Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc.

PETITIONER: Newman
RESPONDENT: Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc.
LOCATION: Piggie Park No. 1 -- Drive-in Restaurant

DOCKET NO.: 339
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 390 US 400 (1968)
ARGUED: Mar 07, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 18, 1968

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 07, 1968 in Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 339, Anne P. Newman et al., Petitioners, versus Piggie Park Enterprises Incorporated et al.

Mr. Greenberg.

Jack Greenberg:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The issue is the correctness of the standard which was announced by the Fourth Circuit sitting en banc for a provision of Title 2 of the United States' Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prove -- the public accommodations provision which provides for counsel fees in public accommodations cases.

The provision is on page 2 of our brief and I will read it, it's very brief.

In any action commenced pursuant to this subchapter of the court in its discretion may allow the prevailing party other than the United States a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs.

Case arose in the following way, the respondent corporation owns six restaurants which serve southern style barbeque various locations in the State of South Carolina, five of these restaurants are drive-ins, one is a sit down restaurant in downtown Columbia.

The president of the respondent corporation has been in such business for decades and has called himself in the record a pioneer in the drive-in barbeque business in South Carolina.

The businesses are substantial in size, food purchases are in excess of a quarter of a million dollars a year and the gross volume is -- of sales is obviously in excess of that.

Five of the six restaurants are in interstate highways and all of them discriminated on the basis of race.

There's no doubt that the policy of discrimination was followed after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act after decisions of this Court uphold in the constitutionality of the Act.

The answer or the answers filed by respondent in this case knew of the decisions of this Court and asserted that they were incorrectly decided.

The plaintiffs brought suit in December 1964, and respondent filed an answer and two amended answers, one in February, the next in August 1965 and the third in March 1966.

These answers submitted an array of defenses.

First of all, the first second and third answer denied the practice of racial discrimination.

The answers denied, they served interstate travelers, they denied that they served the substantial amount of food moving in commerce.

They asserted that the petitioner had a constitutional right under the Thirteenth Amendment not to be subjected to involuntary servitude and serve persons against his will.

It was the First Amendment religious privilege claim that petitioner asserted that his religion required him to act this way.

There was an equal protection and due process claims submitted by petitioners and then there was a claim that drive-in restaurants were not covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act and there was a claim that I mentioned that courts were not foreclose if the lower court is not foreclosed by decisions of this Court because those decisions were wrong.

There was finally a well over a year following the filing of complaint, a trial that went into two days and at this trial the plaintiff proved discrimination, went to a great deal of trouble to prove that the food which was served in the restaurant had moved in interstate commerce and indeed we have not printed the entire record in order to spear ourselves in the court but more than a hundred pages of record goes into one of the origins in the root that this food has traveled before it came to rest in the drive-in restaurants.

Our witness who testified by discrimination the other witness were cross-examined and then the respondent put on his case and after all this, the respondent did admit having practiced racial discrimination although it was denied in three answers and admitted that a substantial amount of food had actually moved in interstate commerce.

The District Court entered an order that one of the restaurants which was a sit-down restaurant in downtown Columbia was required to end discrimination under the 1964 Act.

It said that the drive-ins were not covered by the Act because as it read the statutory language a principle part of the food served -- principle amount of the food served was not served for consumption on the premises being a drive-in and people would drive a way and it -- there was a prayer for counsel fees which is the issue in this case and the trial court held simply with no explanation that petitioner were not entitled to counsel fees.

Court of Appeals reversed on the question of whether drive-ins are covered by the 1964 Act and there has been -- that is not an issue here.

It also wrote on the question of counsel fees page 165 of the record, that is the majority of the court did that in exercising its discretion the District Court may properly consider whether any of the numerous defenses interposed by defendants were presented for purposes of delay and not in good faith but the test should be and this is what the court termed it, a subjective one for no litigant ought to be punished under the guise of an award of counsel fees or in any other manner from taking a position in court in which he honestly believes however lacking in merit that position may be.

The court also -- may also consider whether defendants acted in good faith in denying discrimination.

Judge Winter wrote a concurring opinion in which on the counsel fees as long as Judge Sobeloff adjoined which disagreed with the majority standard and Judge Winter wrote good faith standing alone should not always immunize the defendant from an award against him.

Specifically in this case defendants are not entitled to the defense good faith and regard to the major portion of their defenses.

And that the District Court should be instructed to make an allowance in regard to some of defendant's defenses and in its discretion to consider an allowance for the remainder of defendant's defenses depending upon its determination of defendant's good faith and honest belief.