City of Greenwood v. Peacock

PETITIONER: City of Greenwood
LOCATION: General Petroleum Corporation

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 384 US 808 (1966)
ARGUED: Apr 26, 1966
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for City of Greenwood v. Peacock

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 1966 in City of Greenwood v. Peacock

Earl Warren:

The City of Greenwood, Mississippi, Petitioner versus Willie Peacock et al and number 649, Willie Peacock et al., Petitioners versus City of Greenwood.

Mr. Lott.

Hardy Lott:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

In this case, Peacock and 13 others filed a removal petition in the Federal District Court, alleging that they were being prosecuted in a police court of the City of Greenwood for blocking public streets.

The District Court remanded the cases to the police court on the face of the petition.

They appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which held that the allegations of the petition were sufficient, if proved, to make other case for removal under the first section of 28 U.S.C. 1443 and they reversed the case and remanded it to the District Court for the District Court to hear evidence to see if Peacock and those could prove the allegations of their petition.

The Peacock petition alleges very little about the substance of the allegations are -- that Peacock -- the petitions are identical so only one is in the record.

The allegations are that Peacock is a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee which is associated with COFO and that they were engaged in civil rights work in assisting Negroes to register to vote.

They then alleged that they were arrested for blocking public streets.

They draw the conclusion and make the conclusionary allegation that because, well first, that the statute is being applied to them in support of a policy of segregation of the State of Mississippi and City of Greenwood.

They then make the conclusionary allegation that because of their prosecution, because of the above that they are denied and cannot enforce in Court the equal rights of citizens under the Constitution in 42 U.S.C. 1971.

Now the other cases were combined here.

Those came along later, there were 15 defendants.

They alleged prosecution in the police court of Greenwood for various offenses on different dates, assault and battery, driving a car with an improper license, reckless driving, matters of that kind.

The District Court did the same thing with those cases, remanded them on the face of the petition.

They came up in the Circuit Court of Appeals later in the Peacock case so that there was no briefing and no argument in that case.

They sustained a summary motion to reverse on the ground that it was controlled by Peacock.

Now what we were concerned with here in the Peacock case is the removal statute, 1443.

Now it's settled law that this Court only has such jurisdiction in the removal case as Congress has conferred upon it, as conferred upon the federal courts and the question here is what jurisdiction Congress can put by the first section of 1443.

Now that Section gives a person a right to remove in a civil or criminal prosecution, brought against any person who is denied or cannot enforce in the Courts of such state, a right on any law providing for the equal rights of citizens of United States.

Now the point that I want to emphasize in that is what I think the Court of Appeals overlooked is the language in that statute “who is denied or cannot enforce in the courts of such statement.”

Now the statute provides that in order to remove, you have to file your removal petition before the trial.

So -- that this Court has held that being true and that's the statute, you have to allege facts in advance of a trial to show that in the state court, you will be denied or cannot enforce some equal civil right.

This Court therefore held in eight cases mentioned in the previous argument beginning with Strauder versus West Virginia and Virginia versus Rives on the same date and going down through Kentucky versus Powers that since that is true that you have to file your petition and allege and show in advance that you're going to be denied or cannot enforce an equal civil right in court.

That therefore, it was not the intention of Congress by that statute to take care of any deprivation of rights that might come up on the trial for the first time because you wouldn't know that until it happened.

That you had to be able to point it in advance that you would be denied or can enforce in the courts of a state an equal civil right and that the only way you could do that is where there was a statute or constitutional provision of the State which if the state court followed would obligate it to deny use on the equal civil right.

Now in the absence of that, this Court has held in those eight cases or in the last seven at least, that you can't remove underneath that statute.

They specifically held that if a subordinate officer undertakes to deprive a defendant of his equal civil rights in advance of trial by a person who is stacking the grand jury, refusing to put anybody on the grand jury if it's colored defendant except White people, that doesn't show that he is going to be denied or can't enforce his equal civil rights in the state court because the presumption is that the Court will correct that.

That if it's a matter of stacking the grand jury that the Court when the trial comes on will sustain a motion to quash the indictment.

If it's a matter of petit jury, the same thing.