Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pierce v. Society of Sisters case brief

Pierce v. Society of Sisters case brief summary
268 U.S. 510 (1925)

Appellant public officials challenged an order from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon enjoining them from enforcing the Compulsory Education Act (Act), 1922 Or. Laws § 5259, against appellees, private primary schools, in consolidated actions challenging the constitutionality of the Act under U.S. Constitutional Amendment XIV. They asserted that, as corporations, appellees had no Amendment XIV rights.

Appellee private primary schools filed actions against appellant public officials, challenging the constitutionality of the Compulsory Education Act (Act), 1922 Or. Laws § 5259, under U.S. Constitutional Amendment XIV and seeking to enjoin its enforcement. The Act mandated that all normal children aged 8 to 16 years old attend public school. Appellees asserted that their enrollments were declining as a result of the Act. The district court entered an order enjoining appellants from enforcing the Act and appellants sought review in consolidated appeals.


  • The court affirmed, ruling that the inevitable practical result of enforcing the Act was the destruction of appellees' primary schools and perhaps all other private primary schools for normal children within the state. 
  • The Act unreasonably interfered with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of their children. 
  • Although appellees were corporations, they could claim constitutional protection for their business and property. 
  • They sought protection against a present and real threat of injury from the arbitrary, unreasonable, and unlawful interference with their patrons and injunctive relief was proper.
The court affirmed the order enjoining appellant public officials from enforcing an act that required children to attend public schools in appellee private primary schools' actions contesting the constitutionality of the law. The legislation unreasonably interfered with parental rights and appellees' business interests. An injunction was an appropriate remedy to prevent the present threat of irreparable harm to appellees.

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