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U.S. Supreme Court

Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715 (1961)

Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority

No. 164

Argued February 21, 23, 1961

Decided April 17, 1961

365 U.S. 715


A restaurant located in a publicly owned and operated automobile parking building refused to serve appellant food or drink solely because he was a Negro. The building had been built with public funds for public purposes, and it was owned and operated by an agency of the State of Delaware, from which the private operator of the restaurant leased its premises. Claiming that refusal to serve him abridged his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, appellant sued in a state court for declaratory and injunctive relief against the restaurant and the state agency. The Supreme Court of Delaware held that he was not entitled to relief, on the ground that the restaurant's action was not state action within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment and that the restaurant was not required by a Delaware statute to serve all persons entering its place of business. An appeal was taken to this Court on the ground that the state statute had been construed unconstitutionally.


1. The appeal is dismissed, since the judgment did not depend for its ultimate support upon a determination of the constitutional validity of the state statute; but, treating the papers whereon the appeal was taken as a petition for writ of certiorari, certiorari is granted, since the case presents an important constitutional question under the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 365 U. S. 717, 365 U. S. 721.

2. In view of all the circumstances of this case, including the facts that the restaurant was physically and financially an integral part of a public building, built and maintained with public funds, devoted to a public parking service, and owned and operated by an agency of the State for public purposes, the State was a joint participant in the operation of the restaurant, and its refusal to serve appellant violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 365 U. S. 721-726.

3. When a State leases public property in the manner and for the purpose shown to have been the case here, the proscriptions of chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 365 U. S. 716

the Fourteenth Amendment must be complied with by the lessee as certainly as though they were binding covenants written into the agreement itself. P. 365 U. S. 726.

___ Del. ___,157 A. 2d 894, reversed.

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