Friday, November 15, 2013

Terry v. Adams case brief

Terry v. Adams case brief summary
345 U.S. 461 (1953)

Plaintiff African Americans appealed a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which reversed the district court's declaratory judgment and held that the exclusion of African Americans from the pre-primary election held by defendant political organization was not barred by the Fifteenth Amendment.

The district court found that the political organization was the dominant political party in the area, that the majority of white voters abided by the results of its primaries and supported candidates endorsed by the political organization's primaries, and that the purpose of the political organization has always been to deny African Americans any part in the election. The district court held the racial discriminations invalid. The appeals court reversed.

  • On a grant of certiorari, the political organization denied that their racial exclusions violated the Fifteenth Amendment, because it applied only to elections or primaries held under state regulation, that their association was not regulated by the state, and that it was not a political party but a self-governing voluntary club. 
  • The court held that the political party was attempting to hold precisely the kind of election that the Fifteenth Amendment was enacted to prevent. 
  • The court also held that the state violated the Fifteenth Amendment by permitting such circumvention within its borders, which produced the equivalent of a prohibited election.


The court reversed the judgment of the appeals court that reversed that of the district court. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the political party election machinery had deprived African Americans of their right to vote on account of their race and color. The case was remanded to the district court to enter such orders and decrees as were necessary and proper under the Fifteenth Amendment.

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