Sweatt v. Painter, No. 44

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtVINSON
PartiesSWEATT v. PAINTER et al
Docket NumberNo. 44
Decision Date05 June 1950

339 U.S. 629
70 S.Ct. 848
94 L.Ed. 1114
SWEATT

v.

PAINTER et al.

No. 44.
Argued April 4, 1950.
Decided June 5, 1950.
Rehearing Denied Oct. 9, 1950.

See 71 S.Ct. 13.

Page 630

Messrs. W. J. Durham, Dallas, Tex., Thurgood Marshall, New York City, for petitioner.

Messrs. Price Daniel, Liberty, Tex., Joe R. Greenhill, Houston, Tex., for respondents.

[Argument of Counsel from page 630 intentionally omitted]

Page 631

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

This case and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637, 70 S.Ct. 851, present different aspects of this general question: To what extent does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment limit the power of a state to distinguish between students of different races in professional and graduate education in a state university? Broader issues have been urged for our consideration, but we adhere to the principle of deciding constitutional questions only in the context of the particular case before the Court. We have frequently reiterated that this Court will decide constitutional questions only when necessary to the disposition of the case at hand, and that such decisions will be drawn as narrowly as possible. Rescue Army v. Municipal Court, 1947, 331 U.S. 549, 67 S.Ct. 1409, 91 L.Ed. 1666, and cases cited therein. Because of this traditional reluctance to extend constitutional interpretations to situations or facts which are not before the Court, much of the excellent research and detailed argument presented in these cases is unnecessary to their disposition.

In the instant case, petitioner filed an application for admission to the University of Texas Law School for the February, 1946 term. His application was rejected solely because he is a Negro.1 Petitioner thereupon brought this suit for mandamus against the appropriate school officials, respondents here, to compel his admission. At that time, there was no law school in Texas which admitted Negroes.

The State trial court recognized that the action of the State in denying petitioner the opportunity to gain

Page 632

a legal education while granting it to others deprived him of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The court did not grant the relief requested, however, but continued the case for six months to allow the State to supply substantially equal facilities. At the expiration of the six months, in December, 1946, the court denied the writ on the showing that the authorized university officials had adopted an order calling for the opening of a law school for Negroes the following February. While petitioner's appeal was pending, such a school was made available, but petitioner refused to register therein. The Texas Court of Civil Appeals set aside the trial court's judgment and ordered the cause 'remanded generally to the trial court for further proceedings without prejudice to the rights of any party to this suit.'

On remand, a hearing was held on the issue of the equality of the educational facilities at the newly established school as compared with the University of Texas Law School. Finding that the new school offered petitioner 'privileges, advantages, and opportunities for the study of law substantially equivalent to those offered by the State to white students at the University of Texas,' the trial court denied mandamus. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. 1948, 210 S.W.2d 442. Petitioner's application for a writ of error was denied by the Texas Supreme Court. We granted certiorari, 1949, 338 U.S. 865, 70 S.Ct. 139, because of the manifest importance of the constitutional issues involved.

The University of Texas Law School, from which petitioner was excluded, was staffed by a faculty of sixteen full-time and three part-time professors, some of whom are nationally recognized authorities in their field. Its student body numbered 850. The library contained over 65,000 volumes. Among the other facilities available to the students were a law review, moot court facilities,

Page 633

scholarship funds, and Order of the Coif affiliation. The school's alumni occupy the most distinguished positions in the private practice of the law and in the public life of the State. It may properly be considered one of the nation's ranking law schools.

The law school for Negroes which was to have opened in February, 1947, would have had no...

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186 practice notes
  • Barrows v. Jackson, No. 517
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1953
    ...by Negroes as a group. McCabe v. Atchison, T. & S.F.R. Co., 235 U.S. 151, 161—162, 35 S.Ct. 69, 71, 59 L.Ed. 169. See Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 635, 70 S.Ct. 848, 850, 94 L.Ed. 1114. This description of the right as 'personal,' when considered in the context in which it has been used......
  • Ayers v. Allain, No. 88-4103
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 6, 1990
    ...208 (1938); McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Educ., 339 U.S. 637, 70 S.Ct. 851, 94 L.Ed. 1149 (1950); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 70 S.Ct. 848, 94 L.Ed. 1114 (1950); Brown, 347 U.S. at 483, 74 S.Ct. at 686. Similarly, we disagree with the three judge district court in Unit......
  • Doe 1 v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., No. 10–3824.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • December 14, 2011
    ...Gratz, Grutter, Bakke, Brown, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637, 70 S.Ct. 851, 94 L.Ed. 1149 (1950), and Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 70 S.Ct. 848, 94 L.Ed. 1114 (1950).35 In each of those cases, the school district or university policy at issue used racial classification......
  • Perry v. Brown, Nos. 10–16696
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 7, 2012
    ...to the principle of deciding constitutional questions only in the context of the particular case before the Court.” Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 631, 70 S.Ct. 848, 94 L.Ed. 1114 (1950). Whether under the Constitution same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry, a right that h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
173 cases
  • Barrows v. Jackson, No. 517
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1953
    ...by Negroes as a group. McCabe v. Atchison, T. & S.F.R. Co., 235 U.S. 151, 161—162, 35 S.Ct. 69, 71, 59 L.Ed. 169. See Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 635, 70 S.Ct. 848, 850, 94 L.Ed. 1114. This description of the right as 'personal,' when considered in the context in which it has been used......
  • Ayers v. Allain, No. 88-4103
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 6, 1990
    ...208 (1938); McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Educ., 339 U.S. 637, 70 S.Ct. 851, 94 L.Ed. 1149 (1950); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 70 S.Ct. 848, 94 L.Ed. 1114 (1950); Brown, 347 U.S. at 483, 74 S.Ct. at 686. Similarly, we disagree with the three judge district court in Unit......
  • Doe 1 v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., No. 10–3824.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • December 14, 2011
    ...Gratz, Grutter, Bakke, Brown, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637, 70 S.Ct. 851, 94 L.Ed. 1149 (1950), and Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 70 S.Ct. 848, 94 L.Ed. 1114 (1950).35 In each of those cases, the school district or university policy at issue used racial classification......
  • Perry v. Brown, Nos. 10–16696
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 7, 2012
    ...to the principle of deciding constitutional questions only in the context of the particular case before the Court.” Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 631, 70 S.Ct. 848, 94 L.Ed. 1114 (1950). Whether under the Constitution same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry, a right that h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 books & journal articles
  • CENTERING WHITENESS AND ENTRENCHING THE MYTH OF RACE-NEUTRAL ALTERNATIVES TO AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 Nbr. 1, December 2021
    • December 1, 2021
    ...[https://perma.cc/SXE5-YRV2]. (6) See generally Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 629 (1950) (discussing other educational opportunities provided to Black students in light of their exclusion from the University of Texas Law School); McLaurin v. Okla. State Regents for Higher Educ, 339 U.S. ......
  • Antisubjugation and the Equal Protection of the Laws
    • United States
    • Georgetown Law Journal Nbr. 110-1, October 2021
    • October 1, 2021
    ...Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is the prevention of off‌icial conduct discriminating on the basis of race.”); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 635 (1950) (“Equal protection of the laws is not achieved through indiscriminate imposition of inequalities.” (quoting Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U......
  • The Warren Court - After Three Terms
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 9-4, December 1956
    • December 1, 1956
    ...untenable at the graduate and profes- sional school levels in Sipuel v. University of Oklahoma, 332 U.S. 631 (1948); Sweattv. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Board of Regents,339 U.S. 637 (1950). Even earlier, in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (......
  • Ethics in Pandemics: the Lawyer For the (crisis) Situation
    • United States
    • Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics Nbr. 34-2, April 2021
    • April 1, 2021
    ...similar provisions.171 While many would say the crisis of Jim Crow presented a 166. See Brief for Petitioner at 52–62, Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950) (No. 44), 1950 WL 78681 (U.S.). At the same time, the amicus brief submitted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice made promi-n......
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