Hamm v. City of Rock Hill/Concurrence Douglas

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Linked case(s):
236 Ark. 596
379 U.S. 306

Mr. Justice Douglas, whom Mr. Justice Goldberg joins, concurring.

Some of my Brethren raise constitutional doubts about the power of Congress to nullify the convictions of sit-in demonstrators for violation of state trespass laws prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. My Brother Harlan observes that it is difficult to see, in the absence of any evidence in the legislative record of the Act, how "giving effect to past state trespass convictions would result in placing any burden on present interstate commerce," post, p. 325. I merely note here that, in joining the opinion of the Court, I am faced with no such difficulty. That is because, as my Brother Goldberg and I said in our respective concurring opinions in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, ante, pp. 241, 279, Congress has, in passing this Act, not merely sought to remove burdens from interstate commerce; it has also sought to protect and enforce the Fourteenth Amendment right to be free of discriminatory treatment, based on race, in places of public accommodation. It is certainly not difficult to see how Congress could appropriately conclude that all state interference with the exercise of this right should come to a halt on the passage of the Act, that the States should not be permitted to insist on punishing one whose only "crime" was assertion of a consti- [p318] tutional right, albeit prior to the enactment of the present legislation, and that this Court should not put its imprimatur on such state prosecutions, whenever they arose.