MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioners were convicted of criminal trespass for refusing to leave a privately owned and operated amusement park in the State of Maryland at the command of an employee of the amusement park acting under color of his authority as a deputy sheriff. For the reasons set forth hereinafter we hold that these convictions are violative of the Fourteenth Amendment and must be set aside.
The Glen Echo Amusement Park is located in Montgomery County, Maryland, near Washington, D. C. Though the park through its advertisements sought the patronage of the general public, it was (until recently) the park's policy to exclude Negroes who wished to patronize its facilities. No signs at the park apprised persons of this policy or otherwise indicated that all comers were not welcome. No tickets of admission were required. In protest against the park's policy of segregation
At that time the park employed one Collins as a special policeman by arrangement with the National Detective Agency. Although Collins was formally retained and paid by the agency and wore its uniform, he was subject to the control and direction of the park management. Apparently at the request of the park, Collins had been deputized as a sheriff of Montgomery County.
When Collins saw the petitioners sitting on the carousel waiting for the ride to begin, he reported their presence to the park manager. The manager told Collins that petitioners were to be arrested for trespassing if they would not leave the park. Collins then went up to the petitioners and told them that it was the park's policy "not to have colored people on the rides, or in the park." He ordered petitioners to leave within five minutes. They declined to do so, pointing out that they had tickets for the carousel. There was no evidence that any of the
Md. Ann. Code, 1957 (Cum. Supp. 1961), Art. 27, § 577, is a criminal trespass statute.
Petitioners were tried and convicted of criminal trespass in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County. Each was sentenced to pay a fine of $100. The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions. 225 Md. 422, 171 A.2d 717. That court, rejecting the petitioners' constitutional claims, reasoned as follows:
We granted certiorari, 370 U.S. 935, and set the case for reargument. 373 U.S. 920.
Collins—in ordering the petitioners to leave the park and in arresting and instituting prosecutions against them—purported to exercise the authority of a deputy sheriff. He wore a sheriff's badge and consistently identified himself as a deputy sheriff rather than as an employee of the park. Though an amended warrant was filed stating that petitioners had committed an offense because they entered the park after an "agent" of the park told them not to do so, this change has little, if any, bearing on the character of the authority which Collins initially purported to exercise. If an individual is possessed of state authority and purports to act under that authority, his action is state action. It is irrelevant that he might have taken the same action had he acted in a purely private capacity or that the particular action which he took was not authorized by state law. See, e. g., Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91. Thus, it is clear that Collins' action was state action. See Williams v. United States, 341 U.S. 97; see also Labor Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 331 U.S. 416, 429. The only question remaining in this case is whether Collins' action denied petitioners the equal protection of the laws secured to them by the Fourteenth Amendment. If it did, these convictions are invalid.
It cannot be disputed that if the State of Maryland had operated the amusement park on behalf of the owner thereof, and had enforced the owner's policy of racial segregation
The Board of Trusts case must be taken to establish that to the extent that the State undertakes an obligation to enforce a private policy of racial segregation, the State is charged with racial discrimination and violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
It is argued that the State may nevertheless constitutionally enforce an owner's desire to exclude particular persons from his premises even if the owner's desire is in turn motivated by a discriminatory purpose. The State, it is said, is not really enforcing a policy of segregation since the owner's ultimate purpose is immaterial to the State. In this case it cannot be said that Collins was simply enforcing the park management's desire to exclude designated individuals from the premises. The president
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS would reverse for the reasons stated in his opinion in Bell v. Maryland, post, p. 242.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion with the understanding that it merely holds, under the peculiar facts here, that the State "must be recognized as a joint participant in the challenged activity." See Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715, 725 (1961). Deputy Sheriff Collins, an agent of the State, was regularly employed by Glen Echo in the enforcement of its segregation policy. I cannot, therefore, say, as does my Brother HARLAN, that the situation "is no different from what it would have been had the arrests been made by a regular policeman dispatched from police headquarters." Here Collins, the deputy sheriff, ordered petitioners to leave the park before any charges were filed. Upon refusal, Collins, the deputy sheriff, made the arrest and then took petitioners to the police station where he filed the charges and secured the warrant. If
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK and MR. JUSTICE WHITE join, dissenting.
The pivotal issue in this case is whether petitioners' exclusion from Glen Echo, a private amusement park, was the product of state action. I accept the premise that in arresting these petitioners Collins was exercising his authority as deputy sheriff rather than his right as an individual under Maryland law, see 225 Md., at 431, 171 A. 2d, at 721, to arrest them for a misdemeanor being committed in his presence. It seems clear to me, however, that the involvement of the State is no different from what it would have been had the arrests been made by a regular policeman dispatched from police headquarters.
I believe, therefore, that this case is controlled by the principles discussed in MR. JUSTICE BLACK'S opinion in Bell v. Maryland, post, p. 318, decided today, and accordingly would affirm the judgment below.
"Any person . . . who shall enter upon or cross over the land, premises or private property of any person . . . after having been duly notified by the owner or his agent not to do so shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor . . . provided . . . [however] that nothing in this section shall be construed to include within its provisions the entry upon or crossing over any land when such entry or crossing is done under a bona fide claim of right or ownership of said land, it being the intention of this section only to prohibit any wanton trespass upon the private land of others."