Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978)

Facts: Redhail, a Wisconsin resident, was denied a marriage license because of his failure to comply with a Wisconsin statute. However, under the statute, Redhail is unable to enter into a lawful marriage as long as he is unable to make child support payments. For two years, Redhail was unemployed and indigent.

Issue: Whether a Wisconsin statute that requires a certain class of residents to obtain a court order granting permission to marry is unconstitutional.

Procedural History: The US District Court held the statute unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and enjoined its enforcement.

Wisconsin’s argument: The statute was intended to establish a mechanism whereby persons with support obligations to children from prior marriages could be counseled before they entered into new marital relationship and incurred further support obligations.

Holding: The statutory classification cannot be justified by the interests advanced in support of it. Affirmed.

Reasoning: The right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals. Loving v. Virginia. Additionally, if the “right to procreate means anything at all, it must imply some right to enter the only relationship in which the State of Wisconsin allows sexual relations legally to take place.” Reasonable regulations that do not significantly interfere with decisions to enter into the marital relationship may legitimately be imposed. However, the Wisconsin statute clearly does interfere directly and substantially with the right to marry.

Powell’s concurrence in the judgment: The majority sweeps too broadly in an area which traditionally has been subject to pervasive state regulation. Powell does not agree with the level of scrutiny and the lack of “any principled means for distinguishing between” regulations that “directly and substantially interfere” and “reasonable regulations that do not significantly interfere.” Powell advocates for an “intermediate scrutiny.”

Stevens concurrence in the judgment: Also agrees that the Court could have ruled more narrowly. There is a difference between classifications based on marital stauts and those that determine who may lawfully marry. Laws prohibiting marriage to a child or a close relative also interfere directly and substantially with the right to marry. However, under the Wisconsin statute, a person’s economic status may determine his eligibility to enter into a lawful marriage – this is unconstitutional.

Rehnquist’s dissent: Agrees with Powell’s reasons for rejecting the Court’s conclusion that marriage is the sort of “fundamental right” which must invariably trigger the strictest judicial scrutiny. Believes that under the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause, the statute only needs to pass a “rational basis test.” The State has an exceptionally strong interest in securing as much support as their parents are able to pay.

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

Facts: Loving, a white man, and Jeter, a black woman were marriage in the District of Columbia. Shortly after their marriage, the Lovings returned to Virginia and established their home. Subsequently, a grand jury indicted the Lovings with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. The Lovings plead guilty to the charge and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence on the condition that the Lovings leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. Virginia was one of 16 states at that time which prohibited and punished interracial marriages. Virginia argued that the statute did not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race because it punished whites and blacks equally.

Issue: Whether a Virginia statute which prevents marriage between persons on the basis of racial classification violates the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Procedural History: The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia upheld the constitutionality of the antimiscegenation statute and affirmed the convicted.

Holding: The Lovings’ convictions were reversed.

Reasoning: The state is correct that marriage is a social relation subject to the State’s police power, however, powers are limited by the commands of the Fourteenth Amendment. Racial classifications are subjected to the “most rigid scrutiny” and there is no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.

State of Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co. (1981)

Case Name: State of Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co. (1981)

Facts: Minnesota wanted to discourage the use of nonreturnable, nonrefillable containers for the packaging of milk to combat a solid waste management problem for the state. However, the statute banned the retail sale of milk in plastic but permitted other nonreturnable, nonrefillable containers such as paperboard.

Procedural History: The lower court found that (contrary to the statement of purpose) the actual basis for the Act was to promote the economic interests of certain segments of the local dairy and pulpwood industries at the expense of the economic interests of other segments of the dairy and plastics industry.

Holding: The Act is constitutional because the statue does not discriminate between interstate and intrastate commerce and the incidental burden imposed on interstate commerce is not “clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits.”

Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578 (1897)

Case Name: Allgeyer v. Louisiana
Citation: 165 U.S. 578 (1897)


Issue: Whether a Louisiana law which required foreign corporations to have a place of business within the state in order to do business within the state violated the due process clause of the 14th amendment.


Key Facts: Louisiana had a law prohibiting a foreign corporation from doing business in the state unless it has at least one known place of business within the state and has an authorized agent in the state (“upon whom process may be served”). The defendant sent a letter through the mail notifying a current client. The insurance contract with the client was made in New York, the premiums were to be paid in New York, and, if necessary, the insurance adjustment was to be made in New York. The letter did not create a new contract but notified the insured that their current contract with the insurance company would cover their property located in Louisiana.


Procedural History: The supreme court of Louisiana ruled that writing the letter within the state was a violation of its law.


Holding: The statute violates the 14th amendment as it deprives the defendants of their liberty without due process of law. A citizen of Louisiana has the right to enter into a contract in New York with an insurance company in New York.


Reasoning: Any act by the state legislature to prevent a contract such as this (or the mailing  of a notification within the state of Louisiana) is an improper and illegal interference with the conduct of the citizen. Although the citizen resides in the state, his right to contract outside the state is beyond the jurisdiction of the state.
Liberty means not only the right of the citizen to be free in the enjoyment of all his faculties; to be free to use them in all lawful ways; to live and work where he will; to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling; to pursue any livelihood or vocation; and for that purpose to enter into all contracts which may be proper, necessary, and essential to his carrying out to a successful conclusion the purposes above mentioned.

Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905)

Case Name: Lochner v. New York
Citation: 198 U.S. 45 (1905)


Issue: Whether the New York law which limited bakery worker hours violated the 14th amendment.


Facts: Lochner was convicted of a misdemeanor for violating a New York law that limited the hours he could work in a bakery. The law limited bakery workers to 60 hours per week or 10 hours per day.


Holding: The law interferes with the right of contact between an employer and employees.


Reasoning: The state has police powers: safety, health, morals, and general welfare of the public and this statute does not fall within any of those. The right to purchase or sell labor is part of the “liberty” protected by the 14th amendment. Justice Peckham goes on with a list of horribles argument stating that if we allow this law then states will be able to do whatever they want because they can always say their law relates to their police power.


Justice Holmes dissent: State laws may regulate life in many ways which me might find “injudicious” or “tyrannical” and interfere with the liberty to contract. But so do school laws, the post office, and taxes.


Justice Harlan’s dissent: Legislation should never be “disregarded or held invalid unless it be, beyond question, plainly and palpably in excess of legislative power.” This statute was enacted to protect bakery employees and does not apply to all kinds of businesses. It was designed to protect the health of these workman because breathing the air is not healthy. The court should sustain the statute because it has not be shown that it was plainly and palpably inconsistent with the Federal Constitution.

Coppage v. Kansas, 236 U.S. 1 (1915)

Case Name: Coppage v. Kansas (1915)
Citation: 236 U.S. 1 (1915)


Issue: Whether a Kansas act interfered with the right to make a contract under the 14th amendment that did not allow an employer to forbid an employee to join an union .

Facts: Coppage was found guilty of violating a Kansas act that would not allow an individual to coerce a person into an agreement not to join a union. According to the facts, Coppage offered the employee an option to remain employed if he would retire from the union. Previously in Adair v. United States, the Supreme Court held a similar federal law to be “an invasion of personal liberty as well as of the right of property guaranteed by the 5th Amendment.”

Holding: Coppage’s conviction was overturned. An employer who asks a man to agree in advance to refrain from affiliation with a union is not asking him to give up a part of his constitutional freedom.

Reasoning: Same reasoning as used in Adair. The right of the employee to quit for whatever reason is the same as the right of the employer to fire the employee for whatever reason. The court took for granted the equal freedom of employment contracts stating that “each party [has] the right to stipulate [ ] what terms [ ] he will consent to.” Contracts of personal employment are included in the right to make contracts for acquisition of property, interfering with this right is a “substantial impairment of liberty in the long-established constitutional sense.”

Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412 (1908)

Case Name: Muller v. Oregon
Citation: 208 U.S. 412 (1908)


Issue: Whether an Oregon act that limited the amount of hours a woman could work interfered with the right to contract under the 14th amendment.


Facts: Oregon had an act that limited the hours a woman could work in a mechanical establishment, factory, or laundry. The defendant was convicted of violating this act in a laundry. Attorney Louis Brandeis wrote a 113 page brief (known as the Brandeis brief ) that detailed how long hours are dangerous for women because of “(a) the physical organization of women, (b) her maternal functions, (c) the rearing and education of the children, and (d) the maintenance of the home.”


Holding: The act is not in conflict with the Federal Constitution.


Reasoning: Although the general right to contract is protected by the 14th amendment, “liberty is not absolute and extending to all contracts” and a state may restrict an individual’s power of contract. Here, the court took into account woman’s physical structure and the performance of maternal functions. Legislation protecting women, who are in a class by themselves, may be sustained even when like legislation for men may not be sustained.

Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, 261 U.S. 525 (1923)

Case Name: Adkins v. Children’s Hospital
Citation: 261 U.S. 525 (1923)


Issue: Whether a District of Columbia act which instituted a minimum wage for women interfered with the freedom of contract under the 5th Amendment.


Facts: The act in question is a minimum wage law for women in the District of Columbia. It is argued that the act is unconstitutional because it interferes with the freedom of contract (included in the Due Process clause of the 5th Amendment). The other side is that it is within the police power of DC because it safeguards the morals of women.


Holding: The act “passes the limit prescribed by the Constitution.”


Reasoning: The differences between the sexes (as described in Muller v. Oregon) have diminished; especially, with the adoption of the 19th Amendment. A woman cannot be emancipated and given special protection in her contractual and civil relationships.


In response to the argument that the act is within the District of Columbia’s police power: “The relation between earnings and morals is not capable of standardization.” There are too many factors that determine the earnings a woman needs: individual temperament, habits of thrift, and whether a woman lives with a family or by herself. There is no reasonable connection between morals and wages.

Weaver v. Palmer Bros. Co., 270 U.S. 402 (1926)

Case Name: Weaver v. Palmer Bros. Co.
Citation: 270 U.S. 402 (1926)


Issue: Whether a Pennsylvania act which prohibited the use of “shoddy” in comfortables violated the due process clause.


Facts:  Palmer Bros manufactures about 3 million “comfortables” or bedcovers a year. About 750,000 of these bedcovers are filled with “shoddy.” Shoddy consists of leftover clippings obtained from cutting tables and secondhand shoddy consists of secondhand garments and rags. The bedcovers filled with secondhand shoddy were sold at a lower price.  The Pennsylvania act in question prescribes sterilization of materials if they are secondhand and prohibits the use of new or old shoddy, even when sterilized. The act was purported as a measure to protect health.


Holding: The act was ruled unconstitutional.


Reasoning: There was no evidence that even in the absence of disinfection or sterilization that shoddy was still harmful. The fact that both parties agree that shoddy may be rendered harmless by disinfection or sterilization shows that the act is unreasonable and arbitrary.


Holmes’ Dissent: If the Penn. Legislature “regarded the danger as very great and inspection and tagging as inadequate remedies” they should be able to constitutionally forbid the use of shoddy in order to prevent the spread of disease.

Nevvia v. New York, 291 U.S. 502 (1934)

Case Name: Nevvia v. New York
Citation: 291 U.S. 502 (1934)


Issue:Whether the creation of the New York Milk Control Board, which had the power to set minimum and maximum prices for milk, violated a retailer’s right to due process under the 14th amendment.


Facts: New York created a Milk Control Board which had the power to “fix minimum and maximum retail prices” for a quart of milk. The purpose of the Milk Control Board was to protect farmers who were receiving less for their milk than the cost of production.
Nebbia, the owner of a grocery store sold two quarts and a 5 cent loaf of bread for 18 cents and was convicted of violating the Milk Board’s order. Nebbia contends that the enforcement of the law denied him due process under the 14th Amendment.


Holding: Upheld price regulations for milk. As far as due process is concerned, “and in the absence of other constitutional restriction a state is free to adopt whatever economic policy may reasonably be deemed to promote public welfare, and to enforce that policy by legislation adapted to its purpose.”


Reasoning: Milk is an essential item of our diet and is also need of safeguards because it cannot be stored long and is an excellent medium for the growth of bacteria. The cost of production increases because of the safeguards needed in the production of milk. If producers do not receive a reasonable return, it is very likely they will not take the proper safeguards.