University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name In re Wallace VR-AL-0259
Docket / Court No. 1487-N ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection Civil Rights Division Archival Collection
Selma and early civil rights enforcement
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
This case is part of the Clearinghouse Special Collection on the events and litigation leading up to and surrounding the famous Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965.

On October 23, 1958, the Department of Justice responded to complaints of voter discrimination in Alabama. The DOJ ... read more >
This case is part of the Clearinghouse Special Collection on the events and litigation leading up to and surrounding the famous Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965.

On October 23, 1958, the Department of Justice responded to complaints of voter discrimination in Alabama. The DOJ scheduled a public hearing in Montgomery, AL for Dec. 8, 1959 and in the meantime sought permission to examine registration and voting records of various counties. The custodians were the various county registrars and state Judge George Wallace. (Wallace, of course, later became the race-baiting governor of Alabama, and a failed presidential hopeful.) These officials refused permission, prompting the DOJ to issue subpoenas for the records of various counties between December 2 and 4, 1958.

Once again, state officials did not comply, prompting the DOJ to seek relief from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama against the custodians. On Jan. 5, 1959, the court (Judge Frank Johnson) issued an order compelling the registrars and Judge Wallace to produce registration and voting records in their custody. Thereafter, the DOJ moved for further relief, seeking enforcement of subpoena and arguing that the state officials had not complied - and refused to comply - with that order. The state officials argued, among other things, that enforcement of the subpoena would violate Alabama's state sovereignty.

On Jan. 9, 1959, Judge Johnson ordered state officials to comply with the subpoena (170 F. Supp. 63). The federal court found that the Civil Rights Act's voter discrimination provisions were appropriately enacted under the Fifteenth Amendment's enforcement clause, and that Alabama's sovereignty therefore gave way to the enforcement of this federal law. The court found that the subpoena was appropriately issued pursuant to the Act's voter discrimination provisions, and that the DOJ permissibly requested the district court's intervention. Further, the court found that Judge Wallace did not have any sort of immunity or privilege due to his position as a judge with regard to obeying a subpoena issued under federal law pursuant to the Fifteenth Amendment.

The case is closed. We have limited access to case records and information, and we will update this page if more become available.

Virginia Weeks - 04/06/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Supremacy Clause
Content of Injunction
Required disclosure
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Records Disclosure
Test or device
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Race
Black
Special Case Type
Warrant or subpoena application
Voting
Voter qualifications
Voter registration rules
Causes of Action Civil Rights Act of 1957/1960, 42 U.S.C. § 1971
Defendant(s) Judge George Wallace
Registrar
Registrar
Registrar
Plaintiff Description Department of Justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 1959 - n/a
Filing Year 1958
Case Closing Year 1959
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Opinion (170 F.Supp. 63) (M.D. Ala.)
VR-AL-0259-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/09/1959
Source: Westlaw
Judges Johnson, Frank Minis Jr. (M.D. Ala., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
VR-AL-0259-0001

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