Hurd v. Hodge
Decided on May 3, 1948; 334 US 24



I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Racial discrimination, due process, restrictive covenants

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does judicial enforcement of racially restrictive agreements by the federal courts of the District of Columbia violate petitioners' rights protected by the Civil Rights Act?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"These are companion cases to Shelley v. Kraemer and McGhee v. Sipes..." and both involve the enforcement of racially restrictive covenants.

"In No. 290, petitioners Hurd, found by the trial court to be Negroes, purchased one of the restricted properties from the white owners. In No. 291, petitioner Urciolo, a white real estate dealer, sold and conveyed three of the restricted properties to the Negro petitioners Rowe, Savage, and Stewart. Petitioner Urciolo also owns three other lots in the block subject to the covenants. In both cases, the Negro petitioners are presently occupying as homes the respective properties which have been conveyed to them.

Suits were instituted in the District Court by respondents, who own other property in the block subject to the terms of the covenants, praying for injunctive relief to enforce the terms of the restrictive agreement. The cases were consolidated for trial, and after a hearing, the court entered a judgment declaring null and void the deeds of the Negro petitioners; enjoining petitioner Urciolo and one Ryan, the white property owners who had sold the houses to the Negro petitioners, from leasing, selling or conveying the properties to any Negro or colored person; enjoining the Negro petitioners from leasing or conveying the properties and directing those petitioners 'to remove themselves and all of their personal belongings' from the premises within sixty days. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, with one justice dissenting, affirmed the judgment of the District Court."

On certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable

III. AMICI CURIAE:

ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Brief of amici curiae urging reversal was filed by Mr. Philip B. Perlman, Sol. Gen., of Washington, DC, for the United States.

Messrs. Charles H. Houston and Phineas Indritz, both of Washington, DC, for petitioners.

Messrs. Henry Gilligan and James A. Crooks, both of Washington, DC, for respondents

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

[T]he explicit language employed by Congress... leaves no doubt that judicial enforcement of the restrictive covenants by the courts of the District of Columbia is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act. That statute, by its terms, requires that all citizens of the United States shall have the same right 'as is enjoyed by white citizens... to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.' That the Negro petitioners have been denied that right by virtue of the action of the federal courts of the District is clear.

We hold that the action of the District Court directed against the Negro purchasers and the white sellers denies rights intended by Congress to be protected by the Civil Rights Act and that, consequently, the action cannot stand."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Justice Vote: 6 Pro vs. 0 Con
(Unanimous Decision for Petitioner/Appellant)


  • Vinson, F. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Took no part in the decision
  • Jackson, R. Took no part in the decision
  • Rutledge, W. Took no part in the decision
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; the Supreme Court reversed in a 6-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.