Cooper v. Aaron – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 78 S. Ct. 1401, 3 L. Ed. 2d 5 (1958).
The Arkansas governor and state legislature were displeased with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education and refused to comply with court orders to implement desegregation of the state’s schools. The governor and legislature insisted that state government officials had no duty to comply with court orders based on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the constitution.
The school board of Little Rock, Arkansas had sought to implement a program of desegregation. Due to resistance by the state government and public hostility, however, the presence of federal troops was necessary to enable nine black children to attend the school.
The school board petitioned the district court to suspend court orders to implement the desegregation program for a period of two and a half years, claiming that the disruption made it impossible to maintain a sound education program.
The district court granted the petition, stating that the attendance of the black students had caused disruption and acts of violence directed toward the students under conditions of chaos, bedlam, and turmoil. The Eighth Circuit reversed and ordered the program of desegregation to continue. This appeal resulted.
- Are state government officials bound to comply with Supreme Court rulings and court orders based upon the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution?
Holding and Rule (Warren, per curiam)
- Yes. State government officials are bound to comply with Supreme Court rulings and court orders based upon the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution.
The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land per the Supremacy Clause of Article VI. In Marbury v. Madison, the federal judiciary was declared the supreme authority with respect to Constitutional interpretation. Marbury v. Madison has been respected by this Court and the nation as a permanent and indispensable component of the American constitutional system of government.
The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment in Brown v. Board of Education case is therefore binding on the states and state officials. By refusing to conform to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution and precedent, state government officials violate their oath to support the Constitution. To rule otherwise would make the Constitution a solemn mockery.
Judgment affirmed. The school board must continue the program of desegregation.