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Constitutional Law Keyed to Cohen

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 109 U.S. 3, 3 S. Ct. 18, 27 L. Ed. 835 (1883)

Brief Fact Summary. Several individuals of color were denied admission to theaters, cabs, cars, and inns based on their race. These individuals claimed that this violates their under a federal law passed in 1875 that entitles all individuals in the United States the right to equal treatment in places of public accommodation and the quasi-public facilities of this country. These individuals won their lawsuits under this act, and the Defendants appeal claiming that this act is an unconstitutional use of Congressional power as provided in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The law guaranteeing all persons equal entitlement to the quasi-public facilities within the country was an unconstitutional use of power by Congress under the grant provided by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.

This action is a conglomeration of a group of various cases during the era. In two of these cases there are indictments for denying to persons of colors the accommodations and privileges of an inn or hotel. Several other cases involve denying the privileges and accommodations of a theater. The final cases combined in this action involve denial of the right to ride in railcars because these individuals were people of color.
Although this case is a conglomeration of several actions they all involve the same law. This law states that “all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude.”

Issue. Is the refusal to any persons of the accommodations of an inn, or a public conveyance, or a place of public amusement, by an individual and without any sanction or support from any state law or regulation, an infliction upon such persons any manner of servitude, or form of slavery, as those terms are understood in this country?
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