Palmer v. Thompson

403 U.S. 217, 91 S. Ct. 1940 (1971)



The black citizens of a city are not denied their constitutional rights when the city closes its public pools to black and white alike. Nothing in the history or the language of the Fourteenth Amendment nor in any of the Supreme Court's prior cases requires the conclusion that the closing of a city's swimming pools to all its citizens constitutes a denial of the equal protection of the laws. 


In prior litigation, the city's operation of segregated swimming pools and other public attractions was declared unconstitutional as a violation of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The city desegregated some attractions but decided to close all of its public pools. Several African-American citizens brought suit to force the city to reopen the pools and operate them on a desegregated basis. The trial court denied the requested relief and the appellate court affirmed. On certiorari, the Supreme Court affirmed.


Did the closing of swimming pools deny Equal Protection to the black citizens in the community?




On certiorari the Supreme Court ruled that substantial evidence supported the city's claims, as accepted by the lower courts, that it was neither safe to operate the pools on an integrated basis nor economically feasible to do so. Consequently, the Court ruled, the lower courts correctly held that the city did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, the Court ruled, there was no evidence in the record to show that the city was covertly aiding the maintenance and operation of pools that were private in name only. The record, the Court ruled, showed no state action affecting the races differently. The Court summarily dismissed the citizens' claim that the city's conduct violated the Thirteenth Amendment.


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