On behalf of Spottswood Bolling and other students, James Nabrit filed suit against the president of the Board of Education, C. Melvin Sharpe. Nabrit argued directly against segregated schools as unconstitutional. Judge Walter Bastian of the U.S. District Court dismissed Bolling v. Sharpe on the basis that separate but equal remained the law of the land. Nabrit and other lawyers were preparing to appeal the case when the Supreme Court asked to review Bolling v. Sharpe.
Bolling v. Sharpe