Local Finance Co. of Rockland v. Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

CourtMassachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Writing for the CourtBefore WILKINS; CUTTER
Citation355 Mass. 10,242 N.E.2d 536
PartiesLOCAL FINANCE COMPANY OF ROCKLAND v. MASSACHUSETTS COMMISSION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION.
Decision Date03 December 1968

Page 536

242 N.E.2d 536
355 Mass. 10
LOCAL FINANCE COMPANY OF ROCKLAND
v.
MASSACHUSETTS COMMISSION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth.
Argued Nov. 6, 1968.
Decided Dec. 3, 1968.

[355 Mass. 11] J. Barry Morrissey, Boston, for petitioner.

James J. O'Leary, Deputy Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.

Before [355 Mass. 10] WILKINS, C.J., and WHITTEMORE, CUTTER, KIRK and SPEIGEL, JJ.

[355 Mass. 11] CUTTER, Justice.

This is a petition under G.L. c. 30A, § 14, as amended, to review a decision of the Commission Against Discrimination (the commission). Upon the record before the commission, it has been reported without decision by a judge of the Superior Court.

Local Finance Company of Rockland (Finance) is a trust or voluntary association. See G.L. c. 182, as amended. It holds a license to make loans (see G.L. c. 140, §§ 96--114A, as amended) and maintains an office in Rockland, open during usual business hours to applicants for loans. Each

Page 537

applicant usually is interviewed by an employee of Finance and by him is assisted in filling out an application form.

The form contains three 'boxes' marked, respectively, 1, 2, and 3. If the applicant is white, box 1 is checked; if the applicant is a Negro, box 2 is checked; and if the applicant is of Spanish ancestry, box 3 is checked. Finance's ledger cards contain similar boxes used for the same purpose.

The commission issued a complaint against Finance. It alleged 'discriminatory practices (on 15 April, 1964) in violation of' G.L. c. 272, § 98, as amended, by Finance, in that it maintained 'an unlawful discriminatory policy of denying equal treatment in a place of public accommodation because of * * * (the) color * * * of applicants for loan and in using a code to distinguish applicants by * * * color.' Finance claimed by its answer before the commission that it [355 Mass. 12] was not subject to § 98. It filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

On July 9, 1964, the commission conducted a hearing. Thereafter it made findings of the facts stated above concerning Finance and its practices. It found also (a) that 'the information contained in the * * * boxes on * * * (Finance's) application is a factor which is considered by * * * (Finance) in determining whether to grant * * * a loan, white applicants being more favorably considered than are Negro or Spanish applicants,' and (b) that on April 7, 1964, Finance's 'general manager * * * refused to consider the application for a loan of a person solely because that person was not white.'

The commission concluded (1) that Finance 'is a place of public accommodation within the meaning' of G.L. c. 272, §§ 92A and 98; (2) that Finance's use of the boxes 'on its applications and ledger cards * * * constitutes a distinction on account of color * * * in violation of' § 98; (3) that 'giving consideration to the color' of the applicant constitutes discrimination; and (4) that Finance's refusal to consider an application on April 7, 1964, was a discrimination in violation of § 98. The commission's order required Finance to desist 'from considering the color * * * of any applicant * * * as a factor in determining whether to grant * * * a loan,' from 'recording the color' of any applicant, and from using forms designed to record the color of applicants.

1. Finance contends that its place of business is not a 'place of public accommodation' within §§ 92A and 98. 1 [355 Mass. 13] When §

Page 538

92A was first enacted by St.1933, c. 117, 'place of public accommodation' was a narrowly defined term, restricted essentially to inns, eating and recreation facilities, conveyances, barber shops, and theatres. By St.1953, c. 437, the scope of the term was materially broadened, especially by the inclusion of the words 'any place * * * which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public' (fn. 1, see italicized language in the quotation from § 92A). 2 The italicized language (fn. 1) in § 92A, particularly when read in the light of the obviously broad legislative purpose, strongly indicates that the enumerated specific examples of 'places of public accommodation' do not restrict the preceding general statutory language or provide a basis for applying the principle of ejusdem generis. 3

In interpreting § 92A, no prior Massachusetts case is conclusive. See Bryant v. Rich's Grill, 216 Mass. 344, 347, 103 N.E. 925, 926 (which refers to an earlier form of statute, found in St.1895, [355 Mass. 14] c. 461, as prohibiting 'in the most comprehensive terms * * * any discrimination except for good cause, applicable alike to all persons of every color'); Crawford v. Robert L. Kent, Inc., 341 Mass. 125, 126, 167 N.E.2d 620, 621 (weight placed upon the circumstance that a dance studio 'was a business operated for profit' in holding it not within the exclusion of organizations operated for educational purposes, see fn. 1). See also Massachusetts Comm. Against Discrimination v....

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14 practice notes
  • Currier v. Nat'l Bd. of Med. Examiners, SJC–10898.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • April 13, 2012
    ...eating and recreation facilities, conveyances, barber shops, and theatres." Local Fin. Co. v. Massachusetts Comm'n Against Discrimination, 355 Mass. 10, 13, 242 N.E.2d 536 (1968). Over time, however, the Legislature has materially broadened the scope of the term, specifically by including t......
  • Brooks v. Martha's Vineyard Transit Auth., CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-11119-WGY
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • January 2, 2020
    ...Bd. of Med. Exam'rs, 462 Mass. 1, 18, 965 N.E.2d 829 (2012) (quoting Local Fin. Co. v. Massachusetts Comm'n Against Discrimination, 355 Mass. 10, 14, 242 N.E.2d 536 (1968) ). Letting governmental agencies off the hook for their agents' discriminatory actions is inconsistent with a liberal c......
  • Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston v. City of Boston, IRISH-AMERICAN
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 11, 1994
    ...Comm'n Against Discrimination, 402 Mass. 716, 720, 524 N.E.2d 1364 (1988). Local Fin. Co. v. Massachusetts Comm'n Against Discrimination, 355 Mass. 10, 14, Page 1298 242 N.E.2d 536 (1968). Section 92A itself specifically includes "a boardwalk or other public highway," G.L. c. 272, § 92A(6),......
  • Kansas Commission on Civil Rights v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 47405
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 1, 1975
    .... . .' (pp. 344, 345, 217 A.2d p. 123.) A case from Massachusetts, Local Finance Co. v. Massachusetts Commn. Against Discrimination, 355 Mass. 10, 242 N.E.2d 536, is enlightening. The finance company operated a loan business. The loan application form required the applicant to disclose whet......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Currier v. Nat'l Bd. of Med. Examiners, SJC–10898.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • April 13, 2012
    ...eating and recreation facilities, conveyances, barber shops, and theatres." Local Fin. Co. v. Massachusetts Comm'n Against Discrimination, 355 Mass. 10, 13, 242 N.E.2d 536 (1968). Over time, however, the Legislature has materially broadened the scope of the term, specifically by including t......
  • Brooks v. Martha's Vineyard Transit Auth., CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-11119-WGY
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • January 2, 2020
    ...Bd. of Med. Exam'rs, 462 Mass. 1, 18, 965 N.E.2d 829 (2012) (quoting Local Fin. Co. v. Massachusetts Comm'n Against Discrimination, 355 Mass. 10, 14, 242 N.E.2d 536 (1968) ). Letting governmental agencies off the hook for their agents' discriminatory actions is inconsistent with a liberal c......
  • Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston v. City of Boston, IRISH-AMERICAN
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 11, 1994
    ...Comm'n Against Discrimination, 402 Mass. 716, 720, 524 N.E.2d 1364 (1988). Local Fin. Co. v. Massachusetts Comm'n Against Discrimination, 355 Mass. 10, 14, Page 1298 242 N.E.2d 536 (1968). Section 92A itself specifically includes "a boardwalk or other public highway," G.L. c. 272, § 92A(6),......
  • Kansas Commission on Civil Rights v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 47405
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 1, 1975
    .... . .' (pp. 344, 345, 217 A.2d p. 123.) A case from Massachusetts, Local Finance Co. v. Massachusetts Commn. Against Discrimination, 355 Mass. 10, 242 N.E.2d 536, is enlightening. The finance company operated a loan business. The loan application form required the applicant to disclose whet......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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