Cooper v. Aaron (358 U.S. 1)

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Court Documents
Concurring Opinion

United States Supreme Court

358 U.S. 1

Cooper  v.  Aaron

Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

No. 1  Argued: September 11, 1958 --- Decided: September 12, 1958; Opinion announced on September 29, 1958

NOTE: The per curiam opinion announced on September 12, 1958, and printed in a footnote, post, p. 5, applies not only to this case but also to No. 1, Misc., August Special Term, 1958, Aaron et al. v. Cooper et al., on application for vacation of order of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit staying issuance of its mandate, for stay of order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and for such other orders as petitioners may be entitled to, argued August 28, 1958.

Under a plan of gradual desegregation of the races in the public schools of Little Rock, Arkansas, adopted by petitioners and approved by the courts below, respondents, Negro children, were ordered admitted to a previously all-white high school at the beginning of the 1957-1958 school year. Due to actions by the Legislature and Governor of the State opposing desegregation, and to threats of mob violence resulting therefrom, respondents were unable to attend the school until troops were sent and maintained there by the Federal Government for their protection; but they attended the school for the remainder of that school year. Finding that these events had resulted in tensions, bedlam, chaos and turmoil in the school, which disrupted the educational process, the District Court, in June 1958, granted petitioners' request that operation of their plan of desegregation be suspended for two and one-half years, and that respondents be sent back to segregated schools. The Court of Appeals reversed. Held: The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed, and the orders of the District Court enforcing petitioners' plan of desegregation are reinstated, effective immediately. Pp. 4-20.

1. This Court cannot countenance a claim by the Governor and Legislature of a State that there is no duty on state officials to obey federal court orders resting on this Court's considered interpretation of the United States Constitution in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 . P. 4.

2. This Court rejects the contention that it should uphold a suspension of the Little Rock School Board's plan to do away with segregated public schools in Little Rock until state laws and efforts to upset and nullify its holding in the Brown case have been further challenged and tested in the courts. P. 4.

3. In many locations, obedience to the duty of desegregation will require the immediate general admission of Negro children, otherwise qualified as students for their appropriate classes, at particular schools. P. 7.

4. If, after analysis of the relevant factors (which, of course, excludes hostility to racial desegregation), a District Court concludes that justification exists for not requiring the present nonsegregated admission of all qualified Negro children to public schools, it should scrutinize the program of the school authorities to make sure that they have developed arrangements pointed toward the earliest practicable completion of desegregation, and have taken appropriate steps to put their program into effective operation. P. 7.

5. The petitioners stand in this litigation as the agents of the State, and they cannot assert their good faith as an excuse for delay in implementing the respondents' constitutional rights, when vindication of those rights has been rendered difficult or impossible by the actions of other state officials. Pp. 15-16.

6. The constitutional rights of respondents are not to be sacrificed or yielded to the violence and disorder which have followed upon the actions of the Governor and Legislature, and law and order are not here to be preserved by depriving the Negro children of their constitutional rights. P. 16.

7. The constitutional rights of children not to be discriminated against in school admission on grounds of race or color declared by this Court in the Brown case can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executives or judicial officers, nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes for segregation whether attempted "ingeniously or ingenuously." Pp. 16-17.

8. The interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment enunciated by this Court in the Brown case is the supreme law of the land, and Art. VI of the Constitution makes it of binding effect on the States "any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." P. 18.

9. No state legislator or executive or judicial officer can war against the Constitution without violating his solemn oath to support it. P. 18.

10. State support of segregated schools through any arrangement, management, funds or property cannot be squared with the command of the Fourteenth Amendment that no State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. P. 19.

257 F.2d 33, affirmed.

Richard C. Butler argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the brief were A. F. House and, by special leave of Court, John H. Haley, pro hac vice.

Thurgood Marshall argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Wiley A. Branton, William Coleman, Jr., Jack Greenberg and Louis H. Pollak.

Solicitor General Rankin, at the invitation of the Court, post, p. 27, argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, urging that the relief sought by respondents should be granted. With him on the brief were Oscar H. Davis, Philip Elman and Ralph S. Spritzer.


^*  The following was the Court's per curiam opinion, 78 S.Ct. 1399:


'The Court, having fully deliberated upon the oral arguments had on August 28, 1958, as supplemented by the arguments presented on September 11, 1958, and all the briefs on file, is unanimously of the opinion that the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit of August 18, 1958, 257 F.2d 33, must be affirmed. In view of the imminent commencement of the new school year at the Central High School of Little Rock, Arkansas, we deem it important to make prompt announcement of our judgment affirming the Court of Appeals. The expression of the views supporting our judgment will be prepared and announced in due course.

'It is accordingly ordered that the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, dated August 18, 1958, 257 F.2d 33, reversing the judgment of the District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, dated June 20, 1958, 163 F.Supp. 13, be affirmed, and that the judgments of the District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, dated August 28, 1956, 143 F.Supp. 855, and September 3, 1957, enforcing the School Board's plan for desegregation in compliance with the decision of this Court in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873; 349 U.S. 294, 75 S.Ct. 753, 99 L.Ed. 1083, be reinstated. It follows that the order of the Court of Appeals dated August 21, 1958, staying its own mandate is of no further effect.

'The judgment of this Court shall be effective immediately, and shall be communicated forthwith to the District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.'

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).