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Buchanan v. Warley (1917)

Buchanan v. Warley (1917)

Argued April 10, 11, 1916

Reargued April 27, 1917

November 5, 1917

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

Buchanan, plaintiff in error, brought an action in the Chancery Branch of Jefferson Circuit Court of Kentucky for the specific performance of a contract for the sale of certain real estate situated in the City of Louisville at the corner of 37th Street and Pflanz Avenue. The offer in writing to purchase the property contained a proviso:

"It is understood that I am purchasing the above property for the purpose of having erected thereon a house which I propose to make my residence, and it is a distinct part of this agreement that I shall not be required to accept a deed to the above property or to pay for said property unless I have the right under the laws of the State of Kentucky and the City of Louisville to occupy said property as a residence." This offer was accepted by the plaintiff.

To the action for specific performance the defendant by way of answer set up the condition above set forth, that he is a colored person, and that on the block of which the lot in controversy is a part there are ten residences, eight of which at the time of the making of the contract were occupied by white people, and only two (those nearest the lot in question) were occupied by colored people, and that under and by virtue of the ordinance of the City of Louisville, approved May 11, 1914, he would not be allowed to occupy the lot as a place of residence.

In reply to this answer the plaintiff set up, among other things, that the ordinance was in conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and hence no defense to the action for specific performance of the contract.

In the court of original jurisdiction in Kentucky, and in the Court of Appeals of that State, the case was made to turn upon the constitutional validity of the ordinance. The Court of Appeals of Kentucky, 165 Kentucky, 559, held the ordinance valid and of itself a complete defense to the

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