Wolfe v. North Carolina

RESPONDENT: North Carolina
LOCATION: Approximately half-way between Santa Marta, Colombia and Miami. Florida (by water)

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 364 US 177 (1960)
ARGUED: Oct 19, 1959 / Oct 20, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Wolfe v. North Carolina

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 20, 1959 in Wolfe v. North Carolina

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 19, 1959 in Wolfe v. North Carolina

Earl Warren:

Number 7, Leon Wolfe, George Simkins, Jr., et al., Petitioners, versus the State of North Carolina.

Mr. Atkins, you may proceed.

J. Alston Atkins:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

In this case, the Court postponed further consideration of request in the jurisdiction until this hearing on the merit.

We have discussed the manner of jurisdiction at length as the first question in the brief on the merits and we do request consideration here.

Appellants have alleged the questions of jurisdiction in this kind of setting.

In this case, six Negro appellants who are citizens of Greensboro, North Carolina, had been convicted of the crime of criminal trespass for peacefully playing golf on the public municipal golf course of that City.

And appellants are under a 15-day jail sentences imposed under Section 14-134 of the General Statutes of North Carolina.

Appellants alleged first in the motion to quash and then in the motion to set aside the verdict, the motion to quash being incorporated also in the motion to set aside the verdict.

That this statute in this case has been and is being unconstitutionally applied to these appellants because it is being used to implement by prosecution and jail sentences, the denial of certain constitutional rights of appellant under the Fourteenth Amendment and also in the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

In that -- first in this case on the question of racial discrimination, the trial court was put upon notice in the motion to quash that the position of the defendants there, appellants here, was raising a question of racial discrimination and when the trial came on, the trial court in this case close the mouths of the State's agencies who were in operation and control of this golf course by refusing to permit them to divulge what they knew and it's -- we believe what the State knew as to the operation of this golf course, so far as the exclusion of Negroes from participation and discrimination against them in play upon this golf course

Those actions of the trial court found on pages 45, 48, and 78 of the record, where on page 45, the appellee's agent (Inaudible) who was the assistant golf pro in charge of the golf course, when appellants sought to play, testified that no Negro had played on this golf course, insofar as he knew and when -- but that some had sought to play and when he was asked to tell why they have not played, the trial court would not permit him to testify with reference to why Negroes had not played on the golf course.

On page 48 of the record when the golf pro and manager of the golf course himself, was on the stand -- and by the way, his testimony shows that he had been the golf pro and manager from the time the golf course was first opened in 1941, down until the time of this trial.

He was not permitted by the trial court even to tell whether or not any Negroes had played on the golf course, to say nothing of while he had not played.

As of those two witnesses, it's our view that they knew more about the question of racial discrimination on this golf course than anybody else and that it was virtually preventing the appellants, defendants there, from proving by the State's own agents, whose knowledge we believe of knowledge of the State, that there was in fact racial discrimination and exclusion from this golf course.

Now, on page 78 of the record, the president of the golf corporation which was found to be insofar as I know, there's no dispute as to that golf corporation being an agency of the State, it appeared that he was a witness in a case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, which I shall discuss shortly.

Where --

William O. Douglas:

Who is this witness, did you say?

J. Alston Atkins:

His name is John R. Hughes.

He was the president of this golf corporation which was in control in management of the golf course.

He had testified in a case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, involving the identical acts of playing golf which held to be a crime in this case.

And the appellants, defendants there, undertook to show by this witness that what he testified to in that case.

And the trial court refused on this ground.

Appellants have sought to call him as an adverse witness when the State rested this case without calling him and the trial court refused to be permit -- to permit and to be called as an adverse witness.

He had been subpoenaed to bring the bylaws of the corporation which he did.

And so the defendants, appellants here, put him on the stand anyway and to try to prove what he knew better than anybody else, in turning -- concerning the operation of this golf course and he had been the chief witness through which racial discrimination and the mechanics and the actualities of operating the golf course have been proved in the federal court case to which I will come in a moment.

And because the appellants, defendants there had -- had called him, when State rested without calling him and when the federal court refused to permit and to be called as an adverse witness, I think the record shows clearly that he was hostile.

The trial court would not permit the appellants, defendants there, to prove anything in the transcript of the record from the federal court by this witness.

We think that the Court has jurisdiction to review the question of whether or not, these actions of the trial court do implement a denial of due process by preventing the defendants' files here from proving that case there and hence, preventing them from proving the question of racial discrimination.

Felix Frankfurter:

What was it that they were not allowed to prove?