Pernell v. Southall Realty

RESPONDENT: Southall Realty
LOCATION: Cleveland Board of Education

DOCKET NO.: 72-6041
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: District of Columbia Court of Appeals

CITATION: 416 US 363 (1974)
ARGUED: Feb 19, 1974
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1974

Herman Miller - for respondent
Norman C. Barnett - for petitioner

Facts of the case

The case study focuses on the issue that was introduced in the State Trial Court in the District of Columbia. The ruling of the case of Pernell v. Southall Realty had been issued on April 24, 1974, informing that the situation had to be changed and remanded, based on the Seventh Amendment. The final judgment was left to the legislative authority for a special judicial analysis at the federal level. As a result, the incident was viewed liberal by nature, and it was solved by the opinion of the judges that was discussed orally. Basically, the issue had been reviewed on February 19, 1974. Since it originally came from the District of Columbia State Trial Court, it was later analyzed in Supreme Court in the District of Columbia before it finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The central issue demonstrated by this case brief presents if the Seventh Amendment can guarantee the right to trial by the juries in action caused in the District of Columbia for the recovery of the ownership of a particular property. To be exact, Dave Pernell, petitioner, joined a lease contract with Southall Realty, respondent, in May 1971, for the rental of the accommodation. In two months, the firm decided to file a complaint to evict Dave Pernell from the premises for nonpayment of rent. At the same time, petitioner informed that the rent was in owe. He also indicated that Southall Realty did not manage to maintain the house in a proper sanitary, safety, and health condition. That was the reason why he viewed such situation as a serious violation of the housing regulations.

Petitioner also decided to claim setoff for the repairs organized by him and requested a trial based on the Seventh Amendment that was guaranteeing the right to trial by the jury. However, The Court of Appeals replied that the jury trials could not be guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment in such situations and that petitioner should have thought about a different option instead of preferring to start a counterclaim due to the landlord's action for repossession.


Media for Pernell v. Southall Realty

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 19, 1974 in Pernell v. Southall Realty

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 24, 1974 in Pernell v. Southall Realty

William O. Douglas:

The opinion for the Court will be in 72-6041, Pernell versus Southall Realty will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on certiorari to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The question presented is whether the Seventh Amendment guarantees the right of trial by jury in civil actions brought in District of Columbia for the recovery of possession of real properties.

Few months after renting petitioner house, respondent sought to evict him for non-payment of his rent.

Petitioner reclaimed he was entitled to withhold the rent because the premises were not in compliance with certain District of Columbia housing regulations.

He also claimed that respondent had agreed to waive several months rent return for repairs.

Petitioner requested a jury trial to resolve the factual questions raised by these pleadings.

The trail judge however refused the jury trial and entered judgment against petitioner and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a jury trial was not constitutionally required.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we find that examining a great deal of historical materials and conclude that the right to recover possession of real property was a right as obtained and protected by the courts of the common law at the time the Seventh Amendment was adopted.

In all of the causes of action developed in common law for the recovery of real property, the parties were entitled to a jury trial.

We, therefore hold that petitioner was entitled under the Seventh Amendment to a jury trial in this eviction suit.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceeding consistent with this opinion.

The Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Douglas concurred in the result.