Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (1925)

Key Facts– Oregon required that all youths attend public school, and parents and guardians obtained orders of restraint against this.

Issue– Can a state compel all youths to attend public schools?

Holding– No

Results– Law overturned

Reasoning– The state is not acting under exigent circumstances here. Also, children are not “mere creature[s] of the state.” Their families have a right and a duty to nurture them, which includes providing an education.

Meyer v. Nebraska (1923)

Key Facts– In Nebraska, a law was passed making it illegal to teach languages other than English to students before 8th grade. Meyer was tried for teaching German to a ten-year-old.

Issue– Does this law violate Nebraskans’ rights?

Holding– Yes

Result– Law overturned

Reasoning– Though states have the power to enforce educational requirements generally, it is primarily a matter for family concern. Thus, it is protected from too much interference by the state, other than where needed for compelling reasons.

United States v. Carolene Products Co. (1938)

Key Facts– Congress’s “Filled Milk Act” prohibited shipment in interstate commerce of milk compounded with fat or oil other than milk fat. Carolene Porducts Co. challenges the constitutionality of the statute.

Issues– Does this law violate the Fifth Amendment? How about the Fourteenth?

Holding– No and no.

Result– Law upheld.

Reasoning– The Fifth Amendment does not prohibit Congress making this regulation. The states were held to be able to make a similar regulation in Hebe Co. v. Shaw, which means it is not forbidden under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plus, there is evidence that regulation of milk might be helpful for public health reasons. The Court here essentially commits to respect Congress’s factual judgment on such matters into the future.

Nebbia v. New York (1934)

Key Facts– A law was passed in New York, establishing a Milk Control Board that could fix milk prices. Someone sold milk at below the set price.

Issue– Is this regulation constitutional?

Holding– Yes.

Result– Regulation affirmed.

Reasoning– Milk is a public necessity, which is why it’s highly regulated in New York. Here, unrestricted competition was perceived as having the possible effect of aggravating existing problems and reducing the stability of the milk market. Thus, this policy might have the effect of promoting the public welfare, and is within the state police power.

Lochner v. New York (1905)

Key Facts– A law was passed, limiting the number of hours people working in bakeries and certain related jobs could work to sixty per week and ten per day.

Issue– Is such a law, restricting employer-employee conduct, constitutional?

Holding– No.

Result– Law overturned

Reasoning– The statute interferes with the right to contract, which is a liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. This is also not something that can be regulated under state police power, which is construed as referring to safety, health, morals, and general welfare of the public only. In different areas of employment, limiting working hours to a certain number might make sense. In mining, it might make sense that hours be limited by the government for safety reasons. Here, the court rules that there is no such reasonable ground for interference in baking. Public safety is not benefited by the statute, and they suggest that should be the criteria used to examine a statute purporting to promote public health.

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (1989)

Key Facts– DeShaney was beaten and permanently injured by his father, and he now sues the Department of Social Services for failing to act on his behalf and thereby depriving him of liberty in violation of the Due Process Clause.

Issue– Does the Due Process Clause impose a possible duty on state actors to protect people’s life, liberty, and property?

Holding– No

Result– Suit dismissed

Reasoning– Due Process is nowhere implied to create positive duties for the states. Rather, it protects from state action encroaching in certain areas. Further, Social Services had no affirmative duty to help the child, since Wisconsin law established no such tortious liability.