Katzenbach v. McClung

PETITIONER: Katzenbach
LOCATION: Ollie's Barbeque

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 379 US 294 (1964)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1964
DECIDED: Dec 14, 1964

Facts of the case

The owner of Ollie's Barbecue, in Birmingham Alabama, refused to serve blacks in apparent violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Part of the Act prevented restaurants serving interstate travelers, or receiving a substantial amount of their food from interstate commerce, from discriminating on the basis of race.


Does a restaurant's refusal to serve blacks burden interstate commerce to an extent that Congress can legitimately prohibit such discrimination?

Media for Katzenbach v. McClung

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1964 in Katzenbach v. McClung

Earl Warren:


Archibald Cox, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This second case involving Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 comes here on the government’s appeal from a decree of a three-judge court in the Northern District of Alabama, temporarily enjoining the acting Attorney General from taking any steps to enforce Title II against the appellees.

The facts are simple and for the purposes of this appeal, they are undisputed.

Appellees operate a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama specializing in barbecue meats.

They seek no transient trade by advertising and so far as they know, they serve no interstate guests.

In the 12-month period prior to July 1, 1964, the appellees purchased about $150,000 worth of food.

Included in that sum was about $70,000 worth of meat which was purchased from the Hormel Company at its Birmingham, Alabama plant.

All the meat sold at that plant, about 40% of the appellees total purchases of food came from other states so that it moved in Interstate commerce.

The District Court found that the appellees, not only practiced racial segregation at their restaurant prior to the enactment of the -- of the Title II, but since its enactment, they have consistently continued and will continue to violate the Act.

Prior to July 31, 1964, the Department of Justice had never heard of the appellees or of their restaurant.

There's been no investigation and no specific threat to enforce compliance on the part of their restaurant.

On that day nevertheless, the appellees commenced this action to enjoin the enforcement of Title II.

They alleged two kinds of irreparable injury.

First, they said that actions to enforce Title II by the Attorney General of the United States, all individual Negroes which subject them to the burdens inconvenience of expenses of litigation, and the aggravation of such burdens by a potential multiplicity of suits.

Second, they -- and the court below found, that the actual enforcement of the Act that it's a compliance with, would subject them to irreparable injury through a lost of customers and lost profits.

The government moved to dismiss the complaint upon two, essentially two grounds.

One was that the Court had no equity jurisdiction.

The point was argued on several grounds that here we insist upon it in the form of the big no injury against which they're entitled to be protected by injunction.

We also argued in the Court below and of course argue here that if the merits were reached, the act is constitutional as applied to the appellees.

The District Court ruled against the government on both grounds and issued an injunction temporarily enjoining the acting Attorney General from taking any steps to enforce the Act against the appellees.

Mr. Justice Black granted a stay on September 23rd and probable notice of jurisdiction was set forth in the order announced by the Chief Justice a moment ago.

In this Court, we press the same two arguments.

While we would welcome a broad ruling on the constitutionality of Title II as applied to the appellee's restaurant or any other restaurant, the District Court's assumption of jurisdiction here to enjoin the enforcement of the statute under these circumstances disturbs us so profoundly in its implication for the future administration of this and other statutes that we do feel compelled to insist upon that point as one of two grounds for reversal.

Potter Stewart:

But you really would welcome a determination of the substantive constitutional issue, you could have very well counter claim here as you did in the case you just had argued, didn't you?

Archibald Cox, Jr.:

Well at the appropriate time for that – the department really didn't have any knowledge about the restaurant.

There was some argument in the --

Potter Stewart:

The allegations in the -- in their complaint.

Archibald Cox, Jr.:

Well I suppose we could have accepted them, we didn't at that stage. Indeed in the court below, there was some argument, curious situation really developed.

The appellees were arguing the statute applies to us were in violation and the department was insisting that the violation hadn't been proved.