Thursday, November 7, 2013

Coppage v. Kansas case brief

Coppage v. Kansas case brief summary
236 U.S. 1 (1915)

On error to the Supreme Court of the State of Kansas, plaintiff in error challenged his conviction and sentence for violating Kan. Gen. Stat. §§ 4674 and 4675, contending the state statutory prohibitions making it unlawful for an employer to abridge the right of his employee to affiliate with a labor union violated U.S. Constitutional Amendment XIV by depriving him of liberty and property without due process of law.

Plaintiff in error challenged his conviction and sentence after he was found guilty and fined, with imprisonment as the alternative, upon an information charging him with violating a state law that prohibited employers from attempting to abridge the privilege of their employees to affiliate themselves with labor unions. Plaintiff in error argued that the statute amounted to deprivation of liberty and property without due process of law. Defendant in error, the state government, argued the statute was not constitutionally invalid since it sought to guarantee and protect the privileges and immunities of citizens by prohibiting an attempt by coercion to deprive them of the financial interests incurred from membership in labor unions.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction on the grounds that an interference with an employer's liberty to contract for employment was so disturbing of equality of right that it must be deemed to be arbitrary, unless it was supportable as a reasonable exercise of the police power of the state.


The Court reversed the conviction because, while it conceded the full right of an employee to join a labor union, the Court held the constitutional guarantee of liberty of contract dictated that employees had no inherent right to join a labor union and still remain employed by an employer unwilling to employ such union member.

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