State of Georgia v. Rachel, No. 147

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEWART
Citation16 L.Ed.2d 925,384 U.S. 780,86 S.Ct. 1783
Docket NumberNo. 147
Decision Date20 June 1966
PartiesSTATE OF GEORGIA, Petitioner, v. Thomas RACHEL et al

384 U.S. 780
86 S.Ct. 1783
16 L.Ed.2d 925
STATE OF GEORGIA, Petitioner,

v.

Thomas RACHEL et al.

No. 147.
Argued April 25 and 26, 1966.
Decided June 20, 1966.

[Syllabus from pages 780-781 intentionally omitted]

Page 781

George K. McPherson, Jr., J. Robert Sparks, Atlanta, Ga.,

Page 782

for petitioner.

Anthony G. Amsterdam, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents questions concerning the scope of a century-old federal law that permits a defendant in state court proceedings to transfer his case to a federal trial court under certain conditions. That law, now 28 U.S.C. § 1443 (1964 ed.) provides:

's 1443. Civil rights cases.

'Any of the following civil actions or criminal prosecutions, commenced in a State court may be removed by the defendant to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place wherein it is pending:

'(1) Against any person who is denied or cannot enforce in the courts of such State a right under any law providing for the equal civil rights of citizens of the United States, or of all persons within the jurisdiction thereof;

'(2) For any act under color of authority derived from any law providing for equal rights, or for refusing to do any act on the ground that it would be inconsistent with such law.'

The case arises from a removal petition filed by Thomas Rachel and 19 other defendants seeking to transfer to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia criminal trespass prosecutions pending against them in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia. The petition stated that the

Page 783

defendants had been arrested on various dates in the spring of 1963 when they sought to obtain service at privately owned restaurants open to the general public in Atlanta, Georgia. The defendants alleged:

'their arrests were effected for the sole purpose of aiding, abetting, and perpetuating customs, and usages which have deep historical and psychological roots in the mores and attitudes which exist within the City of Atlanta with respect to serving and seating members of the Negro race in such places of public accommodation and convenience upon a racially discriminatory basis and upon terms and conditions not imposed upon members of the so-called white or Caucasian race. Members of the so-called white or Caucasian race are similarly treated and discriminated against when accompanied by members of the Negro race.'

Each defendant, according to the petition, was then indicted under the Georgia statute making it a misdemeanor to refuse to leave the premises of another when requested to do so by the owner or the person in charge.1 On these allegations, the defendants maintained that removal was authorized under both subsections of 28 U.S.C. § 1443. The defendants maintained broadly that they were entitled to removal under the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Four-

Page 784

teenth Amendment. Specifically invoking the language of subsection (1), the 'denied or cannot enforce' clause, their petition stated:

'petitioners are denied and/or cannot enforce in the Courts of the State of Georgia rights under the Constitution and Laws of the United States providing for the equal rights of citizens of the United States * * * in that, among other things, the State of Georgia by statute, custom, usage, and practice supports and maintains a policy of racial discrimination.'

Invoking the language of subsection (2), the 'color of authority' clause, the petition stated:

'petitioners are being prosecuted for acts done under color of authority derived from the constitution and laws of the United States and for refusing to do an act which was, and is, inconsistent with the Constitution and Laws of the United States.'

On its own motion and without a hearing, the Federal District Court remanded the cases to the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, finding that the petition did not allege facts sufficient to sustain removal under the federal statute. The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.2

Page 785

While the case was pending in that court, two events of critical significance took place. The first of these was the enactment into law by the United States Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 241. The second was the decision of this Court in Hamm v. City of Rock Hill, 379 U.S. 306, 85 S.Ct. 384, 13 L.Ed.2d 300. That case held that the Act precludes state trespass prosecutions for peaceful attempts to be served upon an equal basis in establishments covered by the Act, even though the prosecutions were instituted prior to the Act's passage.3 In view of these intervening developments in the law, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court. In terms of the language of § 1443(1), the court held that, if the allegations in the petition were true, prosecution in the courts of Georgia under that State's trespass statute, substantially similar to the state statutes involved in Hamm, denied the defendants a right under a law providing for equal civil rights—the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case was therefore returned to the District Court, with directions that the defendants be given an opportunity to prove that their prosecutions had resulted from orders to leave places of public accommodation 'for racial reasons.' Upon such proof, the court held that Hamm would then require the District Court to order dismissal of the prosecutions. 342 F.2d 336, 343.

We granted certiorari to consider the applicability of the removal statute to the circumstances of this case. 382 U.S. 808, 86 S.Ct. 39, 15 L.Ed.2d 58. No issues touching the constitutional

Page 786

power of Congress are involved. We deal only with questions of statutory construction.4

The present statute is a direct descendant of a provision enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. 14 Stat. 27. The subsection that is now § 1443(1) was before this Court in a series of decisions beginning with Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 25 L.Ed. 664, and Com. of Virginia v. Rives, 100 U.S. 313, 25 L.Ed. 667, in 1880 and ending with Kentucky v. Powers, 201 U.S. 1, 26 S.Ct. 387, 50 L.Ed. 633, in 1906.5 The Court has not considered the removal statute since then, one reason being that an order remanding a case sought to be removed under § 1443 was not appealable after the year 1887.6 In § 901 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, Congress specifically provided for appeals from remand orders in § 1443 cases, so as to give the federal reviewing courts

Page 787

a new opportunity to consider the meaning and scope of the removal statute.7 78 Stat. 266, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) (1964 ed.). The courts of appeals in four circuits have

Page 788

now had occasion to give extensive consideration to various aspects of the removal statute.8 In the case before us, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit dealt only with issues arising under the first subsection of § 1443, and we confine our review to those issues.

Section 1443(1) entitles the defendants to remove these prosecutions to the federal court only if they meet both requirements of that subsection. They must show both that the right upon which they rely is a 'right under any law providing for * * * equal civil rights,' and that they are 'denied or cannot enforce' that right in the courts of Georgia.

The statutory phrase 'any law providing for * * * equal civil rights' did not appear in the original removal provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1866. That provision allowed removal only in cases involving the express statutory rights of racial equality guaranteed in the Act itself. The first section of the 1866 Act secured for all citizens the 'same' rights as were 'enjoyed by white citizens' in a variety of fundamental areas.9 Section 3,

Page 789

the removal section of the 1866 Act, provided for removal by 'persons who are denied or cannot enforce * * * the rights secured to them by the first section of this act * * *.'10

The present language 'any law providing for * * * equal civil rights' first appeared in § 641 of the Revised Statutes of 1874.11 When the Revised Statutes were compiled, the substantive and removal provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 were carried forward in separate sections.12 Hence, Congress could no longer identify the rights for which removal was available by using the language of the original Civil Rights Act—'rights secured to them by the first section of this act.' The new language it chose, however, does not suggest that it intended to limit the scope of removal to rights recognized in statutes existing in 1874. On the contrary, Congress' choice of the open-ended phrase 'any law providing for * * * equal civil rights' was clearly appropriate to permit removal in cases involving 'a right under' both existing and future statutes that provided for equal civil rights.

There is no substantial indication, however, that the general language of § 641 of the Revised Statutes was intended to expand the kinds of 'law' to which the removal section referred. In spite of the potential breadth of the phrase 'any law providing for * * * equal civil

Page 790

rights,' it seems clear that in enacting § 641, Congress intended in that phrase only to include laws comparable in nature to the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Prior to the 1874 revision, Congress had not significantly enlarged the opportunity for removal available to private persons beyond the relatively narrow category of rights specified in the 1866 Act, even though the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments had been adopted and Congress had broadly implemented them in other major civil rights legislation.13 Moreover, § 641 contained an explicit cross-reference at the end of the section to § 1977 of the Revised Statutes, which carried forward the principal rights created in § 1 of the 1866 Act. In...

To continue reading

Request your trial
994 practice notes
  • HOUSING AUTHORITY OF CITY OF NEWARK v. Henry, Civ. No. 226-71.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • 18 Noviembre 1971
    ...(2) a clear prediction can be made that the right relied upon will be denied or not be enforceable in the state court. Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 86 S.Ct. 1783, 16 L.Ed.2d 925 (1966); City of Greenwood, Miss. v. Peacock, 384 U.S. 808, 86 S.Ct. 1800, 16 L.Ed.2d 944 Defendants' Petition......
  • Cbocs West, Inc. v. Humphries, No. 06–1431.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 27 Mayo 2008
    ...“rights to engage in particular conduct.” Brief for Respondent 16. Rather, § 1981 is an equal-rights provision. See Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 791, 86 S.Ct. 1783, 16 L.Ed.2d 925 (1966) (“Congress intended to protect a limited category of rights, specifically defined in terms of racial......
  • Henry v. First Nat. Bank of Clarksdale, No. 76-4200
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 21 Mayo 1979
    ...removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441. City of Greenwood v. Peacock, 384 U.S. 808, 86 S.Ct. 1800, 16 L.Ed.2d 944 (1966); Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 86 S.Ct. 1783, 16 L.Ed.2d 925 (1966); Johnson v. Mississippi, 5 Cir., 1974, 488 F.2d 284, Aff'd, 421 U.S. 213, 95 S.Ct. 1591, 44 L.Ed.2d 121 ......
  • Ungureanu v. A. Teichert & Son, No. CIV S-11-0316 LKK GGH PS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • 12 Octubre 2011
    ...only in the making and enforcement of contracts." Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 176 (1989). See also Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 791 (1966) ("The legislative history of the 1866 Act clearly indicates that Congress intended to protect a limited category of rights"). Ho......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
988 cases
  • HOUSING AUTHORITY OF CITY OF NEWARK v. Henry, Civ. No. 226-71.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • 18 Noviembre 1971
    ...(2) a clear prediction can be made that the right relied upon will be denied or not be enforceable in the state court. Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 86 S.Ct. 1783, 16 L.Ed.2d 925 (1966); City of Greenwood, Miss. v. Peacock, 384 U.S. 808, 86 S.Ct. 1800, 16 L.Ed.2d 944 Defendants' Petition......
  • Cbocs West, Inc. v. Humphries, No. 06–1431.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 27 Mayo 2008
    ...“rights to engage in particular conduct.” Brief for Respondent 16. Rather, § 1981 is an equal-rights provision. See Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 791, 86 S.Ct. 1783, 16 L.Ed.2d 925 (1966) (“Congress intended to protect a limited category of rights, specifically defined in terms of racial......
  • Henry v. First Nat. Bank of Clarksdale, No. 76-4200
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 21 Mayo 1979
    ...removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441. City of Greenwood v. Peacock, 384 U.S. 808, 86 S.Ct. 1800, 16 L.Ed.2d 944 (1966); Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 86 S.Ct. 1783, 16 L.Ed.2d 925 (1966); Johnson v. Mississippi, 5 Cir., 1974, 488 F.2d 284, Aff'd, 421 U.S. 213, 95 S.Ct. 1591, 44 L.Ed.2d 121 ......
  • Ungureanu v. A. Teichert & Son, No. CIV S-11-0316 LKK GGH PS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • 12 Octubre 2011
    ...only in the making and enforcement of contracts." Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 176 (1989). See also Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 791 (1966) ("The legislative history of the 1866 Act clearly indicates that Congress intended to protect a limited category of rights"). Ho......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, 1965-1966
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 19-4, December 1966
    • 1 Diciembre 1966
    ...Due Process Cases in this category this past term were chiefly in the area of technical deter- minations. In State of Georgia v. Rachel (384 U.S. 780; 86 S.Ct. 1’783) the Courthad before it the question of the eligibility of a case for transfer or removal from state to a federal trial court......

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