Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dred Scott v. Sanford case brief

Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857)


Facts:  Scott’s former owner took him from MO to IL then to MN (part of LA Territory). He returned to MO, where Scott was sold as slave to Sandford (from NY).  Slavery is legal in MO, but illegal in IL (by state constitution) and MN (by federal statute outlawing slavery in LA territory as provision of the MO Compromise).  Scott claims he is a free man and citizen of MO, brings suit in federal court based on diversity of citizenship.
Issues/Holding:  Was Scott a citizen of Missouri for diversity purposes?  No.  Did Scott remain a slave after sojourn to the LA Territory and IL?  Yes.  

Reasoning/Major Points:
·         Scott is NOT a citizen of MO for diversity jurisdiction purposes, thus federal court lacks jurisdiction. 
o   The framers never intended to confer federal citizenship upon blacks: they thought that blacks were inferior and were rightly enslaved. 
o   Just because a state confers citizenship upon a person, does not mean he is vested with the privileges of federal citizenship that are the predicate of diversity jurisdiction.
·         Scott was therefore NOT made free by residence in IL or MN.  Due process: Can’t justify taking someone’s property when they haven’t committed a crime.
o   The MO Compromise is unconstitutional insofar as it prohibits slavery in the LA territory.
o   The right to property in a slave is granted by the Constitution and the Compromise cannot abrogate this right.  

Professor's comments: First part of the opinion classic originalist rhetoric.  Court says that it is not the Court’s job to say whether laws are good or bad but to enforce the law as intended.  The role of the Court is not to pronounce on the justness of the Con, just to interpret it.
**14th Am specifically overrules Dred Scott: equal protection laws refer not just to citizens but persons.


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