Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States

PETITIONER: Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc.
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Heart of Atlanta Motel

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 379 US 241 (1964)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1964
DECIDED: Dec 14, 1964

Facts of the case

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade racial discrimination by places of public accommodation if their operations affected commerce. The Heart of Atlanta Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, refused to accept Black Americans and was charged with violating Title II.


Did Congress, in passing Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, exceed its Commerce Clause powers by depriving motels, such as the Heart of Atlanta, of the right to choose their own customers?

Media for Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1964 in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States

Earl Warren:

The Heart of Atlanta Motel Incorporated, Appellant versus United States et al.

In this case, proper jurisdiction is noted.

The joint motion for acceleration of oral argument is granted and the case is set for oral argument on Monday, October 5, 1964.

We will proceed.

Mr. Rolleston.

Moreton Rollesten, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Potter Stewart:

Is this your only brief one -- joined with a jurisdiction statement?

Moreton Rollesten, Jr.:

Yes, Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

Thank you.

Moreton Rollesten, Jr.:

The Court had instructed us to file a brief the same time we filed a jurisdiction statement, it's the only brief on either question.

This is an appeal from a final judgment in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, which was heard before a three-judge court.

On a complaint filed by the appellant herein, he was a plaintiff below, seeking to declare the Civil Rights Act of 1964 un-constitutional and seeking a permanent injunction against the United States and the Attorney General of the United States at that time, Mr. Kennedy, from enforcing that Act against the appellant.

The government filed not only an answer for the counterclaim, and in the counterclaim, asked for an injunction out of provisions for the Civil Rights Act against the appellant.

The case was heard and decision rendered on the counterclaim of the government and the permanent injunction was granted against the appellant and any officers or agents set forth.

We --

Hugo L. Black:

Did you initiate your (Inaudible)

Moreton Rollesten, Jr.:

Your Honor, we filed a suit in the United States District Court, it was actually received by Judge Hoffman, Chief Justice of the Fifth Circuit, convened a three-judge court on his motion.

Hugo L. Black:

That was on the certificate of the government in a case to the (Inaudible)

Moreton Rollesten, Jr.:

The government filed such a certificate, on the present judge totally convened the court himself.

Hugo L. Black:


Moreton Rollesten, Jr.:

Before they even asked us about this.

Now, the facts in this case are very simple.

As a matter of fact, (Inaudible) tried to make it simple.

They are made by the pleadings and the answer to the pleadings, and a short stipulation facts, and these generally in briefly are the facts.

The Heart of Atlanta Motel Corporate is Georgia Corporation owned a motel in line of name, the Heart of Atlanta Motel.

It is the only business that it operates.

It's the only business it has in Atlanta.

The motel has 216 rooms, it is located in downtown Atlanta and fronting on the Interstate Highway.

By stipulation, we agreed that over 75% of all the business, in the form of guests coming from out of the State of Georgia, than most of the convention business is listed out in the State of Georgia, there we have highway billboards on roads in Georgia.

There was nothing in the stipulations about a restaurant because we brought the suit in the name of the corporation.