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MCNEESE V. BOARD OF EDUC., 373 U. S. 668 (1963)

U.S. Supreme Court

McNeese v. Board of Educ., 373 U.S. 668 (1963)

McNeese v. Board of Education

No. 480

Argued April 23, 1963

Decided June 3, 1963

373 U.S. 668


Petitioners, Negro students in an Illinois public school, brought suit in a Federal District Court under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1983, to vindicate their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. They alleged that the enrollment at the school consisted of 251 Negroes and 254 whites and that, with a few exceptions, the Negro students attended classes in one part of the school, separate and apart from the whites, and were compelled to use entrances and exits separate from the whites. They prayed for equitable relief, including their registration in racially integrated schools. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that petitioners had not exhausted their administrative remedies under Illinois law, which forbids racial segregation in public schools and prescribes administrative procedures for enforcement of the prohibition. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The judgment is reversed. Pp. 373 U. S. 669-676.

(a) Relief under the Civil Rights Act may not be defeated though relief was not first sought under a state law which provided a remedy. Monroe v. Pape, 365 U. S. 167. P. 373 U. S. 671.

(b) The purposes of 42 U.S.C. §1983 were to override certain kinds of state laws, to provide a remedy where a state law is inadequate, to provide a federal remedy where the state remedy, though adequate in theory, is not available in practice, and to provide a remedy in the federal courts supplementary to any remedy any State might provide; and those purposes would be defeated if it were held that assertion of a federal claim in a federal court must await an attempt to vindicate the same claim in a state court. Pp. 373 U. S. 671-673.

(c) In this case, the right alleged is plainly federal in origin and nature; there is no underlying issue of state law controlling this litigation; nor is the federal right in any way entangled in a skein of state law that must be untangled before the federal case can proceed. P. 373 U. S. 674.

Page 373 U. S. 669

(d) It is by no means clear that Illinois law provides petitioners with an administrative remedy sufficiently adequate to preclude prior resort to a federal court for protection of their federal rights. Pp. 373 U. S. 674-676.

305 F. 2d 783, reversed.

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