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Spallone v. United States

493 U.S. 265 (1990)

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Spallone v. United States

United States Supreme Court

493 U.S. 265 (1990)

Facts

The city of Yonkers (the City) intentionally engaged in housing discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 by segregating low-income housing projects into areas populated by minorities. The district court ordered the City to implement remedial measures including a long-term plan to desegregate subsidized housing throughout the City. The City appealed and did not comply with the remedial measures. The court of appeals affirmed, and the City, which acted through its city council members, including Henry Spallone (collectively, the council members) (defendants), voted on and approved a framework to implement the district court’s remedial measures. The framework included passing a legislative package to begin building new desegregated subsidized housing. The City, however, continued to delay implementing the long-term measures, so the district court entered an order requiring the City to pass the legislative package or be held in contempt of court. The City’s council members voted on and rejected the legislative package. Even though the council members were not a party to the initial lawsuit against the City, the district court held the City and its council members in contempt of court. The council members argued that the contempt orders violated the right to free speech under the First Amendment. The court of appeals affirmed the contempt orders, and the council members appealed. The Supreme Court stayed the contempt fines against the council members until the case could be heard, but it did not stay the fines against the City. When the fines totaled more than $1 million per day, the fines threatened to bankrupt the City, and the City passed the legislative package.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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