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Law School Case Brief

Nixon v. Herndon - 273 U.S. 536, 47 S. Ct. 446, 71 L. Ed. 759, 1927 U.S. LEXIS 709


The Fourteenth Amendment, while it applies to all, was passed with a special intent to protect the blacks from discrimination against them. That Amendment not only gave citizenship and the privileges of citizenship to persons of color, but it denied to any state the power to withhold from them the equal protection of the laws. What is this but declaring that the law in the states shall be the same for the black as for the white; that all persons, whether colored or white, shall stand equal before the laws of the states, and, in regard to the colored race, for whose protection the amendment was primarily designed, that no discrimination shall be made against them by law because of their color?


The plaintiff, L.A. Nixon, was an African American citizen of the United States and Texas who lived in El Paso. He was a registered Democratic voter and on July 26, 1924, Nixon attempted to vote in a primary election. Based on a Texas statute passed in May 1923 that prevented African Americans from voting, Nixon was unable to vote. He sued the Judges of Election and argued that the statute violated his Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights. The defendants motioned for dismissal by arguing that the subject matter of the case was political and therefore did not fall within the jurisdiction of the court. The court granted the motion to dismiss.


Was the suit properly dismissed for lack of jurisdiction?




The court reversed the order granting the motion to dismiss. The court held that even though the suit concerned political action, plaintiff alleged and sought to recover private damages. Suits for private damages were clearly justiciable. Further, Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. art. 3093a was an obvious infringement of the Fourteenth Amendment because it discriminated against African-Americans solely because of the color of their skin. There was no rational basis for the statute.

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