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Evans v. Newton

A Public Or A Private Facility?

William O. Douglas, writing for the majority, identified two conflicting principles operating in this case: the right of the individual to select the people with whom he or she wishes to associate; and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits state preferences for any particular class of person. In the Court's view, the Fourteenth Amendment took precedence in this case, and, by a 5-3 margin, the decision of the Georgia Supreme Court was reversed and the park was ordered to open to the public on a desegregated basis.

In reaching its decision, the Court had to determine the exact status of the park. The park had operated for years as a segregated public facility, for somewhat less time as a desegregated public facility, and for a brief time in the very recent past as a segregated private facility. As the Court noted, "conduct that is formally `private' may become so entwined with governmental policies or so impregnated with a governmental character as to become subject to the constitutional limitations placed upon state action." The park was judged to fall into this category, given its years of public operation, during which time it was maintained and policed by state authorities. In the Court's view, participation by agents of the state would always be integral to the park's operation, given maintenance of roads and sidewalks leading to the park, for instance, and the use of public utilities such as light and water in the park's operation. As such, regardless of its ownership status, the park qualified as a public facility, and had to adhere to constitutional standards in its admittance policies.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Evans v. Newton - Significance, A Bequest To The Public, A Public Or A Private Facility?, Impact, De Facto Segregation