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Muhammad Ali v. State Athletic Commission

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
316 F.Supp. 1246 (1970)


Between 1961 and 1967, Muhammad Ali, (plaintiff), also known as Cassius Clay, was the World Heavyweight Champion in boxing. In April 1967, the New York State Athletic Commission (Commission) (defendant) suspended Ali’s license to box in New York because of his refusal to join the U.S. Army. In June of that year, Ali was convicted in U.S. District Court of the federal felony of refusing to submit to induction into the Armed Forces, and was sentenced to five years in prison. Ali’s conviction was affirmed and the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the district court for a determination of whether the conviction was marred by evidence obtained illegally. In September 1976, Ali’s New York boxing license automatically expired pursuant to state law which provided that all such licenses are good for only one year. Thereafter, Ali applied to renew his license. The Commission refused, citing Ali’s federal criminal conviction as the rational for the rejection. However, Dooley, the Chairman of the Commission (defendant) advised Ali in a letter that should his conviction be overturned, Ali could reapply for a license. After the district court reaffirmed Ali’s conviction, Ali brought suit against the Commission claiming that his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated, giving rise to a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The court dismissed Ali’s complaint except for Ali’s broad Equal Protection violation claim. The court granted Ali leave to amend his complaint to specifically assert a violation of his equal protection rights. Ali sought a declaratory judgment and injunction restraining the Commission from denying him a license to box in New York.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Mansfield, J.)

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