Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority
365 U.S. 715 (1961)

  • A restaurant in Delaware refused to serve Burton because he was black.
    • The restaurant happened to be in a building that was owned by the city of Wilmington.
  • Burton sued, claiming that his 14th Amendment right to equal protection had been violated.
    • Wilmington argued that they didn’t discriminate against anybody, the restaurant was a private business, and so the 14th Amendment didn’t apply.
      • The 14th Amendment, only applies for governmental actions (aka the State Action Doctrine).
    • Burton argued that because the building was owned by the city government, and they regulated the building’s tenants, the government was ‘entangled’ in the situation, and so it did constitute government action.
      • That’s the Entanglement Exception to the State Action Doctrine.
  • The US Supreme Court found for Burton.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the restaurant was an integral part of a public building, and that the income generated by the restaurant was an “indispensable element in the financial success of the governmental agency.”
      • “By its inaction, the State has not only made itself a party to the refusal of service, but has elected to place its power, property, and prestige behind the admitted discrimination.”
      • Basically, there was a symbiosis between the government and the private business.
    • The Court found that when a governmental agency leases public property in the manner shown in this case, the proscriptions of the 14th Amendment must be complied with by the lessee as certainly as though they were binding covenants written into the agreement itself.