The Law School Authority

Brentwood v. Tennessee Athletic Assoc. Case Brief

Summary of Brentwood v. Tennessee Athletic Assoc.
531 U. S. 288 [2001]

Govt Enforcement of Private Conduct:

Relevant Facts: Respondent (Association) regulates interscholastic sports among Tennessee public and private high schools. Most of the State’s public high schools are members, representing 84% of the Association’s membership. School officials make up the voting membership of the Association’s governing council and control board, which typically hold meetings during regular school hours. The Association is largely funded by gate receipts. Association staff, although not state employees, may join the state retirement system. The Association sets membership standards and student eligibility rules and has the power to penalize any member school that violates those rules. The State Board of Ed has long acknowledged the Association’s role in regulating interscholastic competition in public schools, and its members sit as nonvoting members of the Association’s governing bodies. When the Association penalized petitioner Brentwood Academy(private parochial school) for violating a recruiting rule, Brentwood sued the Association under § 1983, claiming that the rule’s enforcement was state action that violated the 1st & 14th .

Legal Issue(s): Whether the Association’s regulatory enforcement against Brentwood was an action defined as a  “state action” for purposes of 14th Amend?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Brentwood sued state interscholastic athletic association. The US D Ct , granted summary for high school on its 1st Amend claim, and enjoined  Assc from enforcing rule.  Assc appealed. The US Ct of App reversed, vacated and remanded. The S Ct, Reversed and remanded.

Law or Rule(s):  Private action will be considered to be “state action” for purposes of Fourteenth Amendment if, though only if, there is such close nexus between state and challenged action that seemingly private behavior may be fairly treated as that of state itself.

Court Rationale:  Regulatory enforcement action by the Association was “state action” for purposes of the 14th , despite the Association’s nominally private character, in light of pervasive entwinement of public institutions and public officials in its composition and workings; public schools constituted 84% of its membership, half of council and board meetings were held during official school hours, public schools provided for association’s financial support by giving up sources of their own income, state board of education members served as members of association’s governing boards, and association’s ministerial employees were eligible for membership in state retirement system.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The Association’s enforcement of the penalties against Brentwood constituted state action, and denied Brentwood the privilege of parochial participation of interscholastic athletics.

Defendant’s Argument:  The Association’s acts were not coercive, or encouraged by the govt, or in a close relationship with the govt, nor a traditional or exclusive state action.

Minority – State action is not based nor found upon mere entwinement.  The goal in every case is to determine whether the action can fairly be attributed to the State.  The State did not create the Assoc. it does not fund, or pay its employees.  The Assoc. does not perform traditional or exclusive functions reserved to the State. It is not created by the State, and the State has not retained any control or power over the Assoc.

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the U. S.; nor deprive any person life, liberty, or property w/o due process of law; nor deny any person the equal protection of the law.

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