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U.S. Supreme Court

Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc., 396 U.S. 229 (1969)

Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc.

No. 33

Argued October 13, 1969

Decided December 15, 1969

396 U.S. 229


Little Hunting Park is a Virginia nonstock corporation operating playground facilities and a community park for residents in an area in Fairfax County, Virginia. A membership share entitles a shareholder and his family to use its facilities, and, under the bylaws, when he rents his house, he may assign the share to his tenant, subject to approval by the board of directors. The facilities have been open to any white persons in the geographic area. Petitioner Sullivan, who owned and lived in a house in the area, leased to petitioner Freeman another house which Sullivan owned therein and assigned to Freeman his membership share. The board refused approval of the assignment because Freeman was a Negro, and thereafter expelled Sullivan from the corporation for protesting that action. Petitioners each then sued for injunctive relief and monetary damages. The trial court, concluding that Little Hunting Park was a private social club, dismissed the complaints. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia denied the appeals on the ground that they were not perfected as provided by law in that opposing counsel had not been given reasonable notice and opportunity, as required by a procedural rule of that court, to examine and correct the transcripts. Opposing counsel had been given three days' notice for that purpose, and had not complained that the period was unreasonable. This Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgments, and remanded the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals for further consideration in light of Jones v. Mayer Co., 392 U. S. 409. That court again rejected the appeals on the basis of its previous position that it lacked jurisdiction because of petitioners' failure to comply with its procedural rule. This Court again granted certiorari. Freeman no longer resides in the area served by Little Hunting Park, and his claim is confined to damages.


1. The notice rule is discretionary and not jurisdictional, not having been so consistently applied by Virginia's highest court as to deprive it of jurisdiction to entertain the federal claim presented here or to bar this Court's review of this case by certiorari. Pp. 396 U. S. 232-234.

Page 396 U. S. 230

2. Petitioner Sullivan's membership share in Little Hunting Park (which is clearly not a private social club) was an integral part of the lease, and respondents' racially discriminatory refusal to approve the assignment to Freeman constituted a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1982, cf. Jones v. Mayer Co., supra, the right to lease being protected by that provision against the action of third parties as well as against the action of the lessor. Pp. 396 U. S. 234-237.

3. Sullivan has standing under § 1982 to maintain this action as the "effective adversary" in Freeman's behalf. Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U. S. 249, 346 U. S. 259. P. 396 U. S. 237.

4. The Public Accommodations provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not affect the coverage of 42 U.S.C. § 1982. See Jones v. Mayer Co., supra, at 392 U. S. 413-417. Pp. 396 U. S. 237-238.

5. The state court's power to grant general injunctive relief includes the power to protect the federal right under § 1982 here involved. P. 396 U. S. 238.

6. Petitioners are entitled to compensatory damages for violation of their rights under § 1982 and, though such damages are measured by federal standards, both federal and state rules on damages may be used. Pp. 396 U. S. 238-240.

7. The fair-housing provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which was enacted long after petitioners brought their suits, do not foreclose relief here. P. 396 U. S. 240.

Reversed. See: 209 Va. 279, 163 S.E.2d 588.

Page 396 U. S. 231

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