Boynton v. Virginia/Opinion of the Court

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Boynton v. Virginia by Hugo Black
Opinion of the Court
Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960) was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. The case overturned a judgment convicting an African American law student for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was "whites only." It held that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal because such segregation violated the Interstate Commerce Act, which broadly forebade discrimination in interstate passenger transportation. It moreover held that bus transportation was sufficiently related to interstate commerce to allow the United States Federal government to regulate it to forbid racial discrimination in the industry. The majority opinion was written by Justice Hugo Black.Excerpted from Boynton v. Virginia on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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Whittaker

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The basic question presented in this case is whether an interstate bus passenger is denied a federal statutory or constitutional right when a restaurant in a bus terminal used by the carrier along its route discriminates in serving food to the passenger solely because of his color.

Petitioner, a Negro law student, bought a Trailways bus ticket from Washington, D.C., to Montgomery, Alabama. He boarded a bus at 8 p. m. which arrived at Richmond, Virginia, about 10:40 p. m. When the bus pulled up at the Richmond "Trailways Bus Terminal" the bus driver announced a forty-minute stopover there. Petitioner got off the bus and went into the bus terminal to get something to eat. In the station he found a restaurant in which one part was used to serve white people and one to serve Negroes. Disregarding this division, petitioner sat down on a stool in the white section. A waitress asked him to move over to the other section where there were "facilities" to serve colored people. Petitioner told her he was an interstate bus passenger, refused to move and ordered a sandwich and tea. The waitress then brought the Assistant Manager, who "instructed" petitioner to "leave the white portion of the restaurant and advised him he could be served in the colored portion." Upon petitioner's refusal to leave an officer was called and petitioner was arrested and later tried, convicted and [364 U.S. 454, 456] fined ten dollars in the Police Justice's Court of Richmond on a charge that he "Unlawfully did remain on the premises of the Bus Terminal Restaurant of Richmond, Inc. after having been forbidden to do so" by the Assistant Manager. (Emphasis supplied.) The charge was based on 18-225 of the Code of Virginia of 1950, as amended (1958), which provides in part:

"If any person shall without authority of law go upon or remain upon the lands or premises of another, after having been forbidden to do so by the owner, lessee, custodian or other person lawfully in charge of such land, . . . he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars or by confinement in jail not exceeding thirty days, or by both such fine and imprisonment." (Emphasis supplied.)

Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Hustings Court of Richmond, where, as in the Police Court, he admitted that he had remained in the white portion of the Terminal Restaurant although ordered not to do so. His defense in both courts was that he had a federal right as an interstate passenger of Trailways to be served without discrimination by this restaurant used by the bus carrier for the accommodation of its interstate passengers. On this basis petitioner claimed he was on the restaurant premises lawfully, not "unlawfully" as charged, and that he remained there with, not "without authority of law." His federal claim to this effect was spelled out in a motion to dismiss the warrant in Hustings Court, which was overruled both before and after the evidence was heard. Pointing out that the restaurant was an integral part of the bus service for interstate passengers such as petitioner, and asserting that refusal to serve him was a discrimination based on color, the motion to dismiss charged [364 U.S. 454, 457] that application of the Virginia law to petitioner violated the Interstate Commerce Act and the Equal Protection, Due Process and Commerce Clauses of the Federal Constitution. On appeal the Virginia Supreme Court held that the conviction was "plainly right" and affirmed without opinion, thereby rejecting petitioner's assignments of error based on the same grounds of discrimination set out in his motion to dismiss in Hustings Court but not specifically charging that the discrimination violated the Interstate Commerce Act. We think, however, that the claims of discrimination previously made under the Act are sufficiently closely related to the assignments that were made to be considered within the scope of the issues presented to the State Supreme Court. We granted certiorari because of the serious federal questions raised concerning discrimination based on color. 361 U.S. 958 .

The petition for certiorari we granted presented only two questions: first, whether the conviction of petitioner is invalid as a burden on commerce in violation of Art. I, 8, cl. 3 of the Constitution; and second, whether the conviction violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Ordinarily we limit our review to the questions presented in an application for certiorari. We think there are persuasive reasons, however, why this case should be decided, if it can, on the Interstate Commerce Act contention raised in the Virginia courts. Discrimination because of color is the core of the two broad constitutional questions presented to us by petitioner, just as it is the core of the Interstate Commerce Act question presented to the Virginia courts. Under these circumstances we think it appropriate not to reach the constitutional questions but to proceed at once to the statutory issue.

The Interstate Commerce Act, as we have said, uses language of the broadest type to bar discriminations of all kinds. United States v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., [364 U.S. 454, 458] 333 U.S. 169, 175 , and cases cited. We have held that the Act forbids railroad dining cars to discriminate in service to passengers on account of their color. Henderson v. United States, 339 U.S. 816 ; see also Mitchell v. United States, 313 U.S. 80, 97 .

Section 216 (d) of Part II of the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 316 (d), which applies to motor carriers, provides in part:

"It shall be unlawful for any common carrier by motor vehicle engaged in interstate or foreign commerce to make, give, or cause any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person . . . in any respect whatsoever; or to subject any particular person . . . to any unjust discrimination or any unjust or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever . . . ."

So far as relevant to our problem, the provisions of 216 (d) quoted are the same as those in 3 (1) of the Act, 49 U.S.C. 3 (1), except that the latter refers to railroads as defined in Part I of the Act instead of motor carriers as defined in Part II. Section 3 (1) was the basis for this Court's holding in Henderson v. United States, supra, that it was an "undue or unreasonable prejudice" under that section for a railroad to divide its dining car by curtains, partitions and signs in order to separate passengers according to race. The Court said that under 3 (1) "[w]here a dining car is available to passengers holding tickets entitling them to use it, each such passenger is equally entitled to its facilities in accordance with reasonable regulations." Id., 339 U.S., at 824 . The Henderson case largely rested on Mitchell v. United States, supra, which pointed out that while the railroads might not be required by law to furnish dining car facilities, yet if they did, substantial equality of treatment of persons traveling [364 U.S. 454, 459] under like conditions could not be refused consistently with 3 (1). It is also of relevance that both cases upset Interstate Commerce Commission holdings, the Court stating in Mitchell that since the "discrimination shown was palpably unjust and forbidden by the Act" no room was left for administrative or expert judgment with reference to practical difficulties. Id., 313 U.S., at 97 .

It follows from the Mitchell and Henderson cases as a matter of course that should buses in transit decide to supply dining service, discrimination of the kind shown here would violate 216 (d). Cf. Williams v. Carolina Coach Co., 111 F. Supp. 329, aff'd, 207 F.2d 408, and Keys v. Carolina Coach Co., 64 M. C. C. 769. Although this Court has not decided whether the same result would follow from a similar discrimination in service by a restaurant in a railroad or bus terminal, we have no doubt that the reasoning underlying the Mitchell and Henderson cases would compel the same decision as to the unlawfulness of discrimination in transportation services against interstate passengers in terminals and terminal restaurants owned or operated or controlled by interstate carriers. This is true as to railroad terminals because they are expressly made carriers by 1 (3) (a) of the Act,[1] 49 U.S.C. 1 (3) (a), and as to bus terminals because 203 (a) (19) of the Act, 49 U.S.C. 303 (a) (19), specifically includes interstate transportation facilities and property operated or controlled by a [364 U.S. 454, 460] motor carrier within the definition of the "services" and "transportation" to which the motor carrier provisions of the Act apply.[2]

Respondent correctly points out, however, that, whatever may be the facts, the evidence in this record does not show that the bus company owns or actively operates or directly controls the bus terminal or the restaurant in it. But the fact that 203 (a) (19) says that the protections of the motor carrier provisions of the Act extend to "include" facilities so operated or controlled by no means should be interpreted to exempt motor carriers from their statutory duty under 216 (d) not to discriminate should they choose to provide their interstate passengers with services that are an integral part of transportation through the use of facilities they neither own, control nor operate. The protections afforded by the Act against discriminatory transportation services are not so narrowly limited. We have held that a railroad cannot escape its statutory duty to treat its shippers alike either by use of facilities it does not own or by contractual arrangement with the owner of those facilities. United States v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., supra. And so here, without regard to contracts, if the bus carrier has volunteered to make terminal and restaurant facilities and services available to its interstate passengers as a regular part of their transportation, and the terminal and restaurant have acquiesced and cooperated in this undertaking, the terminal and restaurant must perform these services without discriminations prohibited by the Act. In the performance of these services [364 U.S. 454, 461] under such conditions the terminal and restaurant stand in the place of the bus company in the performance of its transportation obligations. Cf. Derrington v. Plummer, 240 F.2d 922, 925-926, cert. denied, 353 U.S. 924 . Although the courts below made no findings of fact, we think the evidence in this case shows such a relationship and situation here.

The manager of the restaurant testified that it was not affiliated in any way with the Trailways Bus Company and that the bus company had no control over the operation of the restaurant, but that while the restaurant had "quite a bit of business" from local people, it was primarily or partly for the service of the passengers on the Trailways bus. This last statement was perhaps much of an understatement, as shown by the lease agreement executed in writing and signed both by the "Trailways Bus Terminal, Inc.," as lessor, and the "Bus Terminal Restaurant of Richmond, Inc.," as lessee. The first part of the document showed that Trailways Terminal was then constructing a "bus station" with built-in facilities "for the operation of a restaurant, soda fountain, and news stand." Terminal covenanted to lease this space to Restaurant for its use; to grant Restaurant the exclusive right to sell foods and other things usually sold in restaurants, newsstands, soda fountains and lunch counters; to keep the terminal building in good repair and to furnish certain utilities. Restaurant on its part agreed to use its space for the sale of commodities agreed on at prices that are "just and reasonable"; to sell no commodities not usually sold or installed in a bus terminal concession without Terminal's permission; to discontinue the sale of any commodity objectionable to Terminal; to buy, maintain, and replace equipment subject to Terminal's approval in writing as to its quality; to make alterations and additions only after Terminal's written consent and approval; to make no "sales on buses [364 U.S. 454, 462] operating in and out said bus station" but only "through the windows of said buses"; to keep its employees neat and clean; to perform no terminal service other than that pertaining to the operation of its restaurant as agreed on; and that neither Restaurant nor its employees were to "sell transportation of any kind or give information pertaining to schedules, rates or transportation matters, but shall refer all such inquiries to the proper agents of" Terminal. In short, as Terminal and Restaurant agreed, "the operation of the restaurant and the said stands shall be in keeping with the character of service maintained in an up-to-date, modern bus terminal."

All of these things show that this terminal building, with its grounds, constituted one project for a single purpose, and that was to serve passengers of one or more bus companies - certainly Trailways' passengers. The restaurant area was specifically designed and built into the structure from the beginning to fill the needs of bus passengers in this "up-to-date, modern bus terminal." Whoever may have had technical title or immediate control of the details of the various activities in the terminal, such as waiting-room seating, furnishing of schedule information, ticket sales, and restaurant service, they were all geared to the service of bus companies and their passengers, even though local people who might happen to come into the terminal or its restaurant might also be accommodated. Thus we have a well-coordinated and smoothly functioning plan for continuous cooperative transportation services between the terminal, the restaurant and buses like Trailways that made stopovers there. All of this evidence plus Trailways' use on this occasion shows that Trailways was not utilizing the terminal and restaurant services merely on a sporadic or occasional basis. This bus terminal plainly was just as essential and necessary, and as available for that matter, to passengers and carriers like Trailways that used it, as though such carriers [364 U.S. 454, 463] had legal title and complete control over all of its activities.[3] Interstate passengers have to eat, and the very terms of the lease of the built-in restaurant space in this terminal constitute a recognition of the essential need of interstate passengers to be able to get food conveniently on their journey and an undertaking by the restaurant to fulfill that need. Such passengers in transit on a paid interstate Trailways journey had a right to expect that this essential[4] transportation food service voluntarily provided for them under such circumstances would be rendered without discrimination prohibited by the Interstate Commerce Act. Under the circumstances of this case, therefore, petitioner had a federal right to remain in the white portion of the restaurant. He was there under "authority of law" - the Interstate Commerce Act - and it was error for the Supreme Court of Virginia to affirm his conviction.

Because of some of the arguments made here it is necessary to say a word about what we are not deciding. We are not holding that every time a bus stops at a wholly independent roadside restaurant the Interstate Commerce Act requires that restaurant service be supplied in harmony with the provisions of that Act. We decide only this case, on its facts, where circumstances show that the terminal and restaurant operate as an integral part of the [364 U.S. 454, 464] bus carrier's transportation service for interstate passengers. Under such circumstances, an interstate passenger need not inquire into documents of title or contractual arrangements in order to determine whether he has a right to be served without discrimination.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Virginia is reversed and the cause is remanded to that Court for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded.

Footnotes[edit]

1^ See National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. St. Louis-S. F. R. Co., 297 I. C. C. 335, 347-348, in which the Interstate Commerce Commission held that a railroad terminal discriminates in violation of 3 (1) if it maintains waiting rooms for the exclusive use of Negroes. The Commission regarded assignment to accommodations or facilities in a railroad terminal solely on the basis of race as an implication of inherent inferiority and found it to be unreasonable.

2^ "The `services' and `transportation' to which this chapter applies include all vehicles operated by, for, or in the interest of any motor carrier irrespective of ownership or of contract, express or implied, together with all facilities and property operated or controlled by any such carrier or carriers, and used in the transportation of passengers or property in interstate or foreign commerce or in the performance of any service in connection therewith."

3^ Cf. Atchison, Topeka & S. F. R. Co., 135 I. C. C. 633, 634-635, in which the Commission held that railroad-owned hotels and restaurants used for railroad passengers and employees, and as an incident to the operation and management of the railroad, should be accorded a common-carrier classification.

4^ Because the evidence shows that this terminal restaurant was utilized as an integral part of the transportation of interstate passengers, we need not decide whether discrimination on the basis of color by a bus terminal lessee restaurant would violate 216 (d) in the absence of such circumstances. Cf. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. St. Louis-S. F. R. Co., supra, at 343-344.