United States v. Raines

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Approximately half-way between Santa Marta, Colombia and Miami. Florida (by water)

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 362 US 17 (1960)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1960
DECIDED: Feb 29, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Raines

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1960 (Part 2) in United States v. Raines

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1960 (Part 1) in United States v. Raines

Earl Warren:

Number 64, United States, Appellant, versus James Griggs Raines et al.

Mr. Attorney General, you may proceed with your argument.

William P. Rogers:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case which is here on appeal from United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia involves the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act, or at least the major portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

It is the first statute passed by Congress to protect the voting rights guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution, in 87 years.

This present case, brought in the name of and on behalf of the United States, is the first case under that Act.

It is of significance not because there's any substantial legal problem involved, because I think there is none, but rather because it involves the basic right of people in the democracy, the right -- right to vote without a discrimination on account of race or color.

The decision of the District Court holding the Civil Rights Act of 1957 unconstitutional is, we submit, clearly wrong.

It has delayed and hampered the United States in its enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution and prevented us to that extent, from making it fully effective for citizens of the Negro race.

This is a civil action for preventive relief brought on September 4th, 1958 against the registrar and deputy registrars of Terrell County, Georgia for refusing to permit Negroes to register -- Negroes who were fully qualified.

The complaint seeks to enjoin these state officials from refusing, for reasons of race or color, to permit fully qualified Negroes to register to vote.

The discriminatory acts and practices complained of in the complaint include undue delay in processing application -- applications of Negroes.

Refusal to permit qualified Negroes, qualified under the laws of Georgia, to register to vote and the application of more stringent standards for Negro applicants, then for white.

The complaint sets forth the comprehensive plan on the part of these defendants, who are state officials, to deny Negroes their right to vote under the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Included are allegations that the defendants kept different records, voting records by race.

Allegations that, in connection with applications for registration, there were different colored cards for white applicants and Negro applicants.

The complaint sets forth in considerable detail how this plan was accomplished.

For example, the complaint lists the names of five Negroes who applied to register in 1956 and five who applied in 1957.

And yet, their applications were not acted upon until April of 1958.

Yet during the same period of time, 13 white applicants applied and their applications were acted on within a day or two and in no case more than 11 days.

The complaint shows how the defendants arbitrarily refused to register fully qualified Negroes, fully qualified under the laws of Georgia.

For example, it states that four Negroes took a literacy test as required under the law of Georgia.

One was a teacher in mathematics in a public high school in Terrell County and held a Bachelor of Science degree from a Georgia college and a Master of Arts degree from New York University.

The other three were teachers in the elementary public schools in Georgia and each one of these three had graduated from Albany State College and held a degree from Albany State College, Georgia.

The complaint alleges that the reasons given by these appellees for refusing to permit these four Negroes to register was that they could not read correctly or because they were unable to write.

Stated another way then, the complaint alleges that the State of Georgia refused to let Negroes who were teachers in their public schools who had graduated from their colleges and who held degrees from colleges in Georgia, from registering to vote on the ground that they were illiterate

.A motion to dismiss this complaint was made on four grounds, September 1958.

The District Court, in April 1959, dismissed the first three grounds, holding that the complaint stated cause of action that the Congress was authorized to provide for injunctive relief, even though the -- and not require the exhaustion of all other remedies and that the complaint should not be dismissed in the court's discretion.

The fourth ground, which is the basis for this appeal, was that the portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 providing for an injunctive relief is unconstitutional.

On considering that contention, the District Court did not find that the allegations in this complaint against these defendants, who were officers of the State acting under color of law, violated any constitutional provision.