Méndez v. Westminster
Gonzalo Méndez and his family moved to Westminster in Orange County, CA in 1943. Méndez, a native of Westminster, attempted to enroll his children in the same elementary school that he had attended as a child only to learn that new Jim Crow laws had since been enacted. As Mexican immigration to the United States grew, the Westminster school system ruled that students of Mexican descent must attend a segregated school and were no longer permitted to enroll at Westminster Elementary School. Refusing to abide by the Jim Crow laws, Méndez, along with several other Mexican-American parents and with the help of the League of Latin American Citizens, sued four school districts in Orange County, CA for enforcing segregation. Méndez’s lawyers argued that segregation was illegal under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Senior District Judge Paul McCormick ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, rejecting the “separate but equal” doctrine made precedent in the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Orange County schools appealed the decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the ruling. In 1947, Earl Warren, then the governor of California, signed the Anderson Bill, thus revoking the state’s segregation statutes. Warren was later appointed as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, where he presided over the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education (1954).