Georgia v. Rachel

LOCATION: Juvenile Court

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

CITATION: 384 US 780 (1966)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1966 / Apr 26, 1966
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Georgia v. Rachel

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1966 in Georgia v. Rachel

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 1966 in Georgia v. Rachel

Earl Warren:

Georgia, Petitioner, versus Thomas Rachel et al.

Mr. McPherson, had you finished your argument?

George K. McPherson, Jr.:

I had, Mr. Chief Justice.

Earl Warren:

Very well.

Mr. Sparks, you may proceed with your argument.

J. Robert Sparks:

Mr. Chief Justice and Honorable Associate Justices, I am going to make my argument on the merits of the case, if this Court reaches the merits.

Georgia insists as Mr. McPherson ably argued yesterday that this case should not even be here in the first place because a notice of appeal was filed 16 days after the District Court's order of remand.

However, in the event the Court disagrees with our position, I am going to try to briefly state that the position of the State of Georgia in this matter.

As the Court is undoubtedly aware, this is a -- an extremely complex problem of construction of the removal statute, the so-called civil rights removal statute which is at 28 U.S.C. 1443.

It dates back to the Reconstruction Congress in 1866, the first Civil Rights Act enacted right after the conclusion of the war between the states granting a right of removal to any person who is unable to enforce or has denied his rights in the -- in a state court under any right of any law providing for equal civil rights of all citizens of the United States.

Now in 1880, we have the first definitive construction of that statute in two cases by this Honorable Court, Strauder versus West Virginia in 100 U.S. 303 and Virginia versus Rives in 100 U.S. 313 both decided the same day.

There was one essential difference between the two cases.

Both cases involved and alleged deprivation by Negro defendants charged with capital offenses in West Virginia and in Virginia.

Their complaint -- the reason by which they claim the right to remove the cases from state court to the Federal Circuit Court at that time was a deprivation or a systematic exclusion of Negroes from the traverse jury.

Now in the Strauder case, West Virginia at that time had a provision in their constitution which limited electors to White persons with certain other qualifications and then they had a statute which in time said that only electors could serve as grand jurors and traverse jurors.

On the other hand, Virginia had no such statute or a provision in their Constitution.

The allegation in the Virginia case was that jury commissioners, judges, and state officials were systematically excluding Negroes from traverse and grand jurors although not required to do so by statute.

At that time, this Honorable Court held in the Strauder case that removal was a problem and should've been granted to reverse to conviction.

The Strauder case reached this Honorable Court through the usual procedure of appeal to the state courts and certiorari to the Highest Court of that state.

Now, Virginia filed a writ of a petition in this Honorable Court for a writ of mandamus against Circuit Judge Rives, who had accepted a petition for removal and it writ -- and it issued a writ of habeas corpus and had denied a -- excuse me, I don't think Virginia even filed a motion, a petition to remand.

They just went -- came straight to this Court for an order of mandamus.

And this Honorable Court in the unanimous decision held in Virginia versus Rives that in order for a defendant to remove his case under the Civil Rights statute that there must be a discrimination set out by the state statute or a state ordinance that any alleged discrimination or denial of equal rights by any person else other than by state statute was not removable and that the proper remedy for such defendants was to defend themselves through the state courts or preserve their right -- their federal right and then apply to this Honorable Court for certiorari.

And Your Honor -- and Your Honors, Georgia stands today on the Virginia versus Rives case and seven other cases decided by this Honorable Court beginning in 1880 and going through 1906, Kentucky versus Powers being the last expression on this subject in 201 U.S. at page 1.

Eight consecutive case rulings of this Court has held the same thing that is that there must be a state's statute which prevents the exercise of a constitutional right.

A state statute which is either unconstitutional or which denies a defendant in the state court an equal right.

This is the first time that this issue has reached this Honorable Court since 1906.

As I said, Georgia stands on those eight decisions of this Honorable Court plus four Courts of Appeal which have held the same -- to the same effect three of them within the last two years.

The three that I refer to in the last two years of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York versus Galamison and incidentally, this Honorable Court denied certiorari in that case.

City of Chester, South Carolina versus Anderson, that's in the -- that's by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a recent decision by a court of -- by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Is that the -- if I may interrupt just to it.