Slaughter-House Case Brief

Summary of Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36 (1872)

Facts: The Louisiana legislature passed an act in 1869 to clean up the Mississippi River from the dumping of refuse into the river from the many small independent slaughterhouses. In the act, the legislature prohibited all landing and slaughtering of livestock in the city of New Orleans or the surrounding parishes except at one large slaughterhouse, which was granted an exclusive franchise for 25 years. The Butchers challenged the act on the grounds that it violated the 13th Amendment and the Privileges and Immunities, Due Process, and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Issue(s): Whether the legislative act by the State of LA is in violation of the 13th and 14th, which include the Privileges and Immunities, Due Process, and Equal Protection Clauses?

Holding: No the law does not violate the 13th Amendment or 14th P& Immunities. The 14th does not incorporate any of the protections under the Bill of Rights from the States to the federal govt.

Procedure: Butchers sued in state courts to have act declared invalid as violating 13th and 14th but the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the law. U.S. S. Ct. Affirmed.

Reason: The Justices supporting the decision felt the spirit of the Amendments at issue were designed to remedy the evils set forth by former slavery and other related issues during an era of excited unrest.

Rationale: The power being exercised by LA is one that has always belonged to the states and referred to as a police power. Unless some restraint on that power is found in the const of that state or the federal Const, it is incapable of any exact limitation. When addressing the 13th, 14th, and 15thAmends. must look to the purpose or the evil they were designed to remedy in fashioning a constructive application.

14th opens with a definition of citizenship of the U.S. and of the states. Thus, two different forms of citizenship exist which are distinct. The next section deals with the P & I of citizens of the U.S. and not those of the states. 14th does not protect citizens against deprivations of their rights by State legislation b/c the 14th does not provide any new rights upon citizens. The 14th only assumes that there are such P & I which belong as rights to citizens, and that they shall not be abridged by State legislation. If this constraint refers only to P & I that existed before the passage of that Amend, then no state could ever interfere by its laws. A correct reading allows for a state to permissibly prescribe such regulations that will promote health and safety. Its sole purpose was to declare to the several states that whatever those rights, granted to its citizens, or as it limits, neither more nor less shall be the measure of the rights of the citizens of other States within its jurisdiction.

13th was enacted under the pressure and fresh memory of the Civil War, and its purpose was to provide Const. protection to African-Americans who had suffered.

The Const. provides very few limitations on state government; barring ex post facto law; bills of attainder; and laws impairing the obligation of contracts. The entire domain of the P & I of citizens lays within the power of the states. This court is excused from defining P & I of the citizens of U.S. which no state can abridge because the issue is not presented.

P & I, as a right of citizens, impliedly protected by the Const, is the right to come before the seat of government and assert any claim on that government, transact any business with it, seeks its protection, share its offices, engage in administration of its functions; right to free access to its seaports, to the sub-treasuries, land offices, and courts of justice. Another P & I belonging to a citizen of the U.S. is the right to demand the care and protection of the federal government over his life, liberty, and property when on the high seas or within the jurisdiction of the federal government, by right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances, and use of the privilege of habeas corpus. To these a citizen of the U.S. can add the rights pronounced in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

There is no reason to inquiry whether further because the rights claimed by the Pl’s are not P & I of the citizens of the U.S. within the meaning of the 14th. The policy concern is preservation of separation of powers and respect for sovereignty after the recent war.

DISSENT: the correct issue is whether the new Amendments protect the citizens of the U.S. against deprivations of their rights by state legislation. Answer: the 14th affords protection and that intention was expressed by Congress when it framed its provisions and which the states ratified. The Civil Rights Act and the CL of Eng condemned governmental interference with the obligation contracts to avoid state created monopolies. The equality of rights, in the lawful pursuits of life, throughout the entire country, are privileges of the citizens of the United States. Certainly states may regulate health and safety issues within its territory, but once enacted those regulations must be free to be followed by every citizen who is within the conditions designated.

Pl A: Statute creates a monopoly by giving exclusive privileges to a small number of citizens at the expense of the larger community, and it also deprives that larger class of citizens the right to exercise a trade. It causes involuntary servitude–13th; restricts P & I –Art. IV; denies Pl’s E.Q. protection–14th; and deprives property w/o DP–5th.

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