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Cooper v. Aaron

Citation. 358 U.S. 1 (1958)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Governor and Legislature of Arkansas refused to respect the judgment of this Court in Brown v. Board of Education and claimed that there is no duty on state officials to obey federal court orders.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Constitution is the “fundamental and paramount law of the nation” and it is the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.


The Governor and Legislature of Arkansas claimed that there is no duty on state officials to obey federal court orders. The Governor and the state legislature filed a suit alleging that they are not bound by the Court’s holding in Brown v. Board of Education, which forbids States to use their governmental powers to bar children on racial grounds from attending schools where there is state participation through any management.


Do state officials have the duty to obey federal court orders resting on the U.S Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution?


Yes, because Article VI of the Constitution makes the Constitution the “supreme Law of the land.” The federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution and this principle has been respected by this Court and the nation as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system. Under this obligation, state legislatures and executives must follow the words of the courts in their judgments.


The interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment by this Court in Brown is the supreme law of the land and the Constitution binds all States with anything in the Constitution even if they may conflict with state laws. Every state legislator and executive officials are committed by oath to support the Constitution. Thus, no state legislature or executive or judicial officer can refuse to obey the Constitution without violating his undertaking to support it. If state legislatures are permitted to annul the judgments of the courts, the constitution would become a solemn mockery and the restrictions of the Constitution upon the exercise of state power would be impotent phrases.

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