Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hansberry v. Lee case brief

Hansberry v. Lee case brief summary
311 U.S. 32 (1940)

Petitioner African-Americans and others, sought certiorari review of a judgment from the Supreme Court of Illinois, which affirmed a decree in equity for respondents that had enjoined a violation of an agreement of lot-owners, which restricted the sale and use of lots in a particular area.

Respondents brought suit to enjoin a breach of an agreement restricting the use of an area of land. The agreement stipulated that for a specified period no part of the land should be sold, leased, or occupied by "any person of the colored race" and that the agreement should not be effective unless signed by the owners of 95 percent of the frontage. In response to petitioners' defense that the agreement had never become effective because owners of 95 percent of the frontage had not signed it, respondents pleaded that that issue was res judicata by the decree in an earlier suit. Petitioners responded that because they were not parties to that suit or bound by its decree, denial of their right to litigate would be a denial of their due process rights.


  • The United States Supreme Court held that the decree in the earlier suit was not res judicata as to petitioners because in seeking to enforce the agreement in the previous case, plaintiffs were not representing petitioners, whose substantial interest was in resisting performance, and for a court to ascribe to either plaintiffs or defendants the performance of representing petitioners would deny petitioners their due process rights.

The Court reversed and held that the decree in the previous suit was not res judicata as to petitioners.

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