GEORGIA V. RACHEL, 384 U. S. 780 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780 (1966)

Georgia v. Rachel

No. 147

Argued April 25-26, 1966

Decided June 20, 1966

384 U.S. 780


Respondents were arrested on various dates in 1963 when they sought service at Atlanta restaurants. They were charged under the Georgia criminal trespass statute, and petitioned for removal of the prosecutions to the Federal District Court under 28 U.S.C § 1443. The petition alleged that the arrests and prosecutions were racially motivated. Under subsection (1) of § 1443, which pertinently provides for removal where the action is "[a]gainst any person who is denied or cannot enforce" in the state courts "a right under any law providing for . . . equal civil rights," respondents alleged that they were denied and could not enforce in the Georgia courts their rights under federal law. The federal law specifically invoked was the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. But the removal petition also alleged facts that stated a claim for removal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enacted while this case was on appeal. The Federal District Court refused to sustain removal, and remanded the cases to the state court, finding the facts alleged insufficient under § 1443. The Court of Appeals, however, reversed on the basis of the 1964 Act as construed in Hamm v. City of Rock Hill, 379 U. S. 306. In Hamm, this Court held that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 precluded state trespass prosecutions in peaceful "sit-in" cases even though the prosecutions were instituted before the Act's passage. In terms of the language of § 1443(1), the Court of Appeals held that, if the allegations in the removal petition were true, prosecution in the state court, under a statute similar to the state statutes in Hamm, denied respondents a right under a law (the Civil Rights Act of 1964) providing for equal civil rights. Hence, the court remanded the case to the District Court with directions that respondents be given an opportunity to prove that their prosecutions resulted from orders to leave public accommodations "for racial reasons," in which case the District Court, under Hamm, would have to dismiss the prosecutions.


1. Removal of the state court trespass prosecutions can be had under § 1443(1) upon the allegation in the removal petition that

Page 384 U. S. 781

the trespass prosecutions stem exclusively from the respondents' refusal to leave places of public accommodation covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when they were asked to leave solely for racial reasons. Pp. 384 U. S. 788-805.

(a) The phrase in § 1443(1) "any law providing for . . . equal civil rights," means any law providing for specific civil rights stated in terms of racial equality. Thus, although broad First Amendment and Due Process contentions do not support a removal claim under § 1443(1), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a law providing for equal civil rights in that it confers specific rights of racial equality. Section 201(a) guarantees equal enjoyment of places of public accommodation without discrimination on the ground of race. Pp. 384 U. S. 788-793.

(b) The unique language of § 203 of the Act bars any "attempt to punish" any person for peaceably seeking service in a place of public accommodation. As construed in Hamm, that language prohibits even a prosecution based upon a refusal to leave such premises when the request to leave was made for racial reasons. Pp. 384 U. S. 793-794.

(c) If respondents were asked to leave solely for racial reasons, the mere pendency of prosecutions would enable a federal court to make a firm prediction that they would be denied their rights in the state courts, since the burden of having to defend the prosecutions would itself constitute the denial of a right conferred by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pp. 384 U. S. 794, 384 U. S. 804-805.

(d) Such a basis for prediction is the equivalent of a state statute authorizing the predicted denial, a requirement established by the leading cases interpreting subsection (1) of § 1443. Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U. S. 303; Virginia v. Rives, 100 U. S. 313. Pp. 384 U. S. 794-804.

2. Since the Federal District Court remanded the case to the state court without a hearing, respondents have had no opportunity to show that they were ordered to leave the facilities covered by the Act solely for racial reasons. If the District Court finds that allegation true, respondents have a clear right to removal under § 1443(1) and dismissal of the proceedings. Pp. 384 U. S. 805-806.

342 F.2d 336, affirmed.

Page 384 U. S. 782

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