Court Decisions on Cognitive Ability Testing, 1992-2004
    • United States
    • Review of Public Personnel Administration Nbr. 25-3, September 2005
    • September 1, 2005
    ...intelligence for college admission and employment screening. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 6(1), 233-254. Curtis v. Loether, 415 U. S. 189, 194 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (1978). Uniform guidelines on employee selection procedures. 29 C.F.R. 1605. Gottfredson, L. S. (200......

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