Griffin v. State of Maryland, 6

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation12 L.Ed.2d 754,84 S.Ct. 1770,378 U.S. 130
Docket NumberNo. 6,6
PartiesWilliam L. GRIFFIN et al., Petitioners, v. STATE OF MARYLAND. Re
Decision Date22 June 1964

Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., Washington, D.C., Jack Greenberg, New York City, for petitioners.

Robert C. Murphy, Russell R. Reno, Jr., Baltimore, Md., for respondent.

Ralph S. Spritzer, Washington, D.C., for United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

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

Petitioners were convicted of criminal trespass for refusing to leave a privately owned and operated amusement park in the State of Maryland at the command of an employee of the amusement park acting under color of his authority as a deputy sheriff. For the reasons set forth hereinafter we hold that these convictions are violative of the Fourteenth Amendment and must be set aside.

The Glen Echo Amusement Park is located in Montgomery County, Maryland, near Washington, D.C. Though the park through its advertisements sought the patronage of the general public, it was (until recently) the park's policy to exclude Negroes who wished to patronize its facilities. No signs at the park apprised persons of this policy or otherwise indicated that all comers were not welcome. No tickets of admission were required. In protest against the park's policy of segre- gation a number of whites and Negroes picketed the park on June 30, 1960. The petitioners, five young Negroes, were participating in the protest. Hopeful that the management might change its policy, they entered the park, and encountered no resistance from the park employees, boarded the carousel. They possessed transferrable tickets, previously purchased by others, entitling the holder to ride on the carousel.

At that time the park employed one Collins as a special policeman by arrangement with the National Detective Agency. Although Collins was formally retained and paid by the agency and wore its uniform, he was subject to the control and direction of the park management. Apparently at the request of the park, Collins had been deputized as a sheriff of Montgomery County.1 He wore, on the outside of his uniform, a deputy heriff's badge.

When Collins saw the petitioners sitting on the carousel waiting for the ride to begin, he reported their presence to the park manager. The manager told Collins that petitioners were to be arrested for trespassing if they would not leave the park. Collins then went up to the petitioners and told them that it was the park's policy 'not to have colored people on the rides, or in the park.' He ordered petitioners to leave within five minutes. They declined to do so, pointing out that they had tickets for the carousel. There was no evidence that any of the petitioners were disorderly. At the end of the five-minute period Collins, as he testified, 'went to each defendant and told them that the time was up and that they were under arrest for trespassing.' Collins transported the petitioners to the Montgomery County police station. There he filled out a form titled 'Application for Warrant by Police Officer.' The application stated:

'Francis J. Collins, being first duly sworn, on oath doth depose and say: That he is a member of the Montgomery deputy sheriff Department and as such, on the 30th day of June, 1960, at about the hour of 8:45 P.M. he did observe the defendant William L. Griffin in Glen Echo Park which is private property(.) (O) n order of Kebar Inc. owners of Glen Echo Park the def(endant) was asked to leave the park and after giving him reasonable time to comply the def(endant) refused to leave (and) he was placed under arrest for trespassing * * *.

'Whereas, Francis J. Collins doth further depose and say that he, as a member of the Montgomery County Police Department believes that _ _ is violating Sec. 577 Article 27 of the Annotated Code of Maryland.

'Francis J. Collins.'

Md.Ann.Code, 1957 (Cum.Supp.1961), Art. 27, § 577, is a criminal trespass statute.2 On the same day a Mary- land Justice of the Peace issued a warrant which charged that petitioner Griffin '(d)id enter upon and pass over the land and premises of Glen Echo Park * * * after having been told by the Deputy Sheriff for Glen Echo Park, to leave the Property, and after giving him a reasonable time to comply, he did not leave * * * contrary to the * * * (Maryland criminal trespass statute) and against the peace, government and dignity of the State.' The warrant recited that the complaint had been made by 'Collins Deputy Sheriff.' An amended warrant was later filed. It stated that the complaint had been made by 'Collins, Deputy Sheriff' but charged Griffin with unlawfully entering the park after having been told not to do so by 'an Agent' of the corporation which operated the park. Presumably identical documents were filed with respect to the other petitioners.

Petitioners were tried and convicted of criminal trespass in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County. Each was sentenced to pay a fine of $100. The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions. 225 Md. 422, 171 A.2d 717. That court, rejecting the petitioners' constitutional claims, reasoned as follows:

'(T)he appellants in this case * * * were arrested for criminal trespass committed in the presence of a special deputy sheriff of Montgomery County (who was also the agent of the park operator) after they had been duly notified to leave but refused to do so. It follows—since the offense for which these appellants were arrested was a misdemeanor committed in the presence of the park officer who had a right to arrest them, either in his private capacity as an agent or employee of the operator of the park or in his limited capacity as a special deputy sheriff in the amusement park * * *—the arrest of these appellants for a criminal trespass in this manner was no more than if a regular police officer had been called upon to make the arrest for a crime committed in his presence * * *. (T)he arrest and conviction of these appellants for a criminal trespass as a result of the enforcement by the oeprator of the park of its lawful policy of segregation, did not constitute such action as may fairly be said to be that of the State.' 225 Md., at 431, 171 A.2d, at 721.

We granted certiorari, 370 U.S. 935, 82 S.Ct. 1577, 8 L.Ed.2d 805, and set the case for reargument. 373 U.S. 920, 83 S.Ct. 1313, 10 L.Ed.2d 421.

Collins—in ordering the petitioners to leave the park and in arresting and instituting prosecutions against them—purported to exercise the authority of a deputy sheriff. He wore a sheriff's badge and consistently identified himself as a deputy sheriff rather than as an employee of the park. Though an amended warrant was filed stating that petitioners had committed an offense because they entered the park after an 'agent' of the park told them not to do so, this change has little, if any, bearing on the character of the authority which Collins initially purported to exercise. If an individual is possessed of state authority and purports to act under that authority, his action is state action. It is irrelevant that he might have taken the same action had he acted in a purely private capacity or that the particular action which he took was not authorized by state law. See, e.g., Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91, 65 S.Ct. 1031, 89 L.Ed. 1495. Thus, it is clear that Collins' action was state action. See Williams v. United States, 341 U.S. 97, 71 S.Ct. 576, 95 L.Ed. 774; see also Labor Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 331 U.S. 416, 429, 67 S.Ct. 1274, 91 L.Ed. 1575. The only question remaining in this case is whether Collins' action denied petitioners the equal protection of the laws secured to them by the Fourteenth Amendment. If it did, these convictions are invalid.

It cannot be disputed that if the State of Maryland had operated the amusement park on behalf of the owner thereof, and had enforced the owner's policy of racial seg- regation against petitioners, petitioners would have been deprived of the equal protection of the laws. Pennsylvania v. Board of Trusts, 353 U.S. 230, 77 S.Ct. 806, 1 L.Ed.2d 792; cf. Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
172 cases
  • NAACP, Frederick County Chapter v. Thompson, Civ. No. K-85-3512.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • October 6, 1986
    ...the decision in each case would be so largely governed by its own facts. Id. at 726, 81 S.Ct. at 862. In Griffin v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 130, 84 S.Ct. 1770, 12 L.Ed.2d 754 (1964), petitioners, five young Negroes, entered a privately owned and operated amusement park, whose policy was to exclu......
  • Maniaci v. Georgetown University
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 10, 2007
    ...purport to exercise its authority, he may be held liable for constitutional deprivation pursuant to Section 1983. Griffin v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 130, 135, 84 S.Ct. 1770, 12 L.Ed.2d 754 (1964). The Supreme Court established a test to determine whether actions may be considered to be taken "un......
  • Abraham v. Raso
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • January 1, 1998
    ...v. Oaklawn Jockey Club, 183 F.2d 440 (8th Cir. 1950); Crowder v. Jackson, 527 F. Supp. 1004 (W.D. Pa. 1981); cf. Griffin v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 130, 135 (1964) (deputy sheriff employed by private park operator acted under color of law when he ordered person to leave park, escorted him out an......
  • State v. Beecroft, Nos. A09–0390
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • May 23, 2012
    ...taken the same action had he acted in a purely private capacity.’ ” 487 U.S. at 56 n. 15, 108 S.Ct. 2250 (quoting Griffin v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 130, 135, 84 S.Ct. 1770, 12 L.Ed.2d 754 (1964)). Here, Dr. Uncini sent a formal letter to Dr. Ophoven on Saint Louis County letterhead restricting ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Civil Liberties
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The No. 371-1, May 1967
    • May 1, 1967
    ...thecivil rights trespass cases with Bell v. Mary-land, 378 U.S. 226 (1964) ; Bouie v. Columbia,378 U.S. 347 (1964) ; Griffin v. Maryland,378 U.S. 130 (1964) ; Barr v. Columbia, 378U.S. 146 (1964). All the cases were decidedJune 22, 1946.48 See M. R. Konvitz, Expanding Liberties,op. cit., su......
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, 1963-1964
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly No. 17-4, December 1964
    • December 1, 1964
    ...term were disappointing in that full determination of constitutional questions was not reached. In Griffin v. State of f 605 Maryland (378 U.S. 130; 84 S.Ct. 1770) the Court held in an opinion by Chief Jus-tice Warren (vote: 6-3, Harlan, Black, and White dissenting) that when Negroeswere co......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT