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Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co

    Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner Jones (Petitioner) attempted to buy a home in St. Louis County, Missouri. The Respondent Alfred H. Mayer Co. (Respondent) refused to sell the home to the Petitioner. The Petitioner brought legal action against the Respondent, arguing Respondent had refused to sell the home to him solely because he was black.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. 42 U.S.C. Section:1982 (Section:1982), an Act of Congress, states all citizens shall have the same property rights as white citizens. The Act bars both public racial discrimination as well as private racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property. As such, Section:1982 was a valid exercise of Congressional power enforcing the Thirteenth Amendment.

    Facts. Petitioner attempted to buy a home in St. Louis County, Missouri. Respondent refused to sell the home to the Petitioner. Petitioner subsequently brought legal action against the Respondent, arguing Respondent refused to sell the home solely because Petitioner was black. Petitioner based his case on Section:1982. The District Court sustained the Respondent’s Motion to Dismiss, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court) then granted certiorari to determine the issues presented.

    Issue. Does Section:1982 apply to cases where private individuals refuse to sell property on the basis of race?

    Held. Yes. Section:1982 applies to all cases of racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property and the judgment is reversed.
    The Supreme Court first holds this case does not implicate the Fair Housing Title of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Title VIII). Title VIII is a detailed housing law applying to a broad range of discrimination. It is empowered with federal authority. Section 1982 on the other hand, is a “general statute.” It applies only to racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property and is enforceable by private parties on their own initiative. The Supreme Court notes this distinction to illustrate what this case is not about.
    In construing Section:1982, the court cited Hurd v. Hodge, 334 U.S. 24 (1948). In Hurd, the Supreme Court ruled Section:1982 was applicable in a case where white citizens attempted to exclude blacks from their neighborhood by use of restrictive covenants. However, the Supreme Court in Hurd found that because an arm of the government (the lower court) assisted in enforcing the restrictive covenant, the question of whether purely private discrimination (without aid of any part of government) violated Section:1982 was not presented. Therefore, the Court found the issue of whether purely private discrimination is in violation of Section:1982 to be a case of first impression.
    The Supreme Court then turns to the language of Section:1982. The statute reads “All citizens of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.” The Supreme Court notes that whenever a private citizen places property on the market for whites only, black citizens do not have the same rights enjoyed by white citizens. The Supreme Court finds the plain language of Section:1982 shows the Congress’s intent to prevent racial discrimination by private individuals as well as public officials acting under the color of law. The Supreme Court found that the legislative body, which enacted Section:1982 as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, did intend to prohibit racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property to extend to private individuals.
    The Supreme Court then turns to the question of legislative authority and finds that the broad authority granted Congress under the Thirteenth Amendment supplies the necessary grounds to regulate the private conduct of individuals in the manner contemplated by Section:1982.

    Discussion. This decision stands for the proposition that no one may refuse to sell or rent property to another, for reasons of race al


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