Case History

The year was 1945, and the United States was a much different place back then. Elementary school students in Orange County California, as well as many other parts of the country, were forced to attend segregated schools. What did this mean? It meant that Anglo children went to “white” schools, African-American children went to “black” schools, and Mexican-American children went to “Mexican” schools. In the spring of that year, five Mexican-American families decided to do something about it. Their efforts eventually became the class-action lawsuit: Mendez et al v. Westminter et al. It took two years of battling it out in the courts, but the families eventually won their case.

Once this case was won, it opened the door for desegregation of other schools throughout the country, and paved the way for the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education (1954). For many decades, this historic legal victory was relatively unknown among constitutional historians and educators around the country. But in recent years, through the efforts of the original plaintiffs, family relatives, journalists, historians, and others, this case has received the recognition it deserves.

LULAC Project

LULAC: Patriots with Civil Rights
The History of the League of United Latin American Citizens in California
By: Margie Aguirre LULAC Council #174
Chair California LULAC Heritage Committee | LULAC Distric 1 California

March 2, 1945

Date of filings of petition to end segregation of schools at U.S. Federal District Court Los Angeles, CA by Attorney David Marcus who is affiliated with Consul of Mexico and who files under rule 23 FRCP as a class action lawsuit.

March 21, 1946

Decision by Judge McCormick U.S. Federal District Court Los Angeles, CA., enjoining or stopping the school districts practice of segregation. Decision in favor of plaintiffs.

March 30, 1946

Filing of Appeal by School Districts based on no jurisdiction and no existing law being violated.

September 27, 1946

David Marcus files Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for hearing in re-contempt citation against El Modena School District on behalf of LULAC member Alexander Llevanos.

October 8, 1946

Respondents or School Districts file a stay of execution pending decision on appeal. This impedes the contempt of citation.

April 14, 1947

Decision by panel Judges at 9th Circuit of U.S. Court of Appeals San Francisco, CA upholding Judge McComick’s decision. One judge decides that the school officials may be criminally prosecuted for violation of civil rights.