Cooper v. Aaron

Last updated
Cooper v. Aaron
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued September 11, 1958
Decided September 12, 1958
Full case nameWilliam G. Cooper, et al., Members of the Board of Directors of the Little Rock, Arkansas, Independent School District, and Virgial T. Blossom, Superintendent of Schools v. John Aaron, et al.
Citations358 U.S. 1 ( more )
78 S. Ct. 1401; 3 L. Ed. 2d 5; 1958 U.S. LEXIS 657; 79 Ohio L. Abs. 452
Case history
PriorSuspension of order granted, 163 F. Supp. 13 (E.D. Ark 1958); reversed, 257 F.2d 33 (8th Cir. 1958); cert. granted, 358 U.S. 29(1958).
SubsequentOpinion announced September 29, 1958
Holding
This Court cannot countenance a claim by the Governor and Legislature of a State that there is no duty on state officials to obey federal court orders resting on this Court's considered interpretation of the United States Constitution in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black  · Felix Frankfurter
William O. Douglas  · Harold H. Burton
Tom C. Clark  · John M. Harlan II
William J. Brennan Jr.  · Charles E. Whittaker
Case opinions
Per curiam
ConcurrenceFrankfurter
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV; Supremacy Clause

Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958), was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, which denied the Arkansas School Board the right to delay desegregation for 30 months. [1] On September 12, 1958 the Warren Court handed down a per curiam decision which held that the states are bound by the Court's decisions and must enforce them even if the states disagree with them, which asserted judicial supremacy established in Marbury v. Madison. [2] The decision in this case upheld the rulings in Brown v. Board of Education and Brown II which held that the doctrine of separate but equal is unconstitutional. [3]

Supreme Court of the United States Highest court in the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a narrow range of cases, including suits between two or more states and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions. Each year it agrees to hear about one hundred to one hundred fifty of the more than seven thousand cases that it is asked to review.

Warren Court the Supreme Court of the United States between 1953 and 1969

The Warren Court was the period in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States during which Earl Warren served as Chief Justice. Warren replaced the deceased Fred M. Vinson as Chief Justice in 1953, and Warren remained in office until he retired in 1969. Warren was succeeded as Chief Justice by Warren Burger.

In law, a per curiam decision is a ruling issued by an appellate court of multiple judges in which the decision rendered is made by the court acting collectively. In contrast to regular opinions, a per curiam does not list the individual judge responsible for authoring the decision, but minority dissenting and concurring decisions are signed.

Contents

Background of the case

In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the school district of Little Rock, Arkansas formulated a plan to desegregate its schools. Meanwhile, other school districts in the state opposed the Supreme Court's rulings and did not make any attempts to desegregate their schools. The Arkansas state legislature amended the state constitution to oppose desegregation and then passed a law relieving children from mandatory attendance at integrated schools. [4] During this time the school board of Little Rock still continued with desegregation. [5]

<i>Brown v. Board of Education</i> United States Supreme Court case

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Court's unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," and therefore violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the decision's 14 pages did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools, and the Court's second decision in Brown II only ordered states to desegregate "with all deliberate speed".

Little Rock, Arkansas Capital of Arkansas

Little Rock is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Arkansas. It is also the county seat of Pulaski County. It was incorporated on November 7, 1831, on the south bank of the Arkansas River close to the state's geographic center. The city derives its name from a rock formation along the river, named the "Little Rock" by the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe in the 1720s. The capital of the Arkansas Territory was moved to Little Rock from Arkansas Post in 1821. The city's population was 198,541 in 2016 according to the United States Census Bureau. The six-county Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is ranked 78th in terms of population in the United States with 738,344 residents according to the 2017 estimate by the United States Census Bureau.

Desegregation is the process of ending the separation of two groups usually referring to races. This is most commonly used in reference to the United States. Desegregation was long a focus of the Civil Rights Movement, both before and after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, particularly desegregation of the school systems and the military. Racial integration of society was a closely related goal.

However, on February 20, 1958, five months after the integration crisis involving the Little Rock Nine, members of the Little Rock school board (along with the Superintendent of Schools) filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, seeking to suspend their plan for desegregation. [6] They alleged that public hostility to desegregation along with opposition by Governor Orval Faubus and the state legislature created "chaos, bedlam and turmoil". [7] [8] The relief the plaintiffs requested was for the African-American children to be returned to segregated schools and for the implementation of the desegregation plan to be postponed until January, 1961. The district court granted the school board's request, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed that decision after the NAACP, represented by Thurgood Marshall, appealed. [9] Prior to the Eighth Circuit's decision, the Supreme Court had denied the defendants' request to decide the case without waiting for the appeals court to deliberate on the case. Once the appeals court handed down their decision in favor of the defendants, the school board appealed to the Supreme Court, which met in a rare special session to hear arguments. [8]

Little Rock Nine group of African American high-school students who challenged racial segregation in the public schools of Little Rock, Arkansas

The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas. They then attended after the intervention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas is a federal court in the Eighth Circuit.

Orval Faubus 36th governor of Arkansas (in office from 1955 to 1967)

Orval Eugene Faubus was an American politician who served as 36th Governor of Arkansas from 1955 to 1967. In 1957, he refused to comply with a unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, and ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent black students from attending Little Rock Central High School. This event became known as the Little Rock Crisis.

The court's decision

In a joint opinion authored by all nine Justices (the only instance of that occurring on record), but primarily drafted by Justice Brennan [10] , the Court noted that the school board had acted in good faith, asserting that most of the problems stemmed from the official opposition of the Arkansas state government to racial integration [11] . Nonetheless, it was constitutionally impermissible under the Equal Protection Clause to maintain law and order by depriving the black students of their equal rights under the law.

William J. Brennan Jr. American judge

William Joseph Brennan Jr. was an American judge who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1956 to 1990. As the seventh longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history, he was known for being a leader of the Court's liberal wing.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.

Racial integration Process of ending racial segregation

Racial integration, or simply integration, includes desegregation. In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely bringing a racial minority into the majority culture. Desegregation is largely a legal matter, integration largely a social one.

More importantly, the Court held that since the Supremacy Clause of Article VI made the US Constitution the supreme law of the land and Marbury v. Madison (1803) made the Supreme Court the final interpreter of the Constitution, [12] the precedent set forth in Brown v. Board of Education is the supreme law of the land and is therefore binding on all the states, regardless of any state laws contradicting it. [13] The Court therefore rejected the contention that the Arkansas legislature and Governor were not bound by the Brown decision. [14] The Supreme Court also rejected the doctrines of nullification and interposition in this case, which had been invoked by segregationists. [15] Segregation supporters argued that the states have the power to nullify federal laws or court rulings that they believe to be unconstitutional and the states could use this power to nullify the Brown decision. The Arkansas laws that attempted to prevent desegregation were Arkansas' effort to nullify the Brown decision. The Supreme Court held that the Brown decision "can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes for segregation." [16] Thus, Cooper v. Aaron held that state attempts to nullify federal law are ineffective. [15]

The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land. It provides that state courts are bound by the supreme law; in case of conflict between federal and state law, the federal law must be applied. Even state constitutions are subordinate to federal law. In essence, it is a conflict-of-laws rule specifying that certain federal acts take priority over any state acts that conflict with federal law. In this respect, the Supremacy Clause follows the lead of Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation, which provided that "Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress Assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them." A constitutional provision announcing the supremacy of federal law, the Supremacy Clause assumes the underlying priority of federal authority, at least when that authority is expressed in the Constitution itself. No matter what the federal government or the states might wish to do, they have to stay within the boundaries of the Constitution. This makes the Supremacy Clause the cornerstone of the whole American political structure.

Article Six of the United States Constitution Provides for the supremacy of federal law over state law, among other provisions

Article Six of the United States Constitution establishes the laws and treaties of the United States made in accordance with it as the supreme law of the land, forbids a religious test as a requirement for holding a governmental position, and holds the United States under the Constitution responsible for debts incurred by the United States under the Articles of Confederation.

Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), was a U.S. Supreme Court case that established the principle of judicial review in the United States, meaning that American courts have the power to strike down laws, statutes, and some government actions that contravene the U.S. Constitution. Decided in 1803, Marbury remains the single most important decision in American constitutional law. The Court's landmark decision established that the U.S. Constitution is actual "law", not just a statement of political principles and ideals, and helped define the boundary between the constitutionally separate executive and judicial branches of the American form of government.

Moreover, since public officials are required to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution (as per Article VI, Clause 3), the officials who ignored the supremacy of the Court's precedent in the Brown case violated their oaths. [17] Cooper also maintained that even though education is the responsibility of the state government, that responsibility must be carried out in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Constitution, particularly the Fourteenth Amendment. [18]

Critical response

Despite all nine Justices signing the opinion, Justice Frankfurter published a separate, concurring, opinion. He was, however, dissuaded from announcing it the same day as the main opinion by Justices Brennan and Black, who felt a unanimous decision would emphasize how strongly the Court felt about the issue. Frankfurter's opinion did not directly contradict the majority opinion, but it did reemphasize the importance of judicial supremacy and expressed disdain for the Arkansas State Legislature's actions. [19]

Some legal scholars criticized the Court's rationale in Cooper. Perhaps the most famous criticism of the case was that of former US Attorney General Edwin Meese, in a law review article entitled The Law of the Constitution. [20] There, Meese accused the Court of taking too much power for itself by setting itself up as the sole institution responsible for the interpretation of the Constitution. He wrote that while judicial interpretation of the Constitution binds the parties of the case, it should not establish a supreme law of the land that must be accepted by all persons.

See also

Notes

  1. FREYER, TONY A. (March 2008). "Cooper v. Aaron (1958): A Hidden Story of Unanimity and Division". Journal of Supreme Court History. 33 (1): 89–109. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5818.2008.00180.x. ISSN   1059-4329.
  2. Harriger, Katy J. (2016). "In Defense of Cooper v. Aaron: Distinguishing among Judicial Supremacy Claims". The Review of Politics. 78 (3): 443–465. doi:10.1017/S0034670516000346. ISSN   0034-6705.
  3. Freyer, Tony (2009). Cooper v. Aaron. Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780199891511.
  4. Cooper v. Aaron, 358, September 12, 1958, p. 1, retrieved 2018-12-01
  5. FREYER, TONY A. (March 2008). "Cooper v. Aaron (1958): A Hidden Story of Unanimity and Division". Journal of Supreme Court History. 33 (1): 89–109. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5818.2008.00180.x. ISSN   1059-4329.
  6. FREYER, TONY A. (March 2008). "Cooper v. Aaron (1958): A Hidden Story of Unanimity and Division". Journal of Supreme Court History. 33 (1): 89–109. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5818.2008.00180.x. ISSN   1059-4329.
  7. Cooper v. Aaron, 358, September 12, 1958, p. 1, retrieved 2018-12-01
  8. 1 2 Harriger, Katy J. (2016). "In Defense of Cooper v. Aaron: Distinguishing among Judicial Supremacy Claims". The Review of Politics. 78 (3): 443–465. doi:10.1017/S0034670516000346. ISSN   0034-6705.
  9. Epperson, Lia (September 1, 2014). "BROWN'S DREAM DEFERRED: LESSONS ON DEMOCRACY AND IDENTITY FROM COOPER V. AARON TO THE "SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE"". Wake Forest Law Review. 49: 687–702 via ebscohost.
  10. Farber, Daniel A. (1982). "The Supreme Court and the Rule of Law: Cooper v. Aaron Revisited". University of Illinois Law Review. 2 (1): 387–412. doi:10.2307/1340770. JSTOR   1340770.
  11. Cooper v. Aaron, 358, September 12, 1958, p. 1, retrieved 2018-12-01
  12. The Court claimed that Marbury
    ... declared the basic principle that the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution, and that principle has ever since been respected by the Court and the country as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system. 358 U.S. 1, 18
    Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in Marbury,
    it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. U.S. (1 Cranch) at 177
    For a different understanding of Marbury see Pryor, William. "The Unbearable Rightness of Marbury v. Madison: Its Real Lessons and Irrepressible Myths", Engage, Volume 12, Issue 2, p. 94 (2011).
  13. Harriger, Katy J. (2016). "In Defense of Cooper v. Aaron: Distinguishing among Judicial Supremacy Claims". The Review of Politics. 78 (3): 443–465. doi:10.1017/S0034670516000346. ISSN   0034-6705.
  14. Cooper v. Aaron, 358, September 12, 1958, p. 1, retrieved 2018-12-01
  15. 1 2 FREYER, TONY A. (March 2008). "Cooper v. Aaron (1958): A Hidden Story of Unanimity and Division". Journal of Supreme Court History. 33 (1): 89–109. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5818.2008.00180.x. ISSN   1059-4329.
  16. Cooper v. Aaron, 358, September 12, 1958, p. 1, retrieved 2018-12-01
  17. Freyer, Tony (2009). Cooper v. Aaron. Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780199891511.
  18. Cooper v. Aaron, 358, September 12, 1958, p. 1, retrieved 2018-12-01
  19. Farber, Daniel A. (1982). "The Supreme Court and the Rule of Law: Cooper v. Aaron Revisited". University of Illinois Law Review. 2 (1): 387–412. doi:10.2307/1340770. JSTOR   1340770.
  20. Meese, Edwin. "The Law of the Constitution", Tulane Law Review , Vol. 61, p. 979 (1986-1987).

Sources

Related Research Articles

Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions were political statements drafted in 1798 and 1799, in which the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures took the position that the federal Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional. The resolutions argued that the states had the right and the duty to declare as unconstitutional those acts of Congress that were not authorized by the Constitution. In doing so, they argued for states' rights and strict constructionism of the Constitution. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 were written secretly by Vice President Thomas Jefferson and James Madison respectively.

Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution says powers not Constitutionally granted to the Federal Government belong to States or the People

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. It expresses the principle of federalism and states' rights, which strictly supports the entire plan of the original Constitution for the United States of America, by stating that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the United States Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.

Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education, 175 U.S. 528 (1899), ("Richmond") was a class action suit decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. It is a landmark case, in that it sanctioned de jure segregation of races in American schools. The decision was overruled by Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

Judiciary Act of 1789

The Judiciary Act of 1789 was a United States federal statute adopted on September 24, 1789, in the first session of the First United States Congress. It established the federal judiciary of the United States. Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution prescribed that the "judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and such inferior Courts" as Congress saw fit to establish. It made no provision for the composition or procedures of any of the courts, leaving this to Congress to decide.

Equal Protection Clause Guarantee of law protecting all persons equally in the United States

The Equal Protection Clause is a clause within the text of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The clause, which took effect in 1868, provides "nor shall any State [...] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws".

Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920), was a United States Supreme Court case that centered on the constitutionality of implementing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. In a 7–2 decision authored by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Court upheld the federal government's exercise of the treaty power and found no violation of the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Interposition is a claimed right of a U.S. state to oppose actions of the federal government that the state deems unconstitutional. Under the theory of interposition, a state assumes the right to "interpose" itself between the federal government and the people of the state by taking action to prevent the federal government from enforcing laws that the state considers unconstitutional. In Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958), the Supreme Court of the United States rejected interposition explicitly. The Supreme Court and the lower federal courts have consistently held that the power to declare federal laws unconstitutional lies with the federal judiciary, not with the states. The courts have held that interposition is not a valid constitutional doctrine when invoked to block enforcement of federal law.

Massive resistance was a strategy declared by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. of Virginia along with his brother-in-law as the leader in the Virginia General Assembly, Democrat Delegate James M. Thomson of Alexandria, to unite white politicians and leaders in Virginia in a campaign of new state laws and policies to prevent public school desegregation, particularly after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954. Many schools, and even an entire school system, were shut down in 1958 and 1959 in attempts to block integration, before both the Virginia Supreme Court and a special three-judge panel of Federal District judges from the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting at Norfolk, declared those policies unconstitutional.

Ronald Norwood Davies was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota. He is best known for his role in the Little Rock Integration Crisis in the fall of 1957. Davies ordered the desegregation of the previously all-white Little Rock Central High.

Judicial review in the United States Ability of a court in the US to examine laws to determine if it contradicts current laws

In the United States, judicial review is the ability of a court to examine and decide if a statute, treaty or administrative regulation contradicts or violates the provisions of existing law, a State Constitution, or ultimately the United States Constitution. While the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly define a power of judicial review, the authority for judicial review in the United States has been inferred from the structure, provisions, and history of the Constitution.

Nullification, in United States constitutional history, is a legal theory that a state has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional with respect to the United States Constitution. The theory of nullification has never been legally upheld by federal courts.

Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506 (1859), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that State courts cannot issue rulings on federal law that contradict the decisions of federal courts, overturning a decision by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court held that under the Constitution, the federal courts have the final power to decide cases arising under the Constitution and federal statutes, and that the States do not have the power to overturn those decisions. Thus, Wisconsin did not have the authority to nullify federal judgments or statutes. For example, it is illegal for State officials to interfere with the work of U.S. Marshals acting under federal laws. The Ableman decision emphasized the dual form of American government and the independence of State and federal courts from one another.

Judicial review is a process under which executive or legislative actions are subject to review by the judiciary. A court with authority for judicial review may invalidate laws acts and governmental actions that are incompatible with a higher authority: an executive decision may be invalidated for being unlawful or a statute may be invalidated for violating the terms of a constitution. Judicial review is one of the checks and balances in the separation of powers: the power of the judiciary to supervise the legislative and executive branches when the latter exceed their authority. The doctrine varies between jurisdictions, so the procedure and scope of judicial review may differ between and within countries.

Justice Robert L. Brown served as an Associate Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Judicial interpretation refers to different ways that the judiciary uses to interpret the law, particularly constitutional documents and legislation. This is an important issue in some common law jurisdictions such as the United States, Australia and Canada, because the supreme courts of those nations can overturn laws made by their legislatures via a process called judicial review.

School integration in the United States Racial desegregation process

School integration in the United States is the process of ending race-based segregation, also known as desegregation, within American public and private schools. Racial segregation in schools existed throughout most of American history and remains a relevant issue in discussions about modern education. During the Civil Rights Movement school integration became a priority but since then de facto segregation has again become prevalent.