Jones v. Mayer
Decided on June 17, 1968; 392 US 409

Since the Civil Rights Act of 1968 does not apply only to state actions, it allows the federal government
to prohibit discrimination in housing by private parties.



A. Issues Discussed: Civil rights, desegregation

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does 42 U.S.C. 1982, which guarantees equal rights to all citizens making real estate transactions, apply only to state action or does it apply to private action as well?


A. Background:

"Petitioners, alleging that respondents had refused to sell them a home for the sole reason that petitioner Joseph Lee Jones is a Negro, filed a complaint in the District Court, seeking injunctive and other relief. Petitioners relied in part upon 42 U.S.C. 1982, which provides that all citizens '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 District Court dismissed the complaint and the Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that 1982 applies only to state action and does not reach private refusals to sell."

On certiorari, the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Cour of Appeal for the Eighth Circuit.

B. Counsel of Record:
Opposing Side
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
Opposing Side
Unavailable Unavailable
Opposing Side
Samuel H. Liberman argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the brief were Arthur Allen Leff and Samuel A. Chaitovitz.

Attorney General Clark argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Griswold, Assistant Attorney General Pollak, Louis F. Claiborne, and Brian K. Landsberg. Briefs of amici curiae, urging reversal, were filed by Thomas C. Lynch, Attorney General, Charles A. O'Brien, Chief Deputy Attorney General, and Loren Miller, Jr., and Philip M. Rosten, Deputy Attorneys General, for the State of California; by Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General, Robert A. Derengoski, Solicitor General, and Carl Levin, Assistant Attorney General, for the State of Michigan (Civil Rights Commission); by Norman H. Anderson, Attorney General, C. B. Burns, Jr., Special Assistant Attorney General, and Louis C. Defeo, Jr., and Deann Duff, Assistant Attorneys General, for the Missouri Commission on Human Rights; by Richard W. Mason, Jr., Ilus W. Davis, and Joseph H. McDowell for Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas; by Leo Pfeffer and Melvin L. Wulf for the American Civil Liberties Union et al.; by Sol Rabkin, Robert L. Carter, Joseph B. Robison, Arnold Forster, Paul Hartman, and Beverly Coleman for the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing et al.; by John Ligtenberg and Andrew J. Leahy for the American Federation of Teachers et al.; by James I. Huston for the Path Association; by William B. Ball for the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice et al.; by Charles H. Tuttle and Robert Walston Chubb for the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States et al.; by Edwin J. Lukas for the American Jewish Committee et al., and by Henry S. Reuss, pro se, and Phineas Indritz for Henry S. Reuss.

Israel Treiman argued the cause and filed a brief for respondents.

Brief of amici curiae, urging affirmance, was filed by George Washington Williams and Thomas F. Cadwalader for the Maryland Petition Committee, Inc., et al.


"...Section 1982 applies to all racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property.

Congress has power under the Thirteenth Amendment to do what 42 U.S.C. 1982 purports to do.

Because the Thirteenth Amendment 'is not a mere prohibition of State laws establishing or upholding slavery, but an absolute declaration that slavery or involuntary servitude shall not exist in any part of the United States,' it has never been doubted 'that the power vested in Congress to enforce the article by appropriate legislation,' includes the power to enact laws 'operating upon the acts of individuals, whether sanctioned by State legislation or not.'

...Whatever else they may have encompassed, the badges and incidents of slavery that the Thirteenth Amendment empowered Congress to eliminate included restraints upon 'those fundamental rights which are the essence of civil freedom, namely, the same right . . . to inherit, purchase, lease, sell and convey property, as is enjoyed by white citizens.'"

The Supreme Court held "that 1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in the sale or rental of property, and that the statute, thus construed, is a valid exercise of the power of Congress to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment."

The US Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit judgment.

Justice Vote: 7 Pro vs. 2 Con
  • Stewart, P. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Fortas, A. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Warren, E. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Marshall, T. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Harlan, J. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • White, B. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; the Supreme Court reversed in a 7-2 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.