- Wilmington Parking Authority
The Eagle Coffee Shoppe, Inc. is a restaurant located within a
parking ramp owned and operated by the Wilmington Parking
The Authority is an agency of the
State of Delaware.
Eagle leases the restaurant space from the Authority.
The written lease between Eagle and the Authority is silent as
to discriminatory treatment of restaurant patrons.
Eagle refused to serve Burton food or drink solely because he is
an African American.
The Delaware Supreme Court found that there was no state action
because Eagle was a private actor.
It also determined that Eagle was not required to serve Burton
under 24 Del. Code § 1501 -- providing that restaurants are not
required to serve a customer whose presence would be offensive
to other customers and would thereby hurt business.
Eagle's exclusion of Burton was discriminatory state action.
Wilmington Parking Authority (Utilized Public Parking)
The Authority was created to provide adequate public parking.
In order to secure adequate capital to build and operate the
parking ramp where Eagle is located, the Authority had to enter
into long-term commercial leases for some of the space in the
The building has signs indicating that it is a public building,
and the state and national flags fly from the roof.
Equal Protection violation = [Abridging individual rights AND
We begin with the well-known principle that private conduct
abridging individual rights does no violence to equal protection
unless to some significant extent the State has somehow become
No prcised rule as to when a State would be in violation
This Court has not fashioned a precise rule as to when
government involvement in private action is sufficient to change
the character of the action into state action.
Only by sifting facts and weighing circumstances can the
non-obvious involvement of the State in private conduct be
attributed its true significance.
Delaware Supreme Court
The Delaware Supreme Court seems to have considered facts which,
if taken alone, indicate that the building is more private than
public and that there is no obvious connection between building
was owned publicly, used publicly, and financed publicly.
The commercially leased areas of the parking ramp were
indispensable for it to operate as a self-sufficient unit.
Eagles Alleges - There business will be injured
This Court cannot ignore Eagle's affirmative allegation that
serving African Americans would injure its business; the profits
earned by discrimination not only contribute to, but are
indispensable elements in, the financial success of a government
- Eagle requires part of a public building and public parking
The restaurant is operated as an integral part of a public
building devoted to public parking.
Considering all of the above facts and the situation as a whole,
we must conclude that the Authority has become a joint
participant in Eagle's racial discrimination.
Thus, Eagle's refusal to serve African Americans is not so
purely private as to fall outside the scope of the Fourteenth
We do not from the facts of this case declare a universal truth
upon which every state leasing agreement should be tested.
Due to the "largeness" of government, there will be many and
varied agreements between the government and private parties.
However, each case must be determined within the framework of
its peculiar facts and circumstances.
Reversed and remanded.