The city of Jackson,
Mississippi owned 5 swimming pools in public parks. They were racially segregated.
A group of citizens sued,
claiming that segregation was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal
Protection Clause of the 14th
The Trial Court found that it
was not constitutional permissible for Jackson to operate segregated pools.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
In response, Jackson simply
closed four of their pools and sold the fifth to a private owner who
continued to operate it for whites only.
Jackson argued that there
was no way they could run desegregated pools in a safe and economical
The citizens sued again, this
time to have the pools reopened on a desegregated basis.
The citizens argued that
since the pools had been closed to avoid desegregation there was a denial
of equal protection.
The Trial Court found there
was no denial of equal protection
by closing the pools.
Since the pools were totally
closed for everyone, everybody was being treated equally.
The Appellate Court affirmed
The US Supreme Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court found
that even if there was a discriminatory purpose to Jackson's actions, in order to be a
violation of the Equal Protection Clause, there must also be a discriminatory effect.
There is no affirmative
duty under the 14th Amendment to provide services, or continue to maintain swimming pools.
So long as everyone suffers
the same effect, equal protection
is satisfied, regardless of the motivation.
The Court found that there
was no evidence that Jackson conspired with the private pool owner to
In a dissent it was argued that
closing public services has a disproportional impact on the poor (who
don't have their own pools). In addition, Jackson's actions send the
message that protests and lawsuits come with a high price, thereby
stifling free speech.
The basic rule illustrated by
this case is that in order for a facially-neutral law to be a violation of
the Equal Protection Clause, racial
discrimination by the State must contain two elements:
A racially disproportionate
Discriminatory motivation on
the part of the state actor.