MCCABE V. ATCHISON, T. & S.F. RY. CO., 235 U. S. 151 (1914)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McCabe v. Atchison, T. & S.F. Ry. Co., 235 U.S. 151 (1914)

McCabe v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company

No. 15

Argued October 26, 1914

Decided November 30, 1914

235 U.S. 151


Under the Enabling Act, the State of Oklahoma was admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the original states, and has the same authority to enact public legislation not in conflict with the federal Constitution as other states may enact. Coyle v. Oklahoma, 221 U. S. 559.

It is not an infraction of the Fourteenth Amendment for a state to require separate but equal accommodations for the white and African races. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537.

While a state statute, although fair on its face, may be so unequally and oppressively administered by the public authorities as to amount to an unconstitutional discrimination by the state itself, Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U. S. 356, no discriminations unauthorized by the statute appear to have been practiced in this case under state authority.

The Oklahoma statute, requiring separate but equal accommodations for the white and African races, must, in the absence of a different construction by the state court, be construed as applying exclusively to intrastate commerce; and, as so construed, it does not contravene the commerce clause of the federal Constitution.

The essence of the constitutional right to equal protection of the law is that it is a personal one, and does not depend upon the number of persons affected, and any individual who is denied by a common carrier, under authority of the state, a facility or convenience which is furnished to another under substantially the same circumstances may properly complain that his constitutional privilege has been invaded.

The Oklahoma Separate Coach Law does discriminate against persons of the African race in permitting carriers to provide sleeping cars, dining cars, and chair cars to be used exclusively by persons of the white race; this provision nonetheless offends against the Fourteenth Amendment even if there is a limited demand for such accommodations by the African race as compared with the white race.

In order to justify the granting of an injunction, complainants must

Page 235 U. S. 152

show a personal need of it and absence of adequate remedy at law. The fact that someone else, although of the same class as complainant, may be injured does not justify granting the remedy.

In an action, brought in the federal court by several persons of the African race before the Separate Coach Law of Oklahoma went into effect, to enjoin the enforcement thereof on the ground that it contravened the Fourteenth Amendment, held that the allegations in the bill were too vague and indefinite to warrant the relief sought by complainants; that none of the complainants had personally been refused accommodations equal to those afforded to others or had been notified that he would be so refused when the act went into effect; that it did not appear that, in such event, he would not have an adequate remedy at law, and that the action could not be maintained.

186 F.9d 6 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of the Separate Coach Law of Oklahoma, are stated in the opinion.

Page 235 U. S. 158

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