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Supreme Court Urged to Keep Ban on Racial Restrictive Covenants

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Six national Jewish organizations and 28 Jewish community councils affiliated with the National Community Relations Advisory Council today presented a plea to the U. S. Supreme Court urging it to rule that State courts may not award damages against property owners for violating restrictive covenants barring the sale of property to Negroes.

The Jewish groups made this plea in a brief which they submitted as “friends of the court” in a case to be argued today before the high tribunal. They pointed out that any other decision would be counter to the Supreme Court’s own precedent-setting 1948 ruling on restrictive covenants in the Shelley-Kraemer case.

Joining in the brief are the American Jewish Congress, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans of the U. S., Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, United Synagogue of America, together with the 28 local Jewish groups. The brief was filed in the name of the National Community Relations Advisory Council, coordinating body for all the organizations.

Two other Jewish organizations–the American Jewish Committee and the British Anti-Defamation League–filed a similar brief yesterday. The case at issue originated in California. It involves a suit for damages by three property owners against a fourth. All owned plots of land covered by a “restrictive covenant.” This provides that if any of the plots ever were occupied by a non-white person, the owner who sold or rented to such a person would be liable for damages to the other owners of land covered by the covenant. One of the owners sold to a Negro and was sued for damages by the other three. State courts decided against the plaintiff. They have carried their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In their brief, the Jewish organizations contend that an award of damages in the suit would violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits any state action denying equal protection of the laws. If the outcome of a court proceeding turns on the question of the race of anyone involved, they argue, the law is not equally applied.

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