McLaughlin v. Florida

LOCATION: Criminal District Court, Parish of New Orleans

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 379 US 184 (1964)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1964 / Oct 14, 1964
DECIDED: Dec 07, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for McLaughlin v. Florida

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1964 in McLaughlin v. Florida

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1964 in McLaughlin v. Florida

Earl Warren:

Number 11, Dewey McLaughlin et al., Appellants versus Florida.

Mr. Coleman.

William T. Coleman, Jr.:

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

The basic issue in this appeal is whether in a country committed the equality concept as it -- as inviting in the Fourteenth Amendment to the constitution of the United States, a state, one, can make certain conduct illegal and criminal exclusively and solely because persons of different races are involved, or two, can deny citizens the right to marry each other exclusively and solely because they are of different races.

The case is here on appeal at every stage in the proceeding, the appellants' attack the constitutionality on federal grounds of the statute of which they stand convicted.

The relevant facts are as follows.

On March 1, 1962, appellants described in the information which appears on page 3 of the record as Connie Hoffman and Dewey McLaughlin were charged with violation of Section 798.05 of the Florida statutes.

This statute, which is found on page 2 of our brief provides any Negro man and White woman or any White man and Negro woman who are not married to each other who shall habitually live in and occupy in the night time the same room shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or by fine not ex -- not exceeding $500.

The information alleged that the person described in the information as Connie Hoffman being a White woman, and Dewey McLaughlin being a Negro man who are not married to each other that habitually live in and occupy in the night time the same room.

The appellants entered the plea of not guilty.

They filed a motion to quash the information which motion appears on page 5 of the record, and in this motion, they attack the constitutionality of 798.05 on the ground that it violated the federal constitution because of vagueness that it denied them equal protection of law and invaded their right to privacy.

Strongly there's no cohabitation in the statute that applies to people of the same race?

William T. Coleman, Jr.:

Sir I make the -- sir, I make the firm statement that in first place, the statute is not a cohabitation statute, if you mean by cohabitation that there has to be sexual intercourse.

I make the firm statement that -- that there is no statute in Florida which would punish this conduct if done by two White persons with different sexes or two Negroes.

And I thought that we would spend some time in the brief pointing out the Florida statutes, but sir, I think I'm relieved to that obligation because if you will turn to page 55 of the state's brief which is a brief for the appellee, you will see where they say and they recognize that the statute that we're under, 798.05, does not require proof that sexual intercourse took place.

And the only statute that the state can come near to pointing out that maybe there is a similar crime of people who are involved of the same race is 798.02 where they admit and concede that under that statute, the state must show and has to show as a matter of its proof that sexual intercourse took place.

-- this is the so called fornication?

William T. Coleman, Jr.:

No sir, this is called the lewd and cohabitation statute.

Under the fornication statute, I think every state that has one in the union clearly requires proof of sexual intercourse.

This statute -- and let's make this clear only for the argument that this statute does not require any proof of sexual intercourse and that issue was not submitted to the jury.

In fact, I think at this stage just to wrap this point up Your Honor, I'd like to call your attention to the charge which appears on page -- starting on page 92 of the record.

And at page 93 at the bottom of the last four paragraph where the judge says “I instruct you that the elements of the crime -- charge in this case and which must be proved to you beyond -- and beyond the exclusion of every reasonable blood” and I'm pretty sure he means doubt “are as follows.

That one defendant in this case has at least 1/8 Negro blood and that the other defendant has more than 7/8 White blood.

Two that defendants have habitually or did habitually live in and occupied the same room during the night time and three, that defendants were not married to each other at the time of the alleged offense.”

You will note there's no charge that you have to prove that sexual intercourse took play and we cite cases in our brief on page 10 and 12 which clearly establish that fact.

So here, you have a case where solely because the parties are of different race, they can go to jail and be sentenced with the same thing that if they had been of the same race, they could not have been punished for.

As I pointed out to sir, not only did we attack the statute by filing a motion attacking the information, but immediately after the case had been called for trial but before any witnesses were put on, the same constitutional issues were raised and the court there rejected them on the ground that have been raised and passed upon by another judge.

That appears on page 18 of the record.

Now, as I've told you, there were three things that the state had to prove.

Now the evidence with respect to the first one, namely that they lived in the same room together or they occupy the same room was testimony that on several occasion, Dewey McLaughlin was seen in the apartment rented to the woman, appellant, and that he was seen there as late as 11 o'clock at night and as early as 7:30 in the morning.