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Moose Lodge No. 107 v. Irvis

    Brief Fact Summary. The Appellee, Irvis (Appellee), brought suit against the Appellants, Moose Lodge No. 107 (Moose Lodge) a private club and the State liquor board (Appellants) alleging discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) because of the club’s policies against non-whites.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The granting of a liquor license to a private club that discriminated against non-whites does not significantly involve the state as to constitute a state action.

    Facts. Moose Lodge is a local branch of a national fraternal organization. Lodge policy restricts membership to whites and prohibits member from bringing black guests to the lodge dining room and bar. The Appellee, a black, was refused service because of his race. The Appellee filed an Equal Protection Action naming against the Appellants. The Appellee claimed because the State Liquor board had issued Moose Lodge a license that authorized the sale of alcoholic beverages on its premises, the refusal of service was a state action. The trial court granted an injunction restricting the Appellants liquor license until they stopped discriminating. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) stated there needs to be significant state involvement with invidious discrimination in order for there to be a state action.

    Issue. Whether the State liquor board’s issuance of a liquor license to a private club located on private property constitutes significant state involvement, thus, permitting an action under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?

    Held. Reversed. Issuance of a state liquor license to a private club does not constitute significant state involvement. The State played no part in establishing or enforcing the membership or guest polices of the club that it licenses to serve liquor. The State does not discriminate against minority groups in its ability to obtain a liquor license themselves. The state does not in any way encourage racial discrimination, nor, is it a partner or a joint venture with Appellant.

    Dissent.
    The fact that the quota for obtaining liquor licenses in Pennsylvania is now full and no more club licenses may be obtained, restricts the ability of blacks to obtain liquor, for liquor is commercially available only at private clubs for a significant portion of each week. The State could allow this permit to go to a club who meets racially neutral qualifications.
    When the club obtained its liquor license, the State became an active participant in the operation of the club.

    Discussion. State action is a prerequisite to the assertion of rights contained in the first eight amendments of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. State action will be found when a private actor has acted if (1) the state has delegated a traditional state function to a private entity or (2) because the state has become entangled with a private entity or because the state has approved, encouraged or facilitated private conduct. In this case the majority of the Supreme Court found the issuance of a liquor license to a club that discriminates against non-whites does not significantly involve the state enough to constitute a state action.


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