Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

PETITIONER: Trafficante
RESPONDENT: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
LOCATION: Allegheny County District Court

DOCKET NO.: 71-708
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 409 US 205 (1972)
ARGUED: Nov 07, 1972
DECIDED: Dec 07, 1972

Lawrence G. Wallace - argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal
Richard J. Kilmartin - for respondent Metropolitan Life Insurance Co
Robert M. Shea - for respondent Parkmerced Corp
Stephen V. Bomse - for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 1972 in Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in number 71-708, Trafficante against Metropolitan Life and others.

Mr. Bomse, you may proceed.

Stephen V. Bomse:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The issue which we confront here today is whether tenants at a large, privately owned apartment complex have standing to challenge practices of racial discrimination by their landlord, under writ of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, Title 8 thereof or 42 U.S.C, Section 1982, the statute principally interpreted by this Court in its 1968 decision of Jones against Maya.

The petitioners here are both Negro and White residents of Parkmerced, a 3500 unit apartment complex in San Francisco, California.

They filed a lawsuit under Title 8 and under 1982 alleging that Parkmerced was generally responsible for practices condemned by both of those statutes and refusing occupancy there to members of the Negro race, and other minority races.

Their action was against the landlords responsible for that discrimination.

Motions to dismiss were made in the District Court on a variety of grounds and the Court granted those motions, limited however to the question of standing which is before this Court today.

The case then went to the Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals where the decision of the District Court was affirmed again, limited solely to the question of standing.

We sought certiorari and that was granted.

It is our submission today that the decision below should be reversed and the petitioners held to have standing.

In view of the language of the relevant statutes, the clear policies which they embody and the national commitment which I think, none of us would reasonably again say minimize to eliminate racial discrimination from housing not only because that of itself is a crucial problem to our nation today, but because it quite clearly infects our national life in a variety of other circumstances.

To recall only the most obvious one, the terribly divisive national controversy over busing has mean to culminating, segregation, and separation of the races in the schools.

It's in large part a product of the fact that the races in this country leave apart.

That fact has been too well documented to really be disputed here.

It's been documented by the United States Civil Rights Commission in its notion that we are indeed moving towards two societies, they are not speaking, really in a social or any in tangible sense, we live apart.

So what is an issue here is whether the commitment which petitioners submit is embodied in the laws and issue Title 8 of 1982, is going to be broadly or narrowly upheld.

We submit it should be the former.

We trust that any inquiry on the question of standing begins, at least some members of this Court would suggest ends with the question of whether there is injury in fact.

That is a test which at least as I read the cases is the constitutional or Article 3 cases in controversy.

But I don't think that there is a great dispute here over injury.

This Court has noted in the numerous recent cases, including most recently Sierra Club against Morton, that their interest be on mere economic ones which merit judicial protection.

In Sierra Club, the Court referred to the environmental questions there in issue as an important ingredient of the quality of life in our society.

It's language which was also used in a very well reasoned opinion of the Third Circuit, involving Title 8 in part Shannon versus HUD in which the Third Circuit suggested that the persons who neither are going to be displaced nor live-in in a federally low funded housing area would nonetheless have standing to challenge what was obviously going to disintegrate the quality of their neighborhood because of the effect which those practices had upon the quality of their daily life.

Here, the petitioners submit that being compelled as a result of the defendant's practices to continue to live in Parkmerced under an unlawful condition to segregation constitutes a very real injury to the quality of their daily life, an injury which we submit undeniably merits protection.

In an effort to flush out the rather bare bones allegations or complaint, which course must be taken as true in the posture of this case, we submitted in the District Court, and it is part of the record here, an affidavit of Dr. Alvin Poussaint, the Associate Dean of the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Poussaint whose clinical practices have been quite broad in this area, suggests indeed the persons living in an environment such as Parkmerced or any environment that is artificially segregated, suffer real injuries, injuries which may or may not lead to clinical symptoms, injuries which may or may not result in personal damage, even economic damage, but injuries which nonetheless are very (Inaudible)

Harry A. Blackmun:

Would you suggest them that persons living in North-West Arkansas, where there is present on only one race are suffering deprivations of the kind you are suggesting?

Stephen V. Bomse:

I don't think I can answer them Mr. Justice in the abstract.

We would suggest that there is no right under the constitution or at least none has yet been recognized by this Court, per se, to live in any integrated environment.

The only right we're asserting here is the right to live in an environment which is not artificially segregated as the result of practices affirmatively proscribed under Title 8 and 1982.