Garner v. State of Louisiana Briscoe v. State of Louisiana Hoston v. State of Louisiana, Nos. 26

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWARREN
Citation82 S.Ct. 248,368 U.S. 157,7 L.Ed.2d 207
Decision Date11 December 1961
Docket Number27 and 28,Nos. 26
PartiesJohn Burrell GARNER et al., Petitioners, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA. Mary BRISCOE et al., Petitioners, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA. Jannette HOSTON et al., Petitioners, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA

368 U.S. 157
82 S.Ct. 248
7 L.Ed.2d 207
John Burrell GARNER et al., Petitioners,

v.

STATE OF LOUISIANA. Mary BRISCOE et al., Petitioners, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA. Jannette HOSTON et al., Petitioners, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA.

Nos. 26, 27 and 28.
Argued Oct. 18 and 19, 1961.
Decided Dec. 11, 1961.

Page 158

Jack Greenberg, New York City, for the petitioners.

John F. Ward, Jr., Baton Rouge, La., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases come to us from the Supreme Court of Louisiana and draw in question the constitutionality of the petitioners' convictions in the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the crime of disturbing the peace. The petitioners1 were brought to trial and convicted on informations charging them with violating Title 14, Article 103(7), of the Louisiana Criminal Code, 1942, LSA—R.S. 14:103(7), in that 'they refused to move from a cafe counter seat * * * after having been ordered to do so by the agent (of the establishment); said conduct being in such manner as to unreasonably and foreseeably disturb the public * * *.' In accordance with state procedure, petitioners sought post-conviction review in the Supreme Court of Louisiana through writs of certiorari, mandamus and prohibition. They contended that the

Page 159

State had presented no evidence to support the findings of statutory violation, and that their convictions were invalid on other constitutional grounds, both state and federal. Relief was denied. Federal questions were properly raised and preserved throughout the proceedings, and timely petitions for certiorari filed in this Court were granted. 365 U.S. 840, 81 S.Ct. 801, 5 L.Ed.2d 801. The United States Government appeared as amicus curiae urging, on various grounds, that the convictions be reversed. An amicus brief also urging reversal was filed by the Committee on the Bill of Rights of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

In our view of these cases and for our disposition of them, the slight variance in the facts of the three cases is immaterial. Although the alleged offenses did not occur on the same day or in the same establishment, the petitioners were all arrested by the same officers, charged with commission of the same acts, represented by the same counsel, tried and convicted by the same judge, and given identical sentences. Because of this factual similarity and the identical nature of the problems involved in granting certiorari, we ordered the cases consolidated for argument and now deem it sufficient to file one opinion. In addition, as the facts are simple, we think it sufficient to recite but one of the cases in detail, noting whatever slight variations exist in the others.

In No. 28, Hoston et al. v. Louisiana, Jannette Hoston, a student at Southern University, and six of her colleagues took seats at a lunch counter in Kress' Department Store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on March 29, 1960.2 In Kress', as in Sitman's Drug Store in No. 26

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where Negroes are considered 'very good customers,' a segregation policy is maintained only with regard to the service of food.3 Hence, although both stores solicit business from white and Negro patrons, and the latter as well as the former may make purchases in the general merchandise sections without discrimination,4 the stores do not provide integrated service at their lunch counters.

The manager at Kress' store, who was also seated at the lunch counter, told the waitress to advise the students that they could be served at the counter across the aisle, which she did. The petitioners made no response and remained quietly in their seats. After the manager had finished his lunch, he telephoned the police and told them that '(some Negroes) were seated at the counter reserved for whites.' The police arrived at the store and ordered the students to leave. The arresting officer testified that the petitioners did and said nothing except that one of them stated that she would like a glass of iced tea, but that he believed they were disturbing the peace 'by sitting there.' When none of the petitioners showed signs of leaving their seats, they were placed under arrest and taken to the police station. They were then charged with violating Title 14, Article 103(7), of the Louisiana Criminal Code, a section of the Louisiana disturbance of the peace statute.

Before trial, the petitioners moved for a bill of particulars as to the details of their allegedly disruptive behavior and to quash the informations for failure to state any unlawful acts of which they could be constitutionally convicted. The motions were denied, and the

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petitioners applied to the Supreme Court of Louisiana for writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus to review the rulings. The Supreme Court denied the writs on the ground that an adequate remedy was available through resort to its supervisory jurisdiction in the event of a conviction. The petitioners were then tried and convicted,5 and sentenced to imprisonment for four months, three months of which would be suspended upon the payment of a fine of $100. Subsequent to their convictions, the Supreme Court, in denying relief on appeal, issued the following oral opinion in each case.

'Writs refused.

'This court is without jurisdiction to review facts in criminal cases. See Art. 7, Sec. 10, La. Constitution of 1921 (LSA).

'The rulings of the district judge on matters of law are not erroneous. See Town of Ponchatoula v. Bates, 173 La., 824, 138 So., 851.'6

Page 162

Before this Court, petitioners and the amici have presented a number of questions claiming deprivation of rights guaranteed to petitioners by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.7 The petitioners contend:

(a) The decision below affirms a criminal conviction based upon no evidence of guilt and, therefore, deprives them of due process of law as defined in Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U.S. 199, 80 S.Ct. 624, 4 L.Ed.2d 654.

(b) The petitioners were convicted of a crime under the provisions of a state statute which, as applied to their acts, is so vague, indefinite and uncertain as to offend the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

(c) The decisions below conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of freedom of expression.

(d) The decision below conflicts with prior decisions of this Court which condemn racially discrim-

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inatory administration of State criminal laws in contravention of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

With regard to argument (d), the petitioners and the New York Committee on the Bill of Rights contend that the participation of the police and the judiciary to enforce a state custom of segregation resulted in the use of 'state action' and was therefore plainly violative of the Fourteenth Amendment. The petitioners also urge that even if these cases contain a relevant component of 'private action,' that action is substantially infected with state power and thereby remains state action for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.8

In the view we take of the cases we find it unnecessary to reach the broader constitutional questions presented, and in accordance with our practice not to formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts presented in the record, for the reasons hereinafter stated, we hold that the convictions in these cases are so totally devoid of evidentiary support as to render them unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.9 As in Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U.S. 199, 80 S.Ct. 624, 4 L.Ed.2d 654, our inquiry does not turn on a question of sufficiency of evidence to support a conviction, but on whether these convictions rest upon any evidence which would support a finding that the petitioners'

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acts caused a disturbance of the peace. In addition, we cannot be concerned with whether the evidence proves the commission of some other crime, for it is as much a denial of due process to send an accused to prison following conviction for a charge that was never made as it is to convict him upon a charge for which there is no evidence to support that conviction.10

The respondent, in both its brief and its argument to this Court, implied that the evidence proves the elements of a criminal trespass. In oral argument it contended that the real question here 'is whether or not a private property owner and proprietor of a private establishment has the right to serve only those whom he chooses and to refuse to serve those whom he desires not to serve for whatever reason he may determine.'11 That this is not a question presented by the records in these cases seems too apparent for debate. Even assuming it were the question, however, which it clearly is not, these convictions could not stand for the reason stated in Cole v. Arkansas, 333 U.S. 196, 68 S.Ct. 514, 92 L.Ed. 644.12

Page 165

Under our view of these cases, our task is to determine whether there is any evidence in the records to show that the petitioners, by their actions at the lunch counters in the business establishments involved, violated Title 14, Article 103 (7), of the Louisiana Criminal Code. At the time of petitioners' acts, Article 103 provided:

'Disturbing the peace is the doing of any of the following in such a manner as would foreseeably disturb or alarm the public:

'(1) Engaging in a fistic encounter; or

'(2) Using of any unnecessarily loud, offensive, or insulting language; or

'(3) Appearing in an intoxicated condition; or

'(4) Engaging in any act in a violent and tumultuous manner by any three or more persons; or

'(5) Holding of an unlawful assembly; or

'(6) Interruption of any lawful assembly of people; or

'(7) Commission of any other act in such a manner as to unreasonably disturb or alarm the public.'

I.

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364 practice notes
  • Gerald v. Duckworth, No. 93-1192
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • December 20, 1994
    ...the evidence for the purpose of whether that evidence supports the findings of a state court.' Garner v. Louisiana, 368. U.S. 157, 166, 82 S.Ct. 248, 253, 7 L.Ed.2d 207 (1961). 'We have no power to revise judgments on questions of state law.' Henry v. Mississippi, 379 U.S. 443, 447, 85 S.Ct......
  • Marchetti v. United States Grosso v. United States, Nos. 2
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 29, 1968
    ...this Court has in the past refused 'to formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required.' Garner v. State of Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 163, 82 S.Ct. 248, 251, 7 L.Ed.2d 207 (1961); cf. Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 186, n. 43, 83 S.Ct. 554, 576, 9 L.Ed.2d 644 (196......
  • Williams v. Workman, Case No. 09-CV-0164-JHP-TLW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Northern District of Oklahoma
    • October 19, 2012
    ...finds it lacks merit and shall be denied. 28U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2). First, a state court may interpret its own laws. See Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 166 (1961); see also Willingham, 296 F.3d 923. Further, the OCCA specifically found that the evidence was sufficient to prove first degree......
  • Sperling v. U.S., No. 1042
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • December 20, 1982
    ...accused. See Eaton v. Tulsa, 415 U.S. 697, 698-699 [94 S.Ct. 1228, 1229-1230, 39 L.Ed.2d 693] (1974) (per curiam ); Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 163-164 [82 S.Ct. 248, 251-252, 7 L.Ed.2d 207] (1961); Cole v. Arkansas, 333 U.S. 196, 201 [68 S.Ct. 514, 517, 92 L.Ed. 644] (1948); De Jong......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
363 cases
  • Gerald v. Duckworth, No. 93-1192
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • December 20, 1994
    ...the evidence for the purpose of whether that evidence supports the findings of a state court.' Garner v. Louisiana, 368. U.S. 157, 166, 82 S.Ct. 248, 253, 7 L.Ed.2d 207 (1961). 'We have no power to revise judgments on questions of state law.' Henry v. Mississippi, 379 U.S. 443, 447, 85 S.Ct......
  • Marchetti v. United States Grosso v. United States, Nos. 2
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 29, 1968
    ...this Court has in the past refused 'to formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required.' Garner v. State of Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 163, 82 S.Ct. 248, 251, 7 L.Ed.2d 207 (1961); cf. Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 186, n. 43, 83 S.Ct. 554, 576, 9 L.Ed.2d 644 (196......
  • Williams v. Workman, Case No. 09-CV-0164-JHP-TLW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Northern District of Oklahoma
    • October 19, 2012
    ...finds it lacks merit and shall be denied. 28U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2). First, a state court may interpret its own laws. See Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 166 (1961); see also Willingham, 296 F.3d 923. Further, the OCCA specifically found that the evidence was sufficient to prove first degree......
  • Sperling v. U.S., No. 1042
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • December 20, 1982
    ...accused. See Eaton v. Tulsa, 415 U.S. 697, 698-699 [94 S.Ct. 1228, 1229-1230, 39 L.Ed.2d 693] (1974) (per curiam ); Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 163-164 [82 S.Ct. 248, 251-252, 7 L.Ed.2d 207] (1961); Cole v. Arkansas, 333 U.S. 196, 201 [68 S.Ct. 514, 517, 92 L.Ed. 644] (1948); De Jong......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Study of Judicial Attitudes: the Case of Mr. Justice Douglas
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 24-1, March 1971
    • March 1, 1971
    ...evaluative statements. 18 363 U.S. 420 (1960).19 372 U.S. 539, 575 (1963). The Gibson case accounts for three evaluative statements. 20 368 U.S. 157, 177 reflected a fear of the adverse effects on small businesses of large aggregations ofeconomic power; in 55 tax cases he wrote 9 opinions a......

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