No. 210 Argued: April 18, 1896 --- Decided: May 18, 1896
MR. JUSTICE BROWN, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court

from Justice Henry Billings Brown – Plessy v Ferguson on Rap Genius


How did this case get to the US Supreme Court? It started out as a criminal case against Homer Plessy for refusing to sit in the railroad car for black people. The railroad cars were separated by race. He was convicted. The criminal court judge’s name was Ferguson. Plessy didn’t appeal his conviction and it seems it may not have been appealable. Instead, he brought a separate action in the State Supreme Court of Louisiana against Judge Ferguson. In this case he sought a Writ of Prohibition — an order from the state supreme court prohibiting Ferguson from continuing to prosecute him on the grounds that the Separate Car Act was unconstitutional. He lost in the State Supreme Court of Louisiana too. He then appealed to the US Supreme Court by way of a Writ of Certiorari. The US Supreme Court will issue a Writ of Certiorari when it considers the case important enough to hear, but whether a litigant gets the writ is solely within the US Supreme Court’s discretion. The US Supreme Court will also hear a case when there is a conflict between the decisions of the appellate courts. Here, there were no conflicts. The caselaw was clear everywhere in the United States: equal but separate accommodations was unconstitutional.

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