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.

City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999)

Case Name: City of Chicago v. Morales
Citation: 527 U.S. 41 (1999)

Facts: Chicago enacted the Gang Congregation Ordinance prohibiting “criminal street gang members” from “loitering” with one another in any public case.

The offense required four predicates:

  1. Police officer must reasonably believe that at least one of the people is a criminal street gang member
  2. The people must be “loitering” – defined as – “remaining in any  one place with no apparent purpose
  3. The officer must order all of the people to disperse and remove themselves from the area
  4. A person must disobey the officer’s order

Issue: Whether the ordinance violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment

City’s argument: The person receives adequate notice once the officer tells him to disperse. Also, crime went down when the ordinance was enacted (footnote). Police officers need discretion.

Defendant’s argument: The ordinance is so vague and it leaves the “public uncertain as to the conduct it prohibits.” (See example of drug dealing basketball players in footnote). An officer’s order cannot retroactively give adequate warning of the boundary between the permissible and the impermissible applications of the law. The ordinance has an overall lack of clarity and there are no guidelines for law enforcement as the ordinance gives them absolute discretion.

Holding: The city’s ordinance affords too much discretion to the police and too little notice to citizens.

Concurrence: Apparent purpose – needs a standard to go along with it

Dissent: Police/peace officers have always had discretion and have always performed the duty of preventing loitering (“move along” he calls it). Also, the majority underestimates the intelligence of the people of Chicago and whether or not they will know if the public perceives them as having no apparent purpose.

Keeler v. Superior Court, 2 Cal. 3d 619 (1970)

Case Name: Keeler v. Superior Court
Citation: 2 Cal. 3d 619 (1970)

Facts: Keeler kneed his wife in the stomach to purposefully kill her fetus.

Issue: Whether the fetus, which would have been viable outside the womb, can be considered a “human being” for purposes of the California Penal Code.

Defendant’s argument: A fetus does not fall within the meaning of a “human being” when looking at legislative history. Furthermore:
1) The power to define a crime is a legislative function (the court exercised judicial enlargement which is a violation of the separation of powers), and
2) Due Process requires a fair warning and the government cannot enact an ex post facto law
– It is “unforeseeable” to consider a fetus a human being

State’s argument: The fetus was viable outside of the womb and should be considered a “human being” and it is within the judicial interpretation power to state this.

Holding: The judicial enlargement of the criminal statute was not foreseeable by the defendant and “its adoption at this time would deny him due process of law.” We require more specificity when you are at risk of losing your personal liberty.

Dissent: We should interpret the term “human being” with today’s medical science. The legislature used a broad term, “human being,” (as opposed to “one who has been born alive”). Also, the fact that California courts have not had this same question does not render the judgment “unforeseeable.”


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.

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.