Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Slaughterhouse Cases case brief summary

The Slaughterhouse Cases case brief summary
83 U.S. 36 (1873)

A dispute arose as to the constitutionality of a state-controlled monopoly on slaughterhouses. 

Louisiana had passed a statute requiring all butchers within the city of New Orleans to perform their slaughtering at a designated slaughterhouse. The statute effectively established a state monopoly on the operation of slaughterhouses. The statute was challenged on the theory that it amounted to an infringement of the privileges and immunities guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. 
Does the establishment of a state monopoly on slaughterhouses infringe the privileges and immunities guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment? 

The state monopoly does not so violate the Fourteenth Amendment. 

Miller, J. A state undoubtedly may exercise its police power to regulate noxious trades such as the operation of slaughterhouses. Such regulations cannot be said to conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment. In particular, the Amendment draws a distinction between the privileges and immunities arising from citizenship in a particular state and those that arise from citizenship in the United States. The Amendment protects only the latter. It cannot be thought that the Amendment was intended to remove all regulation of privileges and immunities to the federal domain. Rather, the federal privileges and immunities include only the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress, to use navigable waterways, and so forth. All other rights are properly subject to regulation by the states. Any other holding would drastically alter the balance between state and federal power. 
Field, J., dissenting. Although Louisiana may exercise its police powers, the establishment of the monopoly goes beyond any legitimate purpose to promote public health or morals. The state was within its power to command that slaughtering should take place downstream from New Orleans and that animals should be inspected prior to slaughter. These ends, however, do not necessitate the formation of a monopoly held by a private corporation. Nothing suggests that the health regulations would be better served by a monopoly than by multiple independent actors. 

Bradley, J., dissenting. The Fourteenth Amendment, like the Magna Carta, is intended to protect certain essential rights. These rights include the right to pursue one’s calling or profession. In restricting the ability of butchers to engage in their trade outside the terms of the state-granted monopoly, Louisiana has infringed the fundamental rights of its citizens. 

Swayne, J., dissenting. Prior to the Civil War, amendments to the Constitution were intended mainly to protect rights from infringement by the federal government. The Fourteenth Amendment makes it clear that such rights are to be protected from infringement by the states as well. The Court has taken an overly narrow view of the Amendment.

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