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Turner v. City of Memphis

369 U.S. 350 (1962)

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Turner v. City of Memphis

United States Supreme Court

369 U.S. 350 (1962)

Facts

Jesse Turner (plaintiff), a Black man, was denied service in the racially segregated main dining room of the restaurant in the Memphis Municipal Airport. The restaurant was privately operated by Dobbs Houses, Inc. (defendant) under a lease from the City of Memphis (defendant). Pursuant to its statutory authority, the Tennessee Division of Hotel and Restaurant Inspection had issued a regulation requiring restaurants to arrange patrons in a racially segregated manner. Violation of the regulation was a misdemeanor. Turner filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim in district court seeking an injunction on behalf of himself and others similarly situated. Turner’s claim rested jurisdiction on 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3), and he argued the restaurant and city had acted under color of state law. In its answer, Dobbs House said its lease would be forfeited if it desegregated the restaurant. The city stated that the regulation bound it to object to desegregation as a violation of Tennessee law and of the lease. The district court declined to decide the case, directing Turner to instead file in state court to have it first interpret the segregation-related state statutes. Turner appealed to both the United States Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit and to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court treated Turner’s jurisdictional statement as a petition for writ of certiorari prior to the Sixth Circuit issuing a ruling. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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