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Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co

    Brief Fact Summary. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) held that 42 U.S.C. Section:1982 bars all racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property and thereby reversed the lower federal courts dismissal of the Petitioners’ Joseph Jones and others (Petitioners), complaint filed in response to Respondent, Alfred H. Mayer’s (Respondent), refusal to sell Petitioners a home based on their race.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. 42 U.S.C. Section:1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in sale or rental of property. The statute is a valid exercise of the power of Congress to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment.

    Facts. Petitioners filed a complaint arguing that Respondent had refused to sell them a home for the sole reason that Petitioner is black. Relying in part on Section:1982, Petitioner sought injunctive and other relief. The lower federal courts dismissed the complaint, concluding that Section:1982 applies only to state action and does not reach to private refusals to sell.

    Issue. Whether 42 U.S.C. Section:1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in sale or rental of property?
    Whether Congress has the power to do what Section:1982 purports to do, which is to prohibit all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in sale or rental of property?

    Held. Yes. Judgment of the lower federal courts reversed. On its face, Section:1982 appears to prohibit all discrimination against African Americans in the sale or rental of property. Despite Respondent’s argument to the contrary, history shows that Congress meant what it said.
    Yes. The fact that Section:1982 operates upon the unofficial acts of private individuals, whether or not sanctioned by state law, presents no constitutional problem. Congress has the authority to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) “by appropriate legislation” to eliminate all racial barriers to the acquisition of real and personal property. At the very least, the freedom that Congress is empowered to secure under the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution includes the freedom to buy whatever a white man can buy and the freedom to live wherever a white man can live. Therefore, Congress has the power to do what Section:1982 purports to do.

    Dissent. The Court’s construction of Section:1982 as applying to purely private individuals is clearly wrong.

    Discussion. Here, the majority uses congressional power to reach private conduct under the Thirteenth Amendment of the constitution, in order to hold that 42 U.S.C. Section:1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in sale or rental of property.


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