Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Meyer v. Nebraska case brief

Meyer v. State of Nebraska case brief summary
262 U.S. 390 (1923)

SYNOPSIS: Plaintiff in error, a teacher, sought review of a judgment from the Nebraska Supreme Court, which affirmed a conviction for violating 1919 Neb. Laws ch. 249, a statute that prohibited teaching of languages other than English to children who had not passed the eighth grade.

FACTS: The teacher, while working in a parochial school, was convicted for teaching the German language to a 10-year old child who had not successfully passed the eighth grade. The state supreme court had held that the statute was a valid exercise of the State's police power.

The court reversed, holding that the statute was arbitrary and without reasonable relation to any legitimate State goal.

-The court further held that the liberty guaranteed by U.S. Const. amend. XIV protected the teacher's right to teach and the right of parents to engage the teacher in educating their children.
-The court stated that education and acquisition of knowledge were matters of supreme importance that should be diligently promoted.
-The State could not, under the guise of exercising its police power, interfere with such guaranteed liberty interests.
-The court found that, by the statute, the legislature was attempting to materially interfere with the calling of modern language teachers, with the opportunities of students to acquire knowledge, and with the power of parents to control the education of their own children.
-Thus, the teacher's conviction was based on an unconstitutional statute.

OUTCOME: The court reversed the state supreme court's judgment, holding that the Nebraska statute was arbitrary and infringed on the liberty guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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