Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Recent Developments

First Page



The fourteenth amendment provides that "[n]o State shall . ..deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."' The amendment thus explicitly forbids the state to engage in certain conduct, but places no express restriction on the acts of private individuals. Although the Supreme Court has consistently held that state action is a necessary element of a fourteenth amendment violation, the concept of state action was expanded to cover activities arguably private in nature to the extent that by 1970 the Court was able and apparently willing to find state action in almost any situation. Consequently, state action was considered a moribund limitation. In 1970,however, the Supreme Court, in Evans v. Abney, cast substantial doubt upon the validity of previous conclusions by holding that the absence of state action barred relief on claims of racial discrimination. In addition, two recent cases, Moose Lodge No. 107 v. Irvis and Lloyd Corp.v. Tanner,' also denied fourteenth amendment relief because of a lack of state action, and thus resolved the uncertainty by infusing the state action limitation with renewed vigor. This resurgence of state action,however, may not stem from the Court's reinterpretation or reversal of prior case law, even though the instant cases are seemingly inconsistent with earlier state action doctrines. This Comment will suggest that the recent treatment of state action by the Supreme Court can be explained by looking beyond the traditional state action rubric to a process of balancing the competing interests of the parties, and by considering the judicial reassessment of the values ascribed to each identified interest in the balancing process.