what was the majority opinion of hte supreme court case lochner v new york?

did this argument present the best legal arguments?

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
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    The case of Lochner v. New York was on the Supreme Court's docket over 100 years ago, in 1905. The Court, by a narrow vote of 5 to 4, struck down a New York labor law which set a maximum limit on the number of hours people could work in a bakery. Chief Justice Melville Fuller and Justices David Brewer,

    Henry Brown, Rufus Peckham, and Joseph McKenna were the members in the Court majority.

    Rufus Peckham wrote the majority opinion, stating that the law violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment (do not "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law"). Here is an excerpt from his biographical info as it appears in The Supreme Court Justices, Illustrated Biographies 1789-1993.

    "Peckham believed that the Court's role was to draw strict lines separating the powers of state governments, the rights of the individual, and the authority of the federal government, and then to police those boundaries. He favored government regulation of business only where interstate commerce was directly and substantially affected. He was a strong proponent of the individual's right to freedom of contract as part of his general right to liberty, which he described as the right 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 avocation, and for that purpose to enter into all contracts which may be proper, necessary and essential to his carrying out the purposes above mentioned.'

    "In 1905 he wrote the majority opinion in the landmark case, Lochner v. New York, which ruled unconstitutional a New York state law limiting bakery workers to a ten-hour day or sixty-hour workweek. He argued that the state had overstepped its powers in regulating workers' hours and wages because safeguarding the public health was not at issue. 'Clean and wholesome bread does not depend upon whether the baker works ten hours per day or 60 hours a week.' "

    Another member of the Lochner majority was David Brewer. Here is some of his biographical info.

    "Within four years of [Brewer's] appointment, the Court began using broad concepts of 'life, liberty, and property' as a basis for invalidating the income tax, weakening the Sherman Antitrust Act, and permitting the use of the judicial injunction as a weapon against organized labor. Because of these decisions, Brewer has traditionally been considered a conservative stalwart and the member of the Court most sympathetic to business interests and the rights of property. ...

    "According to Brewer, the individual, free and independant, must be protected from whatever seems to harm his liberty, whether corporation, union, government, or the individual himself. Brewer's ... natural sympathies lay with the rugged settlers and homesteaders who settled the frontier, rather than with the adventurers and speculators who came later and sought government assistance to make their fortunes. The themes that show up in the early Brewer decisions -- concern and admiration for the individual, the right of private capital to be unhampered by government regulations, the appeal to frontier values of self-denial and thrift, the references to Christian and biblical virtues -- all attest to the strong religious and frontier influence that formed his judicial philosophy.

    "He favored the idea of limited government and of limited state intervention into the economy. He reluctantly accepted that the federal and state governments had the power to regulate the rates charged by businesses, provided the regulation was fair, reviewable by courts, and limited to those enterprises that had received favors from government and thereby voluntarily incurred an obligation. The principle he supported for determining fairness was that regulation should neither deprive the company of profit nor burden it with unreasonable operating expenses.

    "In general, Brewer believed that 'men should be able to take care of themselves and not be coddled by protection.' Hence, he consistently dissented from opinions affirming Munn v. Illinois, a case decided just before his appointment. The decision had allowed the state legislature to regulate businesses dedicated to public use or serving the public interest. Brewer's dissenting opinions in two subsequent cases expressed the minority view that the 'public interest' doctrine of Munn unlawfully and unreasonably interfered with private enterprise."

    And another supporter of Lochner was Henry Brown.

    "Justice Brown saw himself as moderately conservative, and he usually stood with the majority of his colleagues in their view of government and the Constitution. Writing for the Court in Holden v. Hardy (1898), Brown upheld states' rights to regulate labor conditions; his argument expressed great concern for the hazards posed by the mining industry for its workers. He was, however, also in the majority in Lochner v. New York (1905), which held invalid a maximum hours law for bakers. In his view, the liberty to make contracts was such a fundamental right that it could be abridged by the government only for a good reason. He did not see the regulation of bakers' hours as a true health and safety issue, as he did for miners."

    In answer to your question whether or not these were the best legal arguments: the answer is firmly NO. These Justices were clearly getting their own personal beliefs confused with a correct reading of the Constitution. Justice Holmes wrote one of the dissenting opinions and that dissenting opinion was nearly perfect. Holmes clearly had the better interpretation of the Constitution.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    New York had a criminal statute that prohibited bakery employees from working more than 10 hours per day or 20 per week. In was supposed to be a labor protection law, but in fact it was a protectionist law but in reality was not designed to benefit the bakers but other interests. Lochner was convicted under a New York law prohibiting bakery employees from working more than 10 hours per day or 20 hours per week. Lochner brought this action to attack the New York bakery labor law because it interfered with his Liberty to contract as guaranteed under Art. I, Sec. 10 of the US Constitution and the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. He argued that interfering with a worker's right to contract was an impermissible infringement on a person's right to substantive due process of law. New York argued that it has the right to regulate the health,safety and welfare of its citizens by imposing laws that the New York legislature deemed in the best interests of society and that the Constitution may not interfere with the state's police powers. The US Supreme Court ruled that the power of the state to police the "liberty" of the individual to contract, which is protected by the 14th amendment must be balanced against the state's interest. Police powers of the states are limited by the Constitution. The court reasoned that to be Constitution this law had to be a reasonable exercise of the police power or it would be found to be an arbitrary interference with the right of personal liberty to contract. It found that there is no reasonable right to interfere with the liberty to contract by determining the hours a baker may work in a day. The law does not involve safety of the baker, who in contrast to a miner (another case cited by New York) is as a class intelligent, is not threatened by his power to negotiate hours of employment. The state's justification for this law under health and safety was a pretext because the public interest is not sufficiently affected by this act. There is no demonstrable causal link between labor hours of a baker and the quality of his product or his own health. The dissenting opinion issued by the justices who were outvoted by the majority opinion held that the State utilized its best judgment based upon the information it had that bakers were subject to health and safety hazards and that the US Supreme Court may not 2nd guess the states in these matters. The dissent argued that unless there were no circumstances in which the law would be deemed constitutional, it should be held as the law is rationally related to the states exercise of police powers. The Lochner opinion heralded in an era of court decisions (known as the Lochner Era) which ended with the Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt's threat to "pack the supreme court with favorable nominees", and an opinion issued in the case of West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 (1937) ended the Lochner Era. The Supreme Court rejected Lochner and began adopting and shaping the "rational basis" test for most state regulation or under Federal guidelines, the commerce clause to uphold most state or federal laws.

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