Lochner+v+New+York+_1905_

Lochner+v+New+York+_1905_ - *D* The Fourteenth Amendment...

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Unformatted text preview: *D* The Fourteenth Amendment and Freedom of Contract M Lochner v. New York The freedom, or liberty, of contract doctrine developed in the state courts in the last three decades of the nineteenth century. The idea was that as part of the liberty guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, no state could interfere with the right to make lawful contracts. It chiefly was applied to the employee-employer rela- tionship. The Supreme Court first accepted the doctrine in a non- labor case in 1897 (Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 US. 578). The next year, in a 7—2 decision, the Court ignored it and sustained a Utah law limiting miners to an eight hour work day as a proper health measure (Holden v. Hardy, 169 US. 366). But the facts and results of the miners’ case proved exceptional when seven years later, the Court reversed itself in the Lochner case. The state had passed a law limiting bakers to a maximum of ten hours per day or sixty hours per week, an the grounds that longer hours were detrimental to the workers’ health. The Court divided 5—4 against the law. Holmes typically dissented by berating the majority’s economic predilec- tions, but Harlan, speaking for the other dissenters, boldly chal— lenged the majority with factual evidence. Justice Peckham delivered the opinion of the Court. The statute necessarily interferes with the right of contract between the employer and employés, concerning the number of hours in which the latter may labor in the bakery of the employer. The general right to make a contract in relation to his business is part of the liberty of the individual protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578. Under that provision no State can deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The right to purchase or in sell labor is part of the liberty 198 Us. 45 (1905) 282 Lochner v. New York 283 I protected by this amendment, unless there are circumstances which ex— clude the right. There are, however, certain powers, existing in the sovereignty of each State in the Union, somewhat vaguely termed police powers, the exact description and limitation of which have not been attempted by the courts. Those powers, broadly stated and without, at present, any attempt at a more specific limitation, relate to the safety, health, morals and general welfare of the public. Both property and liberty are held on such reasonable conditions as may be imposed by the governing power of the State in the exercise of those powers, and with such conditions the Fourteenth Amendment was not designed to inter— fere. . . . The State, therefore, has power to prevent the individual from making certain kinds of contracts, and in regard to them the Federal Constitution offers no protection. If the contract he one which the State, in the legiti- mate exercise of its police power, has the right to prohibit, it is not prevented from prohibiting it by the Fourteenth Amendment. Contracts in violation of a statute, either of the Federal or state government, or a contract to let one’s property for immoral purposes, or to do any other unlawful act, could obtain no protection from the Federal Constitution, as coming under the liberty of person or free contract. Therefore, when the State, by its legislature, in the assumed exercise of its police powers, has passed an act which seriously limits the right to labor or the right of contract in regard to their means of livelihood between persons who are sm' juris (both employer and employé), it becomes of great im— portance to determine which shall prevailwthe right of the individual to labor for such time as he may choose, or the right of the State to prevent the individual from laboring or from entering into any contract to labor, beyond a certain time prescribed by the State. This court has recognized the existence and upheld the exercise of the police powers of the States in many cases which might fairly be con— sidered as border ones, and it has, in the course of its determination of questions regarding the asserted invalidity of such statutes, on the ground of their violation of the rights secured by the Federal Constitution, been guided by rules of a very liberal nature, the application of which has resulted, in numerous instances, in upholding the validity of state statutes thus assailed. . . . It must, of course, be conceded that there is a limit to the valid exercise of the police power by the State. There is no dispute concern— ing this general proposition. . . . In every case that comes before this court, therefore, where legislation of this character is concerned and where the protection of the Federal Constitution is sought, the question necessarily arises: Is this a fair, reasonable and appropriate exercise of the police power of the State, or is it an unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right of the individual to his personal 284 The Fourteenth Amendment and Freedom of Contract liberty or to enter into those contracts in relation to labor which may seem to him appropriate or necessary for the support of himself and his family? Of course the liberty of contract relating to labor includes both parties to it. The one has as much right to purchase as the other to sell labor. This is not a question of substituting the judgment of the court for that of the legislature. If the act be within the power of the State it is valid, although the judgment of the court might be totally opposed to the enactment of such a law. But the question would still remain: Is it within the police power of the State? and that question must be answered by the court. . The question Whether this act is valid as a labor law, pure and simple, may be dismissed in a few words; There is no reasonable ground for interfering with the liberty of person or the right of free contract, by determining the hours of labor, in the occupation of a baker. There is no contention that bakers as a class are not equal in intelligence and capacity to men in other trades or manual occupations, or that they- are not able to assert their rights and care for themselves without the protecting arm of the State, interfering with their independence of judg. ment and of action. They are in no sense wards of the State. . . . The law must be upheld, if at all, as a law pertaining to the health of the individual engaged in the occupation of a baker. It does not affect any other portion of the public than those who are engaged in that oc- cupation. Clean and wholesome bread does not depend upon whether the baker works but ten hours per day or only sixty hours a week. The limitation of the hours of labor does not come within the police power on that ground. . It is a question of which of two powers or rights shall prevail—the power of the3State to legislate or the right of the individual to liberty of person and freedom of contract. . . . We think the limit, of the police power has been reached and passed in this case. There is, in our judgment, no reasonable foundation for holding this to be necessary or appropriate as a health law to safeguard the public health or the health of the individuals who are following the trade of a baker. If this Statute be valid, and if, therefore, a proper case is made out in which to deny the right of an individual, sm' juris, as employer or employé, to make contracts for the labor of the latter under the protection of the provisions of the Federal Constitution, there would seem to be no length to which legislation of this nature might not go- - ' ' . We think that there can be no fair doubt that the trade of a baker,- in and of itself, is not an unhealthy one to that degree which would authorize the legislature to interfere with the right to labor, and with Loclm‘er v. New York 285 the right of free Contract on the'part of the individual, either as employer Or lemplo‘yé. In looking through statiStics regarding all trades and occu— pations, it may be true that the trade of a ‘baker does not appear to be as healthy as some other trades, and is also vastly more healthy than still others. To the common understanding the trade of a baker has never been regarded as an unhealthy one. Very likely physicians would not recom- mend the exercise of that or Of any other trade as a remedy for ill health. Some occupations are more healthy than others,'but we think there are none which might not come” under the power of the legislature to super- vise and control the hours of working therein, if the mere fact that the occupation is not absolutely and perfectly healthy is to confer that right upon the legislative department of the Government. It might be safely affirmed that almost all occupations more or less affect the health. . . . But are we all, on that account, at the mercy of legislative major- ities? . . . Statutes of the nature of that under review,-limiting the hours in which grown and intelligent men may labor to earn their living, are mere meddlesome interferences with the rights of the individual, and they are not saved from condemnation by the claim that they are passed in the exercise of the police power and upon the subject of the health of the individual whose rights are interfered with, unless there, be some fair ground, reasonable in and of itself, to say that there is material danger to the public health or to the health of the employés, if the hours of labor are not curtailed. If this be not clearly the case the individuals, whose rights are thus made the subject of legislative interference, are under the protection of the Federal Constitution regarding their liberty of contract as well as of person; and the legislature of the State has no power to limit their right as proposed in this statute. . . . It was further urged on the argument that restricting the hours of labor in the case of bakers was valid because it tended to cleanliness on the part of the workers, as a man was more apt to be cleanly when not overworked, and if cleanly then his “output” was also more likely to be so. . . . In our judgment it is not possible in fact to discover the connec~ tion between the number of hours a baker may work in the bakery and the healthful quality of the bread made by the workman. The connec- tion, if any exists, is too shadowy and thin to build any argument for the interference of the legislature. If the man works ten hours a day it is all right, but if ten and a half or eleven his health is in danger and his bread may be unhealthful, and, therefore, he shall not be permitted to do it. This, we think, is unreasonable and entirely arbitrary. . . . It is manifest to us that the limitation of the hours of labor as provided for in this section of the statute under which the indictment was found, and the plaintiff in error convicted, has no such direct relation to and 286 The Fourteenth Amendment and Freedom of Contract no such substantial effect upon the health of the employé, as to justify us in regarding the section as really a health law. It seems to us that the real object and purpose were simply to regulate the hours of labor between the master and his employés (all being men, sui in a private business, not dangerous in any degree to morals or in any real and substantial degree, to the health of the employés. Under such circum- stances the freedom of master and employé to contract with each other in relation to their employment, and in defining the same, cannot be pro— hibited or interfered with, without violating the Federal Constitu— tion. . . . Justice Harlan, with whom Justice White and Justice Day concurred, dissenting. While this court has not attempted to mark the precise boundaries of what is called the police power of the State, the existence of the power has been uniformly recognized, both by the Federal and state courts. All the cases agree that this power extends at least to the protection of the lives, the health and the safety of the public against the injurious exercise by any citizen of his own rights. . . . It is plain that this statute was enacted in order to protect the physical well-being of those who work in bakery and confectionery establishments. It may be that the statute had its origin, in part, in the'belief that em- ployers and employés in such establishments were not upon an equal footing, and that-the necessities of the latter often compelled them to submit to such exactions as unduly taxed their strength. Be this as it may, the statute must be taken as expressing the belief of the people of New York that, as a general rule, and in the case of the average man, labor in excess of sixty hours during a week in such establishments may endanger the health of those who thus labor. Whether or not this be wise legislation it is not the province of the court to inquire. Under our systems of government the courts are not concerned with the wisdom or policy of legislation. So that in determining the question of power to in- terfere with liberty of contract, the court may inquire whether the means devised by the State are germane to an end which may be lawfully ac- complished and have a real or substantial relation to the protection of health, as involved in the daily work of the persons, male and female, engaged in bakery and confectionery establishments. . . . I submit that this court will transcend its functions if it assumes to annul the statute of New York. It must be remembered that this statute does not apply to all kinds of business. It applies only to work in bakery and confectionery establishments, in which, as all know, the air constantly breathed by Lochner v. New York 287 workmen is not as pure (and healthful as that to be found in some other establishments or out of doors. Professor Hirt in his treatise on the “Diseases of the Workers” has said: “The labor of the bakers is among the hardest and most laborious imaginable, because it has to be performed under conditions injurious to the health of those engaged in it. It is hard, very hard work, not only because it requires a great deal of physical exertion in an overheated workshop and during unreasonably long hours, but more so because of the erratic demands of the public, compelling the baker to perform the greater part of his work at night, thus depriving him of an opportunity to enjoy the necessary rest and sleep, a fact which is highly injurious to his health.” Another writer says: “The constant inhaling of flour dust causes inflammation of the lungs and of the bronchial tubes. The eyes also suffer through this dust, which is responsible for the many cases of running eyes among the bakers. The long hours of toil to which all bakers are subjected produce rheumatism, cramps and swollen legs. . . .” In the Eighteenth Annual Report by the New York Bureau of Statistics of Labor it is stated that among the occupations involving exposure to conditions that interfere With nutrition is that of a baker. . . , There are many reasons of a weighty, substantial character, based upon the experience of mankind, in support of the theory that, all things con- sidered, more than ten hours’ steady work each day, from week to week, in a bakery or confectionery establishment, may endanger the health, and shorten the lives of the workmen, thereby diminishing their-physical and mental capacity to serve the State, and to provide for those de- pendent upon them. ‘ If such reasons exist that ought to be the end of this case, for the State is not amenable to the judiciary, in respect of its legislative enactments, unless such enactments are plainly, palpably, beyond all question, in- consistent with the Constitution of the United States. We are not to presume that the State of New York has acted in bad faith. Nor can we assume that its legislature acted without due deliberation, or that it did not determine this question upon the fullest attainable information, and for the common good. We cannot say that the State has acted without reason nor ought we to proceed upon the theory that its action is a mere sham. Our duty, I submit, is to sustain the statute as not being in con- flict With the Federal Constitution, for the reason—and such is an all- sufiicient reason — it is not shown to he plainly and palpably inconsistent with that instrument. Let the State alone in the management of its purely domestic affairs, so long as it does not appear beyond all question . .288 The Fourteenth Amendment and Freedom of Contract that it has violated the Federal Constitution. This View necessarily re- sults from the principle that the health and safety of the people of a State are prirnarily'for the State to guard and protect. I take leave to say thatthe New York statute, in the particulars here involved, cannot be held to be in conflict with the Fourteenth Amend- ment, without enlarging the scope of the Amendment far beyond its original purpose and without bringing under the supervision of this court matters which have been supposed to belong exclusively to the legisla- tive departments of the several States when exerting their conceded power to guard the health and safety of their citizens by such regulations as they in their wisdom deem best. . . . A decision that the New York statute is void under the Fourteenth Amendment will, in my opinion, in— ' volve consequences of a far-reaching and mischievous character; for such a decision would seriously cripple the inherent power of the States to care for the lives, health and well—being of their citizens. . . . Justice Holmes dissenting. . . . This case is decided upon an economic theory which a large part of the country does not entertain. If it were a question whether I agreed with that theory, I should desire to study it further and long before making up my mind. But I do not conceive that to be my duty, because I strongly believe that my agreement or disagreement has nothing to do with the right of a majority to embody their opinions in law. . . . The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact .Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics. . . . [A] constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory, whether of paternalism and the organic relation of the citizen to the State or of laissez. faire. It is made for people of funda- mentally differing views, and the accident of our finding certain opinions natural and familiar or novel and even shocking ought not to conclude our judgment upon the question whether statutes embodying them con— flict with the Constitution of the United States. General propositions do not decide concrete cases. The decision will depend on a judgment or intuition more subtle than any articulate major premise. But I think that the proposition just stated, if it is accepted, will carry us far toward the end. Every opinion tends to become a law. I think that the word liberty in the Fourteenth Amendment is perverted when it is held to prevent the natural outcome of a dominant opinion, un— less it can be said that a rational and fair man necessarily would admit that the statute proposed would infringe fundamental principles as they have been understood by the traditions of our people and our law. It does not need research to show that no such sweeping condemnation can Muller v; Oregon 289 be passed upon the statute before us. A reasonable man might 'think it a proper measure on the score of health. . . . ...
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Lochner+v+New+York+_1905_ - *D* The Fourteenth Amendment...

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