Barbier v. Connolly | 113 US 27 | January 05, 1885


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Barbier v. Connolly

113 U.S. 27 (1885)


Supreme Court of United States.

Submitted November 25, 1884.
Decided January 5, 1885.


[29] Mr. A.C. Searle, Mr. H.G. Sieberst and Mr. Alfred Clarke for plaintiff in error.

MR. JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.

He recited the facts as above stated, and continued:

In this case we can only consider whether the fourth section of the ordinance of the city and county of San Francisco is in conflict [30] with the Constitution or laws of the United States. We cannot pass upon the conformity of that section with the requirements of the Constitution of the State. Our jurisdiction is confined to a consideration of the federal question involved, which arises upon an alleged conflict of the fourth section in question with the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. No other part of the amendment has any possible application.

That fourth section, so far as it is involved in the case before the police judge, was simply a prohibition to carry on the washing and ironing of clothes in public laundries and wash-houses, within certain prescribed limits of the city and county, from ten o'clock at night until six o'clock on the morning of the following day. The prohibition against labor on Sunday is not involved. The provision is purely a police regulation within the competency of any municipality possessed of the ordinary powers belonging to such bodies. And it would be an extraordinary usurpation of the authority of a municipality, if a federal tribunal should undertake to supervise such regulations. It may be a necessary measure of precaution in a city composed largely of wooden buildings like San Francisco, that occupations, in which fires are constantly required, should cease after certain hours at night until the following morning; and of the necessity of such regulations the municipal bodies are the exclusive judges; at least any correction of their action in such matters can come only from State legislation or State tribunals. The same municipal authority which directs the cessation of labor must necessarily prescribe the limits within which it shall be enforced, as it does the limits in a city within which wooden buildings cannot be constructed. There is no invidious discrimination against any one within the prescribed limits by such regulations. There is none in the regulation under consideration. The specification of the limits within which the business cannot be carried on without the certificates of the health officer and Board of Fire Wardens is merely a designation of the portion of the city in which the precautionary measures against fire and to secure proper drainage must be taken for the public health and safety. It is not legislation [31] discriminating against any one. All persons engaged in the same business within it are treated alike; are subject to the same restrictions and are entitled to the same privileges under similar conditions.

The Fourteenth Amendment, in declaring that no State "shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," undoubtedly intended not only that there should be no arbitrary deprivation of life or liberty, or arbitrary spoliation of property, but that equal protection and security should be given to all under like circumstances in the enjoyment of their personal and civil rights; that all persons should be equally entitled to pursue their happiness and acquire and enjoy property; that they should have like access to the courts of the country for the protection of their persons and property, the prevention and redress of wrongs, and the enforcement of contracts; that no impediment should be interposed to the pursuits of any one except as applied to the same pursuits by others under like circumstances; that no greater burdens should be laid upon one than are laid upon others in the same calling and condition, and that in the administration of criminal justice no different or higher punishment should be imposed upon one than such as is prescribed to all for like offences. But neither the amendment — broad and comprehensive as it is — nor any other amendment, was designed to interfere with the power of the State, sometimes termed its police power, to prescribe regulations to promote the health, peace, morals, education, and good order of the people, and to legislate so as to increase the industries of the State, develop its resources, and add to its wealth and prosperity. From the very necessities of society, legislation of a special character, having these objects in view, must often be had in certain districts, such as for draining marshes and irrigating arid plains. Special burdens are often necessary for general benefits — for supplying water, preventing fires, lighting districts, cleaning streets, opening parks, and many other objects. Regulations for these purposes may press with more or less weight upon one than upon another, but they are designed, [32] not to impose unequal or unnecessary restrictions upon any one, but to promote, with as little individual inconvenience as possible, the general good. Though, in many respects, necessarily special in their character, they do not furnish just ground of complaint if they operate alike upon all persons and property under the same circumstances and conditions. Class legislation, discriminating against some and favoring others, is prohibited, but legislation which, in carrying out a public purpose, is limited in its application, if within the sphere of its operation it affects alike all persons similarly situated, is not within the amendment.

In the execution of admitted powers unnecessary proceedings are often required which are cumbersome, dilatory and expensive, yet, if no discrimination against any one be made and no substantial right be impaired by them, they are not obnoxious to any constitutional objection. The inconveniences arising in the administration of the laws from this cause are matters entirely for the consideration of the State; they can be remedied only by the State. In the case before us the provisions requiring certificates from the health officer and the Board of Fire Wardens may, in some instances, be unnecessary, and the changes to be made to meet the conditions prescribed may be burdensome, but, as we have said, this is a matter for the determination of the municipality in the execution of its police powers, and not a violation of any substantial right of the individual.

Judgment affirmed.


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January 25, 2016



113 US 27

Supreme Court

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