Runyon v. McCrary

PETITIONER: Russell L. Runyon et al.
RESPONDENT: Michael McCrary et al.
LOCATION: Fairfax-Brewster School

DOCKET NO.: 75-62
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 427 US 160 (1976)
ARGUED: Apr 26, 1976
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1976

Allison W. Brown, Jr. - argued the cause for the respondents in 75-62, 75-66, and 75-278
Andrew A. Lipscomb -
Andrew A. Lipscomb - argued the cause for the petitioners in 75-66 and respondents in 75-306
Brown -
Geo S. Leonard -
George S. Leonard - argued the cause for the petitioners in 75-278
Louis Koutoulakos - argued the cause for the petitioners in 75-62
Roderic V. O. Boggs - argued the cause for the petitioners in 75-306

Facts of the case

Michael McCrary and Colin Gonzales were black children who were denied admission to Bobbe's School. Gonzales was also denied admission to Fairfax- Brewster School. McCrary and Gonzales's parents filed a class action against the schools, suspecting the denials were due to their children's race. A federal district court ruled for McCrary and Gonzales, finding that the school's admission policies were racially discriminatory. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision.


(1) Were the schools' admission policies in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981?

(2) Did 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 violate the Constitutional right to privacy and free association?

Media for Runyon v. McCrary

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 1976 in Runyon v. McCrary

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 25, 1976 in Runyon v. McCrary

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the Court in 75-62, Runyon against McCrary and three related cases will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

These cases are here by the reason of the grant of writs of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The principal issue presented by these consolidated cases is whether a federal law, namely Section 1981 of Volume 42 of the United States Code, prohibits commercially operated private schools from excluding qualified children solely because they are Negroes.

That law in pertinent part reads as follows.

“All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

The respondents in number 75-62, Michael McCrary and Colin Gonzales are Negro children.

By their parents, they filed a class action against the petitioners in that case.

Russell and Katheryne Runyon, who are the proprietors of Bobbe's private School in Arlington, Virginia.

Their complaint alleged that they had been prevented from attending the school because of the petitioners' policy of denying admission to Negroes, in violation of Section 1981.

They sought declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages. On the same day, Colin Gonzales, the respondent in No. 75-66, filed a similar complaint by his parents against the petitioner in that case, Fairfax-Brewster School located in Fairfax County, Virginia.

The petitioner in No. 75-278, the Southern Independent School Association, sought and was granted permission to intervene as a party defendant in the suit against the Runyons.

That organization is a nonprofit association, composed of six state private school associations, and represents 395 private schools.

It is stipulated that many of these schools deny admission to Negroes.

The suits were consolidated for trial.

The findings of the District Court, which were left undisturbed by the Court of Appeals, were as follows.

Bobbe's School opened in 1958 and grew from an initial enrollment of five students to 200 students in 1972.

A day camp was begun in 1967 and has averaged 100 children per year.

The Fairfax-Brewster School commenced operations in 1955 and opened a summer day camp in 1956. A total of 223 students were enrolled at the school during the 1972-1973 academic year, and 236 attended the day camp in the summer of 1972.

Neither school has ever accepted a Negro child for any of its programs.

In response to a mailed brochure addressed "resident" and an advertisement in the "Yellow Pages" of the telephone directory, Mr. and Mrs. Gonzales telephoned and then visited the Fairfax-Brewster School in May of 1969.

After the visit, they submitted an application for their son Colin's admission to the day camp.

The school responded with a formal letter, which stated that the school was "unable to accommodate Colin's application."

Mr. Gonzales telephoned the school.

Fairfax-Brewster's Chairman of the Board explained that the reason for Colin's rejection was that the school was not integrated.

Mr. Gonzales then telephoned Bobbe's School, from which the family had also received in the mail a brochure addressed simply to “resident.”

In response to a question concerning that school's admissions policies, he was told that only members of the Caucasian race were accepted.

In August of 1972, Mrs. McCrary telephoned Bobbe's School in response to an advertisement in the telephone book.

She inquired about nursery school facilities for her son, Michael.

She also asked if the school was integrated.

The answer was no.