Shelley v. Kraemer

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This case began when a black family named Shelley purchased a house in St. Louis, Missouri. Unbeknownst to them, a covenant existed in their new neighborhood that prohibited the sale of property to "people of the Negro or Mongolian Race." Another family in the neighborhood, the Kraemers, sued to prevent the Shelley family from moving into their new home.

Although the Missouri courts ruled in favor of the Kraemers, the Supreme Court did not.  The Court found that when a state enforces racially discriminatory covenants in deeds, it violates the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

 Shelley v. Kraemer

 

334 U.S. 1 (1948)

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MISSOURI

Syllabus

Private agreements to exclude persons of designated race or color from the use or occupancy of real estate for residential purposes do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment; but it is violative of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for state courts to enforce them. Corrigan v. Buckley, 271 U. S. 323, distinguished. Pp. 334 U. S. 8-23.

(a) Such private agreements, standing alone, do not violate any rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 334 U. S. 12-13.

(b) The actions of state courts and judicial officers in their official capacities are actions of the states within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 334 U. S. 14-18.

(c) In granting judicial enforcement of such private agreements in these cases, the states acted to deny petitioners the equal protection of the laws, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 334 U. S. 18-23.

(d) The fact that state courts stand ready to enforce restrictive covenants excluding white persons from the ownership or occupancy of property covered by them does not prevent the enforcement of covenants excluding colored persons from constituting a denial of equal protection of the laws, since the rights created by § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment are guaranteed to the individual. Pp. 334 U. S. 21-22.

(e) Denial of access to the courts to enforce such restrictive covenants does not deny equal protection of the laws to the parties to such agreements. P. 334 U. S. 22.

355 Mo. 814, 198 S.W.2d 679, and 316 Mich. 614, 25 N.W.2d 638, reversed.

No. 72. The Supreme Court of Missouri reversed a judgment of a state trial court denying enforcement of a private agreement restricting the use or occupancy of certain real estate to persons of the Caucasian race. 355 Mo. 814,198 S.W.2d 679. This Court granted certiorari. 331 U.S. 803. Reversed, p. 334 U. S. 23.

No. 87. The Supreme Court of Michigan affirmed a judgment of a state trial court enjoining violation of a private agreement restricting the use or occupancy of certain real estate to persons of the Caucasian race. 316 Mich. 614, 25 N.W.2d 638. This Court granted certiorari. 331 U.S. 804. Reversed, p. 334 U. S. 23.

To read the rest of the opinion in Shelley v. Kraemer, go to Nolos US Supreme Court Center.

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