Hamm v. City of Rock Hill

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United States Supreme Court

379 U.S. 306

Hamm  v.  City of Rock Hill

Certiorari to the Supreme Court of South Carolina

No. 2.  Argued: October 12, 1964. --- Decided: December 14, 1964.[1]

Court Documents
Concurring Opinion
Dissenting Opinions
Linked case(s):

236 Ark. 596
379 U.S. 306

The petitioners, who are Negroes, were convicted for violations of state trespass statutes for participating in "sit-ins" at lunch counters of retail stores. It was conceded that the lunch-counter operations would probably come within the coverage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed subsequent to the convictions and the affirmances thereof in the state courts. Held:

1. The Act creates federal statutory rights which under the Supremacy Clause must prevail over any conflicting state laws. Pp. 310–312.

2. These convictions, being on direct review at the time the Act made the conduct no longer unlawful, must abate. Pp. 312–317.

(a) Had these been federal convictions they would have abated, Congress presumably having intended to avoid punishment no longer furthering a legislative purpose, and the general federal saving statute being inapplicable to a statute like this which substitutes a right for what was previously criminal. Pp. 312–314.

(b) Though these were state convictions their abatement is likewise required not only under the Supremacy Clause and because the pending convictions are contrary to the legislative purpose of the Act but also because abatement is a necessary part of every statute which repeals criminal legislation. Pp. 314–317.

241 S.C. 420, 128 S.E.2d 907; 236 Ark. 596, 367 S.W.2d 750, judgments vacated and charges ordered dismissed.

Jack Greenberg argued the cause for petitioner in No. 2. Constance Baker Motley argued the cause for petitioners in No. 5. With them on the brief were James M. Nabrit III, Charles L. Black, Jr., Matthew J. Perry, Lincoln C. Jenkins, Donald James Sampson, Willie T. Smith, Jr., Harold B. Anderson, Wiley A. Branton, William T. Coleman, Jr., and Marvin E. Frankel

[p307] Daniel R. McLeod, Attorney General of South Carolina, argued the cause for respondent in No. 2. With him on the brief was Everett N. Brandon, Assistant Attorney General of South Carolina.

Jack L. Lessenberry, Chief Assistant Attorney General of Arkansas, argued the cause for respondent in No. 5. With him on the brief was Bruce Bennett, Attorney General of Arkansas.

Mr. Justice Clark delivered the opinion of the Court.


  1. Together with No. 5, Lupper et al. v. Arkansas, on certiorari to the Supreme Court 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).