Palmer v. Thompson Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Jackson, Mississippi operated public swimming pools, but kept them segregated until it eventually closed or sold them all.

Facts of the case


Is this closing of swimming pools state action that denies Equal Protection to the black citizens in the community?


No. A city may choose to close pools for any reason. The Supreme Court of the United States (Constitution) has never held an act unconstitutional solely because of the motivations of the men who voted for it.


On certiorari the Supreme Court ruled that substantial evidence supported the city’s claims, as accepted by the lower courts, that it was neither safe to operate the pools on an integrated basis nor economically feasible to do so. Consequently, the Court ruled, the lower courts correctly held that the city did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment . Moreover, the Court ruled, there was no evidence in the record to show that the city was covertly aiding the maintenance and operation of pools that were private in name only. The record, the Court ruled, showed no state action affecting the races differently. The Court summarily dismissed the citizens’ claim that the city’s conduct violated the Thirteenth Amendment .

  • Case Brief: 1971
  • Petitioner: Palmer
  • Respondent: Thompson
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 403 US 217 (1971)
Argued: Dec 14, 1970
Decided: Jun 14, 1971