MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.
In this action for declaratory and injunctive relief it is admitted that the Eagle Coffee Shoppe, Inc., a restaurant located within an off-street automobile parking building in Wilmington, Delaware, has refused to serve appellant food or drink solely because he is a Negro. The parking building is owned and operated by the Wilmington Parking Authority, an agency of the State of Delaware, and the restaurant is the Authority's lessee. Appellant claims that such refusal abridges his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court of Delaware has held that Eagle was acting in "a purely private capacity" under its lease; that its action was not that of the Authority and was not, therefore, state action within the contemplation of the prohibitions contained in that Amendment. It also held that under 24 Del. Code,
The Authority was created by the City of Wilmington pursuant to 22 Del. Code, §§ 501-515. It is "a public body corporate and politic, exercising public powers of the State as an agency thereof." § 504. Its statutory purpose is to provide adequate parking facilities for the convenience of the public and thereby relieve the "parking crisis, which threatens the welfare of the community. . . ." § 501 (7), (8) and (9). To this end the
The first project undertaken by the Authority was the erection of a parking facility on Ninth Street in downtown Wilmington. The tract consisted of four parcels, all of which were acquired by negotiated purchases from private owners. Three were paid for in cash, borrowed from Equitable Security Trust Company, and the fourth, purchased from Diamond Ice and Coal Company, was paid for "partly in Revenue Bonds of the Authority and partly in cash [$934,000] donated by the City of Wilmington, pursuant to 22 Del. C. c. 5 . . . . Subsequently, the City of Wilmington gave the Authority $1,822,827.69 which sum the Authority applied to the redemption of the Revenue Bonds delivered to Diamond Ice & Coal Co. and to the repayment of the Equitable Security Trust Company loan."
In April 1957 such a private lease, for 20 years and renewable for another 10 years, was made with Eagle Coffee Shoppe, Inc., for use as a "restaurant, dining room, banquet hall, cocktail lounge and bar and for no other use and purpose." The multi-level space of the building which was let to Eagle, although "within the exterior walls of the structure, has no marked public entrance leading from the parking portion of the facility into the restaurant proper . . . [whose main entrance] is located on Ninth Street." ___ Del., at ___, 157 A. 2d, at 899. In its lease the Authority covenanted to complete construction expeditiously, including completion of "the decorative finishing of the leased premises and utilities therefor, without cost to Lessee," including necessary utility connections, toilets, hung acoustical tile and plaster ceilings; vinyl asbestos, ceramic tile and concrete floors; connecting stairs and wrought iron railings; and woodfloored show windows. Eagle spent some $220,000 to make the space suitable for its operation and, to the extent such improvements were so attached to realty as to become part thereof, Eagle to the same extent enjoys the Authority's tax exemption.
Other portions of the structure were leased to other tenants, including a bookstore, a retail jeweler, and a food store. Upon completion of the building, the Authority located at appropriate places thereon official signs indicating the public character of the building, and flew from mastheads on the roof both the state and national flags.
In August 1958 appellant parked his car in the building and walked around to enter the restaurant by its front door on Ninth Street. Having entered and sought service, he was refused it. Thereafter he filed this declaratory judgment action in the Court of Chancery. On motions for summary judgment, based on the pleadings and affidavits, the Chancellor concluded, contrary to the contentions of respondents, that whether in fact the lease was a "device" or was executed in good faith, it would not "serve to insulate the public authority from the force and effect of the Fourteenth Amendment." 150 A.2d 197, 198. He found it not necessary, therefore, to pass upon
On the jurisdictional question, we agree that the judgment of Delaware's court does not depend for its ultimate support upon a determination of the constitutional validity of a state statute, but rather upon the holding that on the facts Eagle's racially discriminatory action was exercised in "a purely private capacity" and that it was, therefore, beyond the prohibitive scope of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), "embedded in our constitutional law" the principle "that the action inhibited by the first section [Equal Protection Clause] of the Fourteenth Amendment is only such action as may fairly be said to be that of the States. That Amendment erects no shield against merely private conduct, however discriminatory or wrongful." Chief Justice Vinson in Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 13 (1948). It was language in the opinion in the Civil Rights Cases, supra, that phrased the broad test of state responsibility under the Fourteenth Amendment, predicting its consequence upon "State action of every kind . . . which denies . . .
The trial court's disposal of the issues on summary judgment has resulted in a rather incomplete record, but the opinion of the Supreme Court as well as that of the Chancellor presents the facts in sufficient detail for us to determine the degree of state participation in Eagle's refusal to serve petitioner. In this connection the Delaware Supreme Court seems to have placed controlling emphasis on its conclusion, as to the accuracy of which there is doubt, that only some 15% of the total cost of the facility was "advanced" from public funds; that
The land and building were publicly owned. As an entity, the building was dedicated to "public uses" in performance of the Authority's "essential governmental functions." 22 Del. Code, §§ 501, 514. The costs of land acquisition, construction, and maintenance are defrayed entirely from donations by the City of Wilmington, from loans and revenue bonds and from the proceeds of rentals and parking services out of which the loans and bonds were payable. Assuming that the distinction would be significant, cf. Derrington v. Plummer, 240 F.2d 922, 925, the commercially leased areas were not surplus state property, but constituted a physically and financially integral and, indeed, indispensable part of the State's
Addition of all these activities, obligations and responsibilities of the Authority, the benefits mutually conferred, together with the obvious fact that the restaurant is operated as an integral part of a public building devoted to a public parking service, indicates that degree of state participation and involvement in discriminatory action which it was the design of the Fourteenth Amendment to condemn. It is irony amounting to grave injustice that in one part of a single building, erected and maintained with public funds by an agency of the State to serve a public purpose, all persons have equal rights, while in another portion, also serving the public, a Negro is a second-class citizen, offensive because of his race, without rights and unentitled to service, but at the same time fully enjoys equal access to nearby restaurants in wholly
Because readily applicable formulae may not be fashioned, the conclusions drawn from the facts and circumstances of this record are by no means declared as universal truths on the basis of which every state leasing agreement is to be tested. Owing to the very "largeness"
The judgment of the Supreme Court of Delaware is reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, concurring.
I agree that the judgment must be reversed, but I reach that conclusion by a route much more direct than the one traveled by the Court. In upholding Eagle's right to deny service to the appellant solely because of his race, the Supreme Court of Delaware relied upon a statute of that State which permits the proprietor of a restaurant to refuse to serve "persons whose reception or entertainment by him would be offensive to the major part of his customers . . . ."
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, dissenting.
According to my brother STEWART, the Supreme Court of Delaware has held that one of its statutes, 24 Del. Code, § 1501, sanctions a restaurateur denying service to a person solely because of his color. If my brother is correct in so reading the decision of the Delaware Supreme Court, his conclusion inevitably follows. For a State to place its authority behind discriminatory treatment based solely on color is indubitably a denial by a State of the equal protection of the laws, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. My brother HARLAN also would find the claim of invalidity of the statute decisive if he could read the state court's construction of it as our brother STEWART reads it. But for him the state court's view of its statute is so ambiguous that he deems it necessary to secure a clarification from the state court of how in fact it did construe the statute.
I certainly do not find the clarity that my brother STEWART finds in the views expressed by the Supreme Court of Delaware regarding 24 Del. Code, § 1501. If I were forced to construe that court's construction, I should find the balance of considerations leading to the opposite conclusion from his, namely, that it was merely declaratory of the common law and did not give state sanction to refusing service to a person merely because he is colored. The Court takes no position regarding the statutory meaning which divides my brothers HARLAN and STEWART. Clearly it does not take MR. JUSTICE STEWART'S view of what the Supreme Court of Delaware decided.
Since the pronouncement of the Supreme Court of Delaware thus lends itself to three views, none of which is patently irrational, why is not my brother HARLAN'S suggestion for solving this conflict the most appropriate solution? Were we to be duly advised by the Supreme Court of Delaware that MR. JUSTICE STEWART is correct in his reading of what it said, there would be an easy end to our problem. There would be no need for resolving the problems in state-federal relations with which the Court's opinion deals. If, on the other hand, the Delaware court did not mean to give such an invalidating construction to its statute, we would be confronted with the problems which the Court now entertains for decision, unembarrassed by disregard of a simpler issue. This would involve some delay in adjudication. But the time would be well spent, because the Court would not be deciding serious questions of constitutional law any earlier than due regard for the appropriate process of constitutional adjudication requires.
Accordingly, I join in MR. JUSTICE HARLAN'S proposed disposition of the case without intimating any view regarding the question, prematurely considered by the Court, as to what constitutes state action.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, whom MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER joins, dissenting.
The Court's opinion, by a process of first undiscriminatingly throwing together various factual bits and pieces and then undermining the resulting structure by an equally vague disclaimer, seems to me to leave completely at sea just what it is in this record that satisfies the requirement of "state action."
If in the context of this record this means, as my Brother STEWART suggests, that the Delaware court construed this state statute "as authorizing discriminatory classification based exclusively on color," I would certainly agree, without more, that the enactment is offensive to the Fourteenth Amendment. It would then be quite
I think that sound principles of constitutional adjudication dictate that we should first ascertain the exact basis of this state judgment, and for that purpose I would either remand the case to the Delaware Supreme Court, see Musser v. Utah, 333 U.S. 95; cf. Harrison v. N. A. A. C. P., 360 U.S. 167, or hold the case pending application to the state court for clarification. See Herb v. Pitcairn, 324 U.S. 117. It seems to me both unnecessary and unwise to reach issues of such broad constitutional significance as those now decided by the Court, before the necessity for deciding them has become apparent.
"No keeper of an inn, tavern, hotel, or restaurant, or other place of public entertainment or refreshment of travelers, guests, or customers shall be obliged, by law, to furnish entertainment or refreshment to persons whose reception or entertainment by him would be offensive to the major part of his customers, and would injure his business."