Runyon v. Crary School, Inc v. Gonzales Southern Independent School Association v. Crary Crary v. Runyon

Citation427 U.S. 160,49 L.Ed.2d 415,96 S.Ct. 2586
Decision Date25 June 1976
Docket NumberNos. 75-62,75-66,75-278 and 75-306,FAIRFAX-BREWSTER,s. 75-62
PartiesRussell L. RUNYON et ux., Petitioners, v. Michael C. McCRARY, etc., et al.SCHOOL, INC., Petitioner, v. Colin M. GONZALES, etc., et al. SOUTHERN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL ASSOCIATION, Petitioner, v. Michael C. McCRARY, etc., et al. Michael C. McCRARY, etc., et al., Petitioners, v. Russell L. RUNYON et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Title 42 U.S.C. § 1981 provides in part that "(a)ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens . . . ." After they had been denied admission to petitioner private schools in Virginia for the stated reason that the schools were not integrated, two Negro children (hereafter respondents), by their parents, brought actions against the schools, alleging that they had been prevented from attending the schools because of the schools' admitted policies of denying admission to Negroes, in violation of § 1981, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. The District Court, finding that respondents had been denied admission on racial grounds, held that § 1981 makes illegal the schools' racially discriminatory admissions policies and accordingly enjoined the schools and the member schools of petitioner private school association (which had intervened as a party defendant) from discriminating against applicants for admission on the basis of race. The court also awarded compensatory relief to both children and to the parents of one and assessed attorneys' fees against each school, but held that the damages claim of the parents of the other child was barred by Virginia's two-year statute of limitations for "personal injury" actions, "borrowed" for § 1981 suits filed in that State. The Court of Appeals, while reversing the award of attorneys' fees, affirmed the grant of equitable and compensatory relief and the ruling as to the applicable statute of limitations, holding that § 1981 is a "limitation upon private discrimination, and its enforcement in the context of this case is not a deprivation of any right of free association or of privacy of the defendants, of the intervenor, or of their pupils or patrons." Held :

1. Section 1981 prohibits private, commercially operated, nonsectarian schools from denying admission to prospective students because they are Negroes. Pp. 168-175.

(a) Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, from which § 1981 is derived, prohibits racial discrimination in the making and enforcing of private contracts. See Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, 421 U.S. 454, 459-460, 95 S.Ct. 1716, 1719-1720, 44 L.Ed.2d 295; Tillman v. Wheaton-Haven Recreation Assn., 410 U.S. 431, 439-440, 93 S.Ct. 1090, 1094-1095, 35 L.Ed.2d 403. Cf. Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, 441-443, n. 78, 88 S.Ct. 2186, 2204-2205, 20 L.Ed.2d 1189. Pp. 168-172.

(b) The racial discrimination practiced by petitioner schools amounts to a classic violation of § 1981: Respondents' parents sought to enter into a contractual relationship with petitioner schools, but neither school offered services on an equal basis to white and nonwhite students. Pp. 172-173.

2. Section 1981, as applied in this case, does not violate constitutionally protected rights of free association and privacy, or a parent's right to direct the education of his children. Pp. 175-179.

(a) While under the principle that there is a First Amendment right "to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas," NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 460, it may be assumed that parents have a right to send their children to schools that promote the belief that racial segregation is desirable, and that the children have a right to attend such schools, it does not follow that the Practice of excluding racial minorities from such schools is also protected by the same principle. The Constitution places no value on discrimination, and while "(i)nvidious private discrimination may be characterized as a form of exercising freedom of association protected by the First Amendment . . . it has never been accorded affirmative constitutional protections." Norwood v. Harrison, 413 U.S. 455, 470, 93 S.Ct. 2804, 2813, 37 L.Ed.2d 723. Pp. 175-176.

(b) The application of § 1981 in this case infringed no parental right such as was recognized in Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 43 S.Ct. 625, 67 L.Ed. 1042; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070; Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15; or Norwood v. Harrison, supra, since no challenge is made to petitioner schools' right to operate, to parents' right to send their children to a particular private school rather than a public school, or to the subject matter that is taught at any private school. Pp. 176-177.

(c) While parents have a constitutional right to send their children to private schools and to select private schools that offer specialized instruction, they have no constitutional right to provide their children with private school education unfettered by reasonable government regulation. Section 1981, as applied to the conduct at issue here, constitutes an exercise of federal legislative power under § 2 of the Thirteenth Amendment "to enforce (that Amendment) by appropriate legislation," fully consistent with Meyer v. Nebraska, supra; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, supra, And the cases that followed in their wake, such power including "the power to enact laws 'direct and primary, operating upon the acts of individuals, whether sanctioned by State legislation or not.' " Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., supra, 392 U.S., at 438, 88 S.Ct., at 2202. Pp. 177-179.

3. Absent a federal statute of limitations for § 1981 actions or a Virginia statute of limitations specifically governing civil rights actions, the Court of Appeals applied the appropriate statute of limitations to bar the damages claim in question, particularly where it appears that the Court of Appeals, as well as the Federal District Courts in Virginia, had considered the question in previous federal civil rights litigation, and that the phrase "personal injuries" in the Virginia two-year statute of limitations can reasonably be construed to apply to the sort of injuries claimed here and not only to "physical injuries" as one respondent's parents contend. Pp. 179-182.

4. Absent any federal statute expressly providing for attorneys' fees in § 1981 cases or any bad faith on petitioner schools' part in contesting the actions, the Court of Appeals properly reversed the award of such fees. Nor is implied authority for such an award furnished by the generalized command of 42 U.S.C. § 1988 "to furnish suitable remedies" to vindicate the rights conferred by the various Civil Rights Acts. Pp. 182-186.

515 F.2d 1082, affirmed.

Louis Koutoulakos, Arlington, Va., Andrew A. Lipscomb and George S. Leonard, Washington, D. C., for Runyon, Fairfax Brewster School and Southern Ind. School Ass'n Allison W. Brown, Jr., Washington, D. C., for respondents in Nos. 75-62, 75-66 and 75-278.

Roderic V. O. Boggs, Washington, D. C., for petitioners in No. 75-306.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The principal issue presented by these consolidated cases is whether a federal law, namely, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, prohibits private schools from excluding qualified children solely because they are Negroes.


The respondents in No. 75-62, Michael McCrary and Colin Gonzales, are Negro children. By their parents they filed a class action against the petitioners in No. 75-62, Russell and Katheryne Runyon, who are the proprietors of Bobbe's School in Arlington, Va. Their complaint alleged that they had been prevented from attending the school because of the petitioners' policy of denying admission to Negroes, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 1 and Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 243, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a Et seq.2 They sought declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. On the same day Colin Gonzales, the respondent in No. 75-66, filed a similar complaint by his parents against the petitioner in No. 75-66, Fairfax-Brewster School, Inc., located in Fairfax County, Va. The petitioner in No. 75-278, the Southern Independent School Association, sought and was granted permission to intervene as a party defendant in the suit against the Runyons. That organization is a nonprofit association composed of six state private school associations, and represents 395 private schools. It is stipulated that many of these schools deny admission to Negroes.

The suits were consolidated for trial. The findings of the District Court, which were left undisturbed by the Court of Appeals, were as follows. Bobbe's School opened in 1958 and grew from an initial enrollment of five students to 200 in 1972. A day camp was begun in 1967 and has averaged 100 children per year. The Fairfax-Brewster School commenced operations in 1955 and opened a summer day camp in 1956. A total of 223 students were enrolled at the school during the 1972-1973 academic year, and 236 attended the day camp in the summer of 1972. Neither school has ever accepted a Negro child for any of its programs.

In response to a mailed brochure addressed "resident" and an advertisement in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone directory, Mr. and Mrs. Gonzales telephoned and then visited the Fairfax-Brewster School in May 1969. After the visit, they submitted an application for Colin's admission to the day camp. The school responded with a form letter, which stated that the school was "unable to accommodate (Colin's) application." Mr. Gonzales telephoned the school. Fairfax-Brewster's Chairman of the Board explained that the reason for Colin's rejection was that the school was not integrated. Mr. Gonzales then telephoned Bobbe's School, from which the family had also received in the mail...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1204 cases
  • Hale v. Hawaii Publications, Inc., Civ. No. 05-00709 ACK-BMK.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • December 28, 2006
    ...(citing Shah v. Mount Zion Hospital and Medical Center, 642 F.2d 268, 272 n. 4 (9th Cir.1981)); see also Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 167, 96 S.Ct. 2586, 49 L.Ed.2d 415 (1976)("They do not present any question of the right of a private school to limit its student body to boys, to girls,......
  • Anderson v. Dunbar Armored, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Georgia
    • August 18, 2009
    ...("It is . . . settled that Section 1981 does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender .") (citing Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 167, 96 S.Ct. 2586, 49 L.Ed.2d 415 (1976)); see also Hervey v. City of Little Rock, 787 F.2d 1223, 1233 (8th Cir.1986) ("Since § 1981 does not apply t......
  • Estate of Williams-Moore v. Alliance One Receiv., No. 1:03 CV 899.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina
    • September 3, 2004
    ...actors. See Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 172, 109 S.Ct. 2363, 105 L.Ed.2d 132 (1989); Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 170-71, 96 S.Ct. 2586, 49 L.Ed.2d 415 (1976). For a plaintiff to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, he must plead facts showing "(1) he is a member of......
  • Gregory v. Dillard's, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • May 12, 2009
    ...discrimination that "blocks the creation of a contractual relationship" that does not yet exist. Id.; see Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 172, 96 S.Ct. 2586, 49 L.Ed.2d 415 (1976). Our court has identified several elements to a claim under § 1981, which we divide into four parts for analys......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
27 books & journal articles
  • Race and national origin discrimination
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Federal Employment Jury Instructions - Volume I
    • April 30, 2014
    ...appear in the statute, the Supreme Court has held that §1981 provides a federal remedy against racial discrimination. Runyon v. McCrary , 427 U.S. 160, 168 (1976). In defining racial discrimination, the Court stated, “[s]ection 1981, at a minimum, reaches discrimination directed against an ......
  • Beyond the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Confronting Structural Racism in the Workplace
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review No. 74-4, July 2014
    • July 1, 2014
    ...advocates by sua sponte ordering reargument on the question of whether it should reverse its earlier decision in Runyon v. McCrary , 427 U.S. 160 (1976), which held section 1981 covered 2014] STRUCTURAL RACISM IN THE WORKPLACE 1153 under 42 U.S.C § 1981 claiming that she had been denied pro......
  • The scope of Congress's Thirteenth Amendment enforcement power after City of Boerne v. Flores.
    • United States
    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 88 No. 1, December 2010
    • December 1, 2010 18 U.S.C. [section] 241. (45.) 42 U.S.C. [section] 1981(a) (2006). (46.) Id. [section] 1982. (47.) See, e.g., Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160 (1976) (holding that [section] 1981 applies to race discrimination in contracts for private school education); Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U......
  • The aftermath of Key Tronic: implications for attorneys' fee awards.
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Vol. 24 No. 4, October 1994
    • October 1, 1994
    ...U.S.C. [sections][sections] 9601-9675, [sections] 9607 (1988 & Supp. V 1993). (3.)114 S. Ct. at 1967. (4.)421 U.S. 240 (1975). (5.)427 U.S. 160 (6.)Key Tronic, 114 S. Ct. at 1966-67. (7.)The Key Tronic decision will have significant effects on private party response actions. Although Ke......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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