Writ of Certiorari Denied April 1, 1957. See 77 S.Ct. 680.
RIVES, Circuit Judge.
The district court, upon a thoughtfully considered memorandum opinion,
and further enjoined the lessee Derrington,
From that decree both Harris County and its lessee Derrington appeal.
The facts are mostly stipulated and entirely undisputed. A new courthouse for Harris County was completed in the summer of 1953. A part of the basement was planned for operation as a restaurant or cafeteria and was furnished and
The County leased to Derrington for a term beginning June 10, 1953 and ending December 31, 1954,
The rental was admittedly adequate, 20% of the gross sales of the cafeteria or not less than $750.00 per month. The County agreed to provide water service, lighting, heating and air conditioning of the premises, and such water and electricity as is reasonably necessary to the conduct of the cafeteria business by Derrington. On his part, Derrington agreed to "operate a first class cafeteria", to "keep this cafeteria open at all such times as the Court House is open," to "abide by all Federal or State regulations as to policy, limitations on meals, food stuffs, drinks, etc., sold in this restaurant," and not to
Employees of Harris County were to be given a 10% reduction in the price of foods and drinks "through the use of coupons or meal tickets or other means as may be determined by the Commissioners Court of Harris County."
The district court found and we agree that the original lease agreement "was in all respects a bona fide and arms length transaction, and entered into in compliance with all requirements of law."
On the trial, the County's attorney stated,
It was in fact stipulated that before the execution of the renewal lease covering the term from January 1, 1955 through December 31, 1956.
The same paragraph XIV is contained in the second lease.
There are numerous cafes and eating places for white people and for negroes within a five block radius of the courthouse.
During the original period of the lease, appellees undertook to purchase food in the cafeteria and Derrington refused
The acts of racial discrimination, both those committed and those immediately in prospect, are the acts of Derrington, the lessee. Derrington's second lease expiring December 31, 1956, before our mandate can become effective, it might be, though it is not, contended that the case would thereby become moot. If Derrington does not have an option to renew his lease (see footnote 3, supra), it may be renewed by mutual agreement, or the County may lease to another who will practice like discrimination. Even if there had been a voluntary cessation of the alleged illegal conduct, the public interest in having the legality of the practice settled militates against a mootness conclusion in the absence of an affirmative showing that there is no reasonable expectation that the alleged wrong will be repeated. United States v. W. T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 632, 633, 73 S.Ct. 894, 97 L.Ed. 1303. See also United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Ass'n, 166 U.S. 290, 17 S.Ct. 540, 41 L. Ed. 1007; United States v. U. S. Steel Corp., 251 U.S. 417, 40 S.Ct. 293, 64 L. Ed. 343; Federal Trade Comm. v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 304 U.S. 257, 58 S.Ct. 863, 82 L.Ed. 1326; Walling v. Helmerich & Payne, 323 U.S. 37, 65 S.Ct. 11, 89 L.Ed. 29; United States v. Oregon State Medical Soc., 343 U.S. 326, 72 S.Ct. 690, 96 L.Ed. 978.
On the merits the decisive question is whether the action of the lessee, Derrington, is merely private conduct or may fairly be said to be conduct of the County and thus State action within the inhibition of the Fourteenth Amendment. In re Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S.Ct. 18, 27 L.Ed. 835; Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 68 S.Ct. 836, 92 L.Ed. 1161.
No doubt a county may in good faith lawfully sell and dispose of its surplus property, and its subsequent use by the grantee would not be state action. Likewise, we think that, when there is no purpose of discrimination, no joinder in the enterprise, or reservation of control by the county, it may lease for private purposes property not used nor needed for county purposes, and the lessee's conduct in operating the leasehold would be merely that of a private person. Those principles do not, however, control the decision of this case for several reasons.
Assuming no purpose of discrimination on the part of the County in the renewal of the lease, and further assuming no express reservation of control by the terms of the lease to prevent discrimination, neither of which assumptions is beyond question, and pretermitting the legal effect of the County's furnishing water, electricity, heating and air conditioning services to its lessee, the basement of the courthouse can by no means be termed surplus property not used nor needed for County purposes. To the contrary, the courthouse had just been completed, built with public funds for the use of the citizens generally, and this part of the basement had been planned, equipped and furnished by the County for use as a cafeteria. Without more justification than is shown in this case, no court could countenance the diversion of such property to a purely private use.
Further, the express purpose of the lease was to furnish cafeteria service for the benefit of persons having occasion to be in the County Courthouse. If
The judgment is therefore
Absent the stipulation, it is not clear to us that this is an option to renew the lease.