Barrows v. Jackson No. 517 Supreme Court of The United States 346 U.S. 249; 73 S. Ct. 1031; 1953 U.S.

June 15, 1953, Decided

Petitioners sued respondent in a California state court to recover damages for an alleged breach of a racial restrictive covenant.

CORE TERMS: covenant, non-caucasian, restrictive, Fourteenth Amendment, occupancy, restricting, identifiable, coercion, vindicate, occupy, observe, signer, coerce, discriminatory, unidentified, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, purchaser, invasion, impair, impairing, co-covenantor, seller, guardian, deprive, punish, discriminate, ordinance, condemned, abridged, registration


The owners of residential estates in the same neighborhood in Los Angeles entered into a covenant, running with the land, restricting the use and occupancy thereof to persons of the white or Caucasian race, and obligating the signers to incorporate this restriction in all transfers of land. For breaching the covenant in both respects, an action at law for damages was brought against defendant by other signers. No action was taken against the non-Caucasian occupants. The state courts decided in favor of the defendant in view of the holding in Shelley v. Kramer, 334 US 1, 92 L ed 1161, 68 S Ct 836, 3 ALR2d 441. .

Relying upon the principles announced in the Shelley Case, six members of the Supreme Court, in an opinion by Minton, J., held that a restrictive covenant could not be enforced at law by a suit for damages against a co-covenantor who broke the covenant.

Vinson, Ch. J., dissented on the ground that the defendant had not shown that she was, herself, a victim of unconstitutional discrimination. In any event, he thought that the absence of any direct injury to any identifiable non-Caucasian was decisive.

JUDGES: Vinson, Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Minton; Reed and Jackson took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

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