An African-American movie theater audience was subjected to demeaning treatment the theater had never applied to a white or mixed adult audience. More than 30 audience members filed claims with by the Delaware Human Relations Commission.
ACLU-DE represented them at the trial, and won a ruling that the theater had treated the audience in a hostile, humiliating and demeaning manner because of its racial composition.
The Commission also found that the theater manager’s testimony in defense of his conduct was not believable. It ordered the theater owner to pay damages. It also ordered the theater to train its employees so this didn’t happen again.
The theater manager had instructed the audience about proper behavior before it was permitted to watch the movie. Also, although the audience members had shown their tickets to get into the theater, they were required to show them a second time - to a security guard - before they were allowed into the room where the movie was shown.
ACLU-DE took the case because it is important to combat all racial mistreatment, whether it is subtle or blatant.
The Delaware Supreme Court ruled on appeal that no violation of Delaware law had been shown. ACLU-DE filed a motion for reconsideration because the Court’s opinion rejected basic principles of civil rights law that have been applied by the United States Supreme Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, without acknowledging those decisions.
The motion also explained that the court had relied on rulings by other courts that did not apply and had disregarded part of the record before it.
Finally, it explained that the decision changed Delaware law on court review of administrative agency decisions. The motion was denied.