Reitman v. Mulkey Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Respondents Mr. and Mrs. Mulkey attempted to rent an apartment owned by Petitioner Reitman. Respondents allege that Petitioner refused to rent to them solely based on their racial status. Respondents then filed suit to demand an injunction to allow them to rent the apartment and for damages as a result of the discrimination.

Facts of the case

Question

Whether Art. I, Section: 26 of the California Constitution denies to any person the equal protection of the laws within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States?

Answer

Yes. This provision does not just repeal an existing law forbidding private racial discriminations, but Art. I Section: 26 of the California Constitution does more, it was intended to authorize, and does in fact authorize racial discrimination in the housing market. The right to discriminate became one of the basic policies of the State. The Court agrees with the California Supreme Court that this section significantly encourages and involves the State in private discriminations. The Court further agrees with the California Supreme Court in this case that section 26 changed the status of the law from one that restricted discriminatory practices to one that through its authorization in this section makes the state a partner in the act of discrimination. It is this authorization and partnership in discrimination that rises to the level of state action under the Fourteenth Amendment, because those who discriminate can now do so under express constitutional authority.

Conclusion

The Court concluded that Cal. Const. Art. I, § 26 involved the State in racial discrimination and was, therefore, unconstitutionally invalid under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to the Court, although the state was permitted a neutral position regarding private racial discrimination and was not required to forbid such discrimination, art. I, § 26 constituted prohibited state involvement in private discrimination, as it represented affirmative state action designed to authorize and make legally possible private discrimination.

  • Case Brief: 1967
  • Petitioner: Reitman
  • Respondent: Mulkey
  • Decided by: Warren Court

Citation: 387 US 369 (1967)
Argued: Mar 20 – 21, 1967
Decided: May 29, 1967