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Katzenbach v. McClung

Citation. 379 U.S. 294, 85 S. Ct. 377, 13 L. Ed. 2d 290 (1964)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Ollie’s barbeque (Ollie’s) in Alabama refused to serve Negroes.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Congressional power to regulate commerce can reach seemingly local activities if there is a connection to national commerce.


Ollie’s refused to serve Negroes. The restaurant was not close to a highway, served mostly locals, and did not advertise out of state. However, 46% of its food was purchased from a supplier who bought the food outside of the state.


Can Ollie’s discriminate against Negroes in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it is a local restaurant that is not located near a highway and does not advertise out of state?


No, Ollie’s cannot discriminate against Negroes. Even though Ollie’s was primarily a local restaurant and its food supply purchases didn’t really affect commerce, there is a lot of discrimination in the country at this time. Ollie’s is perpetuating this discrimination along with similar establishments in the country. In the aggregate, this conduct could have a harmful affect on interstate commerce. Furthermore, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to establishments when a substantial portion of their food supplies moved in commerce.


When there is a rational relation between the legislative objective of protecting commerce and the means chosen to do so, Congress may exercise its commerce power.

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