Hamm v. City of Rock Hill Lupper v. State of Arkansas

Decision Date14 December 1964
Docket NumberNos. 2,5,s. 2
Citation13 L.Ed.2d 300,85 S.Ct. 384,379 U.S. 306
PartiesArthur HAMM, Jr., Petitioner, v. CITY OF ROCK HILL. Frank James LUPPER et al., Petitioners, v. STATE OF ARKANSAS
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

See 379 U.S. 995, 85 S.Ct. 698.

No. 2:

Jack Greenberg, New York City, for petitioner.

Constance B. Motley, New York City, for petitioners.

Daniel R. McLeod, Columbia, S.C., for respondent.

No. 5:

Jack L. Lessenberry, Little Rock, Ark., for respondent.

Mr. Justice CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

These are 'sit-in' cases that came here from the highest courts of South Carolina and Arkansas, respectively. Each of those courts affirmed convictions based upon state trespass statutes against petitioners, who are Negroes, for participating in 'sit-in' demonstrations in the luncheon facilities of retail stores in their respective States. We granted certiorari in each of the cases, 377 U.S. 988, 989, 84 S.Ct. 1902, 12 L.Ed.2d 1042 and consolidated them for argument. The petitioners asserted both in the state courts and here the denial of rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the Fourteenth Amendment; in addition, they claim here that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 241, passed subsequent to their convictions and the affirmances thereof in the state courts, abated these actions.

1. The Facts.

In No. 2, Hamm v. Rock Hill, the petitioner, and a companion who is now deceased, entered McCrory's variety store at Rock Hill, South Carolina. After making purchases in other parts of the store, they proceeded to the lunch counter and sought service. It was refused. The manager asked the petitioner and his associate to leave and when they refused he called the police. They were prosecuted and convicted under § 16-388 of the S.C. Code of Laws, making it an offense for anyone to enter a place of business after having been warned not to do so or to refuse to leave immediately after having entered therein. Petitioner's companion died subsequently. The conviction of petitioner was affirmed by both the Court of General Sessions and the Supreme Court of South Carolina, 241 S.C. 420, 128 S.E.2d 907 (1962).

Lupper v. Arkansas, No. 5, involves a group of Negroes who entered the department store of Gus Blass Company in Little Rock. The group went to the mezzanine tearoom of the store at the busy luncheon hour, seated themselves and requested service which was refused. Within a few minutes the group, including petitioners, was advised that Blass reserved the right to refuse service to anyone and was not prepared to serve them at that time. Upon being requested to leave, the petitioners refused. The police officers who were summoned located petitioners on the first floor of the store and arrested them. The officers' testimony that petitioners admitted the whole affair was denied. The prosecutions in the Little Rock Municipal Court resulted in convictions of petitioners based upon § 41-1433, Ark.Stat.Ann. (1964 Repl. Vol.), which prohibits a person from remaining on the premises of a business establishment after having been requested to leave by the owner or manager thereof. On appeal to the Pulaski Circuit Court, a trial de novo resulted in verdicts of guilty and the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed, 236 Ark. 596, 367 S.W.2d 750 [Fastcase Editorial Note: The Court's reference to 236 Ark. 596, 367 S.W.2d 750 is short for Briggs v. State, 236 Ark. 596, 367 S.W.2d 750.] (1963), sub nom. Briggs v. State.

We hold that the convictions must be vacated and the prosecutions dismissed. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination in places of public accommodation and removes peaceful attempts to be served on an equal basis from the category of punishable activities. Although the conduct in the present cases occurred prior to enactment of the Act, the still-pending convictions are abated by its passage.


2. Application of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Facts Here.

We treat these cases as involving places of public accommodation covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under that statute, a place of public accommodation is defined to include one which serves or offers to serve interstate travelers. Applying the rules of §§ 201(b)(2), (c)1 we find that each of them offers to serve interstate travelers. In Hamm it is not denied that the lunch counter was in a McCrory's 5-and-10-cent store, a large variety store at Rock Hill belonging to a national chain, which offers to sell thousands of items to the public; that it invites all members of the public into its premises to do business and offers to serve all persons, except at its lunch counter which is restricted to white persons only. There is no contention here that it does not come within the Act. Likewise in Lupper the lunch counter area, called a tearoom, is located within and operated by the Gus Blass Company's department store at Little Rock. It is a large department store dealing extensively in interstate commerce. It appears from the record that it also offered to serve all persons coming into its store but limited its lunch counter service to white persons. On argument it was frankly admitted that the lunch counter operation 'probably would' come under the Act. Finally, neither respondent asks for a remand to determine the facts as to coverage of the respective lunch counters.2 In the light of such a record and the legislative history indicating that Congress intended to cover retail store lunch counters, see 110 Cong.Rec. 1519-1520, we hold that the Act covers both the McCrory and the Blass lunch counter operations.

Under the Civil Rights Act, petitioners' conduct could not be the subject of trespass prosecutions, federal or state, if it had occurred after the enactment of the statute.

Title II includes several sections, some of which are relevant here, that create federal statutory rights.3 The first is § 201(a) declaring that '(a)ll persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation,' which as we have found includes the establishments here involved. Next, § 203 provides:

'No person shall (a) withhold, deny, or attempt to withhold or deny, or deprive or attempt to deprive, any person of any right or privilege secured by section 201 or 202, or (b) intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person with the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by section 201 or 202, or (c) punish or attempt to punish any person for exercising or attempting to exercise any right or privilege secured by section 201 or 202.' Emphasis supplied.

On its face, this language prohibits prosecution of any person for seeking service in a covered establishment, because of his race or color. It has been argued, however, that victims of discrimination must make use of the exclusive statutory mechanisms for the redress of grievances, and not resort to extralegal means. Although we agree that the law generally condemns self-help, the language of § 203(c) supports a conclusion that nonforcible attempts to gain admittance to or remain in establishments covered by the Act, are immunized from prosecution, for the statute speaks of exercising or attempting to exercise a 'right or privilege' secured by its earlier provisions. The availability of the Act as a defense against punishment is not limited solely to those who pursue the statutory remedies. The legislative history specifically notes that the Act would be a defense to criminal trespass, breach of the peace and similar prosecutions. Senator Humphrey, floor manager of the bill in the Senate, said in explaining the bill:

'This plainly means that a defendant in a criminal trespass, breach of the peace, or other similar case can assert the rights created by 201 and 202 and that State Courts must entertain defenses grounded upon these provisions. * * *' 110 Cong.Rec. 9767.

In effect the Act prohibits the application of state laws in a way that would deprive any person of the rights granted under the Act. The Supremacy Clause, Art. VI, cl. 2, requires this result where 'there is a clear collision' between state and federal law, Kesler v. Department of Safety, 369 U.S. 153, 172, 82 S.Ct. 807, 818, 7 L.Ed.2d 641 (1962), or a conflict between federal law and the application of an otherwise valid state enactment, Hill v. Florida, 325 U.S. 538, 65 S.Ct. 1373, 89 L.Ed. 1782 (1945). There can be no question that this was the intended result here in light of § 203(c). The present convictions and the command of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are clearly in direct conflict. The only remaining question is the effect of the Act on judgments rendered, but not finalized, before its passage.

4. Effect of the Act upon the Prosecutions.

Last Term, in Bell v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 226, 84 S.Ct. 1814, 12 L.Ed.2d 822, we noted the existence of a body of federal and state law to the effect that convictions on direct review at the time the conduct in question is rendered no longer unlawful by statute, must abate. We consider first the effect the Civil Rights Act would have on petitioners' convictions if they had been federal convictions, and then the import of the fact that these are state and not federal convictions. We think it is clear that the convictions, if federal, would abate.

The doctrine found its earliest expression in Chief Justice Marshall's opinion in United States v. Schooner Peggy, 1 Cranch 103, 110, 2 L.Ed. 49 (1801):

'But if subsequent to the judgment and before the decision of the appellate court, a law intervenes and positively changes the rule which governs, the law must be obeyed, or its obligation denied. If the law be constitutional * * * I know of no court which can contest its obligation. It is true that in mere private cases between individuals, a court will and ought to struggle hard...

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