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Palmer v. Thompson

Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217 (1971), is a United States Supreme Court civil rights case which concerned the interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[1]

Palmer v. Thompson
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued December 14, 1970
Decided June 14, 1971
Full case nameHazel Palmer et al. v. Allen C. Thompson, Mayor, City of Jackson, et al.
Citations403 U.S. 217 (more)
91 S. Ct. 1940; 29 L. Ed. 2d 438; 1971 U.S. LEXIS 27
Case history
Prior391 F.2d 324 (5th Cir. 1967); affirmed on rehearing en banc, 419 F.2d 1222 (5th Cir. 1969); cert. granted, 397 U.S. 1035 (1970).
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
John M. Harlan II · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Case opinions
MajorityBlack, joined by Burger, Harlan, Stewart, Blackmun
ConcurrenceBurger, Blackmun
DissentWhite, joined by Brennan and Marshall
DissentMarshall, joined by Brennan and White
Laws applied
U.S. const. amend. XIV, U.S. const. amend. XIII


The city of Jackson, Mississippi, closed all of its public swimming pools, as opposed to integrating them. Originally there were five public pools, but the city closed four of them, and surrendered its lease to the fifth pool to the lessor, the YMCA, which continued to operate the pool privately and on a segregated basis. Hazel Palmer, mother of a freedom rider who was arrested at the bus station, and other black citizens filed suit against the city under the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection and under the Thirteenth Amendment, on the grounds that the city's actions created a "badge or incident" of slavery. The lower courts found no constitutional violation.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the case was argued by Paul A. Rosen and William Kunstler for the petitioners. With them on the briefs were Ernest Goodman and Arthur Kinoy. The case was argued for the respondents by William F. Goodman, Jr.[1]


The Supreme Court held in its syllabus, "The closing of the pools to all persons did not constitute a denial of equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Negroes." The court stated "there was no evidence that the city conspired with the YMCA that its pool be segregated." The court further rejected the equal protection argument that the city's action "was motivated by a desire to avoid integration of the races" because "no case in this Court has held that a legislative act may violate equal protection solely because of the motivations of the men who voted for it."[2]



  1. ^ a b Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217 (1971).   This article incorporates public domain material from this U.S government document.
  2. ^ Palmer, 403 U.S. at 224.
  3. ^ Silverstein, Jason. "Justice Department cites pro-segregation Supreme Court ruling to defend Trump's travel bans". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 28, 2017.

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