Mendez v. Westminster School District: The Court’s Rulings
At trial, when the school superintendents testified, they portrayed Mexican children as decidedly inferior because of their poor personal hygiene and their language deficits. However, the attorney for the Mendez group fought back by calling in social scientists as expert witnesses who put the question of the need for separate schools clearly in the court’s view.
The judge in the trial court took a year to render a judgment. The trial court was then of the opinion that racial segregation was not only unjustifiable under the Constitution of the State of California but was also a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On further review, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in favor of the plaintiffs.
In its analysis, the Ninth Circuit began by pointing out that the trial court properly assumed jurisdiction in Mendez. The court next pointed out that the acts of officials in the state department of education were under the color of state law, meaning that they behaved as if they had the apparent authority to do as they did. The court reasoned that when officials placed children of Mexican descent in segregated schools against their wills, they violated both state law and the Equal Protection Clause, because doing so deprived them of equal protection and of liberty and property without due process of the laws.