City of Memphis v. Greene

PETITIONER: City of Memphis
LOCATION: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration

DOCKET NO.: 79-1176
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 100 (1981)
ARGUED: Dec 03, 1980
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1981

Alvin O. Chambliss, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondents
Clifford D. Pierce, Jr. - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for City of Memphis v. Greene

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 03, 1980 in City of Memphis v. Greene

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 20, 1981 in City of Memphis v. Greene

John Paul Stevens:

The second case, the City of Memphis against Greene comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

It arose as a result of a decision by the City of Memphis to close the north end of a street that traverses a white residential community known as Hein Park.

Although the street closing will not cut off access to Hein Park, it will require the diversion of a substantial volume of traffic that heretofore has gone through that community on its way to the Central District of the City.

In view of the fact that most of the drivers who will be inconvenienced by the closing reside in Black neighborhoods to the north of Hein Park and the fact that the benefits of the closing will inure it to the white residents of Hein Park.

This action was brought on behalf of a class of black plaintiffs who contended that the closing violated a federal statute 42 U.S.C. Section 1982 which provides that all citizens shall have the same right as it is enjoyed by white citizens to inherit, purchase, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.

After extensive proceedings in the lower courts, the District Court ultimate found that the closing was not motivated by any racial hostility and that its adverse impact on the plaintiff class was not sufficiently significant to constitute a violation either of the statute or of the Thirteenth Amendment.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed without setting aside any of the specific findings of fact made by the District Court.

Today, we reverse the Court of Appeals and hold that the closing is adequately justified by the city's interest in managing the flow of traffic within its boundaries and attempting to preserve the comparative quiet of the residential neighborhood and that it does not have the kind of impact on the property interest of the plaintiff class to bring it within the reach of Section 1982.

We also hold that the closing did not violate the Thirteenth Amendment.

Justice White has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment and Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Brennan and Justice Blackmun have joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Justice Stevens.