Brief Fact Summary. Petitioners Shelley, who were black, bought a home in a neighborhood in which thirty out of thirty-nine parcel owners had signed a restrictive covenant which stated that no home was to be sold to any person who was black, which led to the suit by the neighborhood to undo the sale of the property to Shelley.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection applies in this case to prohibit the enforcement of the restrictive covenant at issue due to the fact that the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment apply only where there is state action, which is found in this case due to the action of the Supreme Court of Missouri in enforcing the agreement, the result of which is to deprive the Petitioners of their property.
Facts. On February 16, 1911, thirty out of thirty-nine property owners in a neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri entered into a restrictive covenant which stated that for a term of fifty years no property in the neighborhood could be sold or rented to any black or Asian persons. On August 11, 1945, Petitioners Shelley, who were black, bought a property in the neighborhood from Fitzgerald, and Petitioners were not aware of the restrictive covenant at the time of the purchase. Respondents, who were the other owners in the neighborhood, sued in the Circuit Court of St. Louis on the basis of the restrictive covenant with the intention of having the Court divest the Petitioners of their newly acquired property and revert title to Fitzgerald, or to some other person at the Court’s discretion. The Circuit Court declined to enforce the agreement on the basis that not all of the property owners had signed the original covenant. The case was then appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court which rev
ersed the Circuit Court’s decision and held that the provisions of the covenant were enforceable against Petitioner. Petitioners then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Issue. Does the action of the state court in enforcing the restrictive covenant deprive Petitioner of rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and acts of Congress?