By Jack Parkos | United States
The Supreme Court has a rich and controversial history. In my previous article, I discussed 6 of the worst rulings in history. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end at six cases. There have been plenty of horrid rulings that didn’t make the first list.
1. Plessy V. Ferguson
This case is widely regarded as one of the most infamous rulings in US history. In a vote of 7-1, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of states segregation of public facilities. The doctrine of “separate but equal” was established here. But, as we all know, the public services were not equal. This ruling went against the enlightenment values of equality in the eyes of the law. While the case was overturned by “Brown v. Board of Education”, we still remember the shameful time in history when this was allowed.
2. Slaughter House Cases
This was one of the early interpretations of the 14th Amendment. The water supply of New Orleans was contaminated by animal urine and blood from slaughterhouses. The city tried to move the slaughterhouses south to protect the water supply, but since the slaughterhouses were outside city limits, the city had no authority.
The city then appealed to the state legislature who gave the city of New Orleans the ability to centralize the slaughterhouses. The city created areas that butchers could rent out while banning butchering anywhere else, which caused other businesses to close. The city had created a monopoly on slaughterhouses. A group of butchers called Butchers’ Benevolent Association formed to sue the city to stop the monopoly. They claimed their 14th amendment rights had been violated.
On a decision of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled that the butchers 14th amendment rights had not been violated. The claim was that the 14th Amendment only protects from the federal government and not the states. The court also claimed that the 14th Amendment was meant to protect slaves and that the butcher’s claims were a stretch. This ruling is dangerous. Of course, states rights are important, but the states shouldn’t have the right to violate constitutional rights. This court case allowed the state to do so.
3. Hans V. Louisiana
Bernard Hans owned bonds issued by Louisiana, and Louisiana law was to change rendering his bonds invalid. Hans claimed Louisiana was entering with his contract which is forbidden in the Constitution. Hans sued Louisiana in the United States District Court. The 11th Amendment of the Constitution bans citizens from one state from suing another state, yet the amendment did not state if someone could sue their own state. The court also looked at an essay by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 81.
It has been suggested that an assignment of the public securities of one State to the citizens of another, would enable them to prosecute that State in the federal courts for the amount of those securities; a suggestion which the following considerations prove to be without foundation.It is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of an individual without its consent.
This is the general sense, and the general practice of mankind; and the exemption, as one of the attributes of sovereignty, is now enjoyed by the government of every State in the Union. Unless, therefore, there is a surrender of this immunity in the plan of the convention, it will remain with the States, and the danger intimated must be merely ideal. The circumstances which are necessary to produce an alienation of State sovereignty were discussed in considering the article of taxation, and need not be repeated here.
A recurrence to the principles there established will satisfy us, that there is no color to pretend that the State governments would, by the adoption of that plan, be divested of the privilege of paying their own debts in their own way, free from every constraint but that which flows from the obligations of good faith. The contracts between a nation and individuals are only binding on the conscience of the sovereign, and have no pretensions to a compulsive force.
They confer no right of action, independent of the sovereign will. To what purpose would it be to authorize suits against States for the debts they owe? How could recoveries be enforced? It is evident, it could not be done without waging war against the contracting State; and to ascribe to the federal courts, by mere implication, and in destruction of a pre-existing right of the State governments, a power which would involve such a consequence, would be altogether forced and unwarrantable.
This assured that the Constitution would prevent a citizen from one state from suing another state in a federal court. It said nothing about someone suing their own state.
This would be up to the Supreme Court. It is important to note that the Constitution gives the federal court the power over any cases involving the Constitution. This was Hans’ argument.
The Supreme Court ruled and gave the state immunity. They claimed the Founders “could not conceive” the idea of someone suing their own state. Saying that the framers of the Constitution “could not conceive” an idea is ridiculous. That is like saying because the Founders couldn’t conceive the idea of the internet, we don’t have privacy rights on the web. The argument against suing another state may make some sense to you, but a citizen suing their own state over a constitutional in a federal court should be allowed, this is obviously stated in the Constitution.
These were a few more rulings that went wrong. They spat on the Constitution and threatened liberty. Trump’s choice for the SCOTUS nomination will determine the future of our Constitution. I hope that the Supreme Court will not make choices that require a part 3.