NIXON v. HERNDON et al.
273 U.S. 536 (47 S.Ct. 446, 71 L.Ed. 759)
NIXON v. HERNDON et al.
Argued: and Submitted Jan. 4, 1927.
Decided: March 7, 1927.
- opinion, HOLMES [HTML]
Messrs. Louis Marshall, of New York City, F. C.
Knollenberg, of El Paso, Tex., A. B. Spingarn, of New York City, R. J. Channell, of El Paso, Tex., Moorfield Storey, of Boston, Mass., and James A. Cobb, of Washington, D. C., for plaintiff in error.
Messrs. Claude Pollard and D. A. Simmons, both of Austin, Tex., for defendants in error.
Argument of Counsel from pages 537-538 intentionally omitted
Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is an action against the Judges of Elections for refusing to permit the plaintiff to vote at a primary election in Texas. It lays the damages at five thousand dollars. The petition alleges that the plaintiff is a negro, a citizen of the United States and of Texas and a resident of El Paso, and in every way qualified to vote, as set forth in detail, except that the statute to be mentioned interferes with his right; that on July 26, 1924, a primary election was held at El Paso for the nomination of candidates for a senator and representatives in Congress and State and other offices, upon the Democratic ticket; that the plaintiff, being a member of the Democratic party, sought to vote but was denied the right by defendants; that the denial was based upon a statute of Texas enacted in May, 1923 (Acts 38th Leg. 2d Called Sess. (1923) c. 32, § 1 (Vernon's Ann. Civ. St. 1925, art. 3107)), and designated article 3093a, by the words of which 'in no event shall a negro be eligible to participate in a Democratic party primary election held in the State of Texas,' etc., and that this statute is contrary to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The defendants moved to dismiss upon the ground that the subject-matter of the suit was political and not within the jurisdiction of the Court and that no violation of the Amendments was shown. The suit was dismissed and a writ of error was taken directly to this Court. Here no argument was made on behalf of the defendants but a brief was allowed to be filed by the Attorney General of the State.
The objection that the subject-matter of the suit is political is little more than a play upon words. Of course the petition concerns political action but it alleges and seeks to recover for private damage. That private damage may be caused by such political action and may be recovered for in suit at law hardly has been doubted for over two hundred years, since Ashby v. White, 2 Ld. Raym. 938, 3 Ld. Raym. 320, and has been recognized by this Court. Wiley v. Sinkler, 179 U. S. 58, 64, 65, 21 S. Ct. 17, 45 L. Ed. 84; Giles v. Harris, 189 U. S. 475, 485, 23 S. Ct. 639, 47 L. Ed. 909. See also Judicial Code, § 24(11), (12), (14); Act of March 3, 1911, c. 231; 36 Stat. 1087, 1092 (Comp. St. § 991). If the defendants' conduct was a wrong to the plaintiff the same reasons that allow a recovery for denying the plaintiff a vote at a final election allow it for denying a vote at the primary election that may determine the final result.
The important question is whether the statute can be sustained. But although we state it as a question the answer does not seem to us open to a doubt. We find it unnecessary to consider the Fifteenth Amendment, because it seems to us hard to imagine a more direct and obvious infringement of the Fourteenth. That Amendment, while it applies to all, was passed, as we know, with a special intent to protect the blacks from discrimination against them. Slaughter House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 21 L. Ed. 394; Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U. S. 303, 25 L. Ed. 664. That Amendment 'not only gave citizenship and the privileges of citizenship to persons of color, but it denied to any State the power to withhold from them the equal protection of the laws. * * * What is this but declaring that the law in the States shall be the same for the black as for the white; that all persons, whether colored or white, shall stand equal before the laws of the States, and, in regard to the colored race, for whose protection the amendment was primarily designed, that no discrimination shall be made against them by law because of their color?' Quoted from the last case in Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U. S. 60, 77, 38 S. Ct. 16, 19 (62 L. Ed. 149, L. R. A. 1918C, 210, Ann. Cas. 1918A, 1201). See Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U. S. 356, 374, 6 S. Ct. 1064, 30 L. Ed. 220. The statute of Texas in the teeth of the prohibitions referred to assumes to forbid negroes to take part in a primary election the importance of which we have indicated, discriminating against them by the distinction of color alone. States may do a good deal of classifying that it is difficult to believe rational, but there are limits, and it is too clear for extended argument that color cannot be made the basis of a statutory classification affecting the right set up in this case.
CC∅ | Transformed by Public.Resource.Org
- Pedro J. ROSARIO et al., Petitioners, v. Nelson ROCKEFELLER, Governor of the State of New York, et al.
- William C. BUSH, Petitioner v. William R. LUCAS.
- MEMPHIS COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Petitioners v. Edward J. STACHURA.
- Susan J. DAVIS, et al., Appellants v. Irwin C. BANDEMER et al.
- Fortis MORSE, Kenneth Curtis Bartholomew and Kimberly J. Enderson, Appellants, v. REPUBLICAN PARTY OF VIRGINIA et al.
- George W. BUSH, Governor of Texas, et al., Appellants, v. AL VERA et al. William LAWSON, et al., Appellants, v. AL VERA et al. UNITED STATES, Appellant, v. AL VERA et al.
- Michael J. CODD, Police Commissioner, City of New York, et al., Petitioners, v. Elliott H. VELGER.
- SOUTH et al. v. PETERS, Chairman of the Georgia State Democratic Executive Committee, et al.
- John D. CAREY et al., Petitioners, v. Jarius PIPHUS, etc., et al.
- Webster BIVENS, Petitioner, v. SIX UNKNOWN NAMED AGENTS OF FEDERAL BUREAU OF NARCOTICS.
- Lawrence O'BRIEN et al., Petitioners, v. Willie BROWN et al.
- William COUSINS et al., Petitioners, v. Paul T. WIGODA et al.
- UNITED STATES v. CAROLENE PRODUCTS CO.
- COLEMAN et al. v. MILLER, Secretary of the Senate of State of Kansas, et al.
- LANE v. WILSON et al.
- UNITED STATES v. CLASSIC et al.
- GROVEY v. TOWNSEND.
- NIXON v. CONDON et al.
- NEW STATE ICE CO. v. LIEBMANN.
- Charles W. BAKER et al., Appellants, v. Joe C. CARR et al.
- James MONROE et al., Petitioners, v. Frank PAPE et al.
- James H. GRAY et al., Appellants, v. James O'Hear SANDERS.
- B. A. REYNOLDS, etc., et al., Appellants, v. M. O. SIMS et al. David J. VANN and Robert S. Vance, Appellants, v. Agnes BAGGETT, Secretary of State of Alabama et al. John W. McCONNELL, Jr., et al., Appellants, v. Agnes BAGGETT, Secretary of State of Alabama et al.
- Andres LUCAS et al., etc., Appellants, v. The FORTY-FOURTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF the STATE OF COLORADO et al.
- Annie E. HARPER et al., Appellants, v. VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS et al. Evelyn BUTTS, Appellant, v. Albertis HARRISON, Governor, et al.
- Neil REITMAN et al., Petitioners, v. Lincoln W. MULKEY et al.
- SNOWDEN v. HUGHES et al.
- SMITH v. ALLWRIGHT, Election Judge, et al.
- Sandra ADICKES, Petitioner, v. S. H. KRESS & COMPANY.
- State of CALIFORNIA, Petitioner, v. John Anthony GREEN.
- KOVACS v. COOPER, Judge.
- Dennis MORA et al., petitioners, v. Robert S. McNAMARA, Secretary of Defense, et al.
- RAY v. BLAIR.
- TERRY et al. v. ADAMS et al.
- WASHINGTON, et al., Appellants v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, et al.
- Albertis S. HARRISON, Jr., Attorney General of Virginia, et al., Appellants, v. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, a Corporation, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Incorporated.
- C. G. GOMILLION et al., Petitioners, v. Phil M. LIGHTFOOT, as Mayor of the City of Tuskegee, et al.
- COLEGROVE et al. v. GREEN et al.
- MacDOUGALL et al. v. GREEN et al.
- Bob BULLOCK et al., Appellants, v. Van Phillip CARTER et al.
- State of OREGON, Plaintiff, v. John N. MITCHELL, Attorney General of the United States. State of TEXAS, Plaintiff, v. John N. MITCHELL, Attorney General of the United States. UNITED STATES, Plaintiff, v. State of ARIZONA. UNITED STATES, Plaintiff, v. State of IDAHO.
- HEART OF ATLANTA MOTEL, INC., Appellant, v. UNITED STATES et al.
- Jesse M. CALHOON etc., Petitioner, v. Raymond H. HARVEY et al.