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Law School Case Brief

Sweatt v. Painter - 339 U.S. 629, 70 S. Ct. 848 (1950)

Rule:

Equal protection of the laws is not achieved through indiscriminate imposition of inequalities.

Facts:

Petitioner law school applicant filed an action for mandamus against respondent school officials to compel his admission to a state law school from which he had been excluded on the basis of his race. The appellate court denied a writ of error and upheld lower court judgments that denied mandamus on the grounds that a new law school for African American students offered petitioner substantially equivalent opportunities to those offered to white students at the University of Texas. Petitioner sought a writ of certiorari, claiming a violation of his right to equal protection under U.S. Const. amend. XIV.

Issue:

Did petitioner law school applicant’s exclusion from a state law school, based on his race, violate his right to equal protection under U.S. Const. amend. XIV?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court reversed and held that the equal protection clause required that petitioner be admitted to the University of Texas Law School. Whether the University of Texas was compared with the original or new law school for African Americans, the Court could not find substantial equality in the educational opportunities offered to white and black law students by the state. Petitioner applicant had a constitutional right to a legal education equivalent to that offered to students of other races and it was not available in a separate law school. A newly established state law school for African American students did not provide the equivalent educational opportunities offered to white students at a state university, and respondent school officials denied petitioner his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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