Palmer v. Thompson

LOCATION: Ohio State Bar Association

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 403 US 217 (1971)
ARGUED: Dec 14, 1970
DECIDED: Jun 14, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Palmer v. Thompson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 14, 1970 in Palmer v. Thompson

Warren E. Burger:

Palmer against Thompson.

Mr. Rosen you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

Paul A. Rosen:

If it please the Court, my name is Paul Rosen and I along with Mr. William Kunstler will represent the petitioners in this oral argument.

I intend to discuss the Fourteenth Amendment issues in this case.

Mr. Kunstler will follow and discuss the Thirteenth Amendment issues.

We have raise Section 1981 in our brief and if time permits, we will discuss it although we feel that we have amply covered in our brief.

This case represent but another attempt by the City of Jackson to nullify the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment, to avoid the decision of Brown versus Board of Education, and to deny black people their rights as guaranteed by the Civil War Amendments.

Until 1963, Jackson, Mississippi operated its recreational facilities on a segregated basis.

This is eight years after this Court in the Dawson case proclaimed that recreational facilities should no longer be operated on a segregated basis.

But despite this, the City of Jackson maintained its policy.

And so in 1962 and ’63, black citizens of Jackson, Mississippi went to the federal courts and asked those courts to invoke the Brown decision to desegregate the recreational facilities in Jackson including the five municipal pools.

These five pools, one of which was leased from a YMCA were operated on this basis.

For one-third of the population, the black population of Jackson, Mississippi, they are one pool.

For two-thirds of the population, the white population of Jackson, Mississippi, they had four pools.

And so this was the situation, and this was a situation which faced the court in Clark versus Thompson.

And in Clark versus Thompson, the court ordered that the pools and the other recreational facilities would be desegregated.

They must be integrated.

This was the law of the land.

And what did the City of Jackson, Mississippi do?

Did they attempt to integrate the pools?

Did they make any effort whatsoever in good faith?

No, they did not.

Indeed, the City of Jackson followed what the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals called in 1963 and it took judicial notice of an official steel hard inflexible policy of official segregation.

They closed the pools rather than integrate.

And so we have a new form of separation in Jackson, Mississippi. Blacks and whites could not swim in the pools before Clark versus Thompson.

Blacks and whites do not swim in the pools after Clark versus Thompson.

Now what the city did was in keeping of the statutory scheme of the State of Mississippi, for the state requires city officials to do everything in their power, to avoid the mandate of Brown, and to prevent mixing in recreational facilities including pools.

Now, the court below found the respondents admit that the purpose for closing the pools, the motive for closing the pools was the integration order.

That fact is not in dispute in this case solely because they were told that black and white bodies must touch.

That was the catalyst; that was the action which closed these pools.