Lochner v. New York

Lochner v. New York

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Lochner v. New York

Lochner v. New York (1905) was
a significant United States Supreme Court
 ruling which held that the
Fourteenth Amendment
 of the United States
Constitution
 provided individuals with the
liberty of contract. The Court held that the Fourteenth
Amendment
 includes the protection of
personal rights.
 

The Laws of 1897 were enacted in the State of New York and
required, among other things,  that
people working in a bakery must not work more than ten hours per day or sixty
hours per week (called the Bakeshop Act). Joseph Lochner was the owner of a
bakery who was fined for requiring an employee to exceed these employment
hours. Lochner appealed this conviction and, after losing two appeals, he
eventually appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Lochner claimed that his
rights, specifically those laid out in the Fourteenth Amendment, were being
violated. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees all citizens due process of the
law before being deprived of “life, liberty, or property”. This Due
Process Clause was shown in previous cases to limit the amount of control the Government
was able to exercise over citizens. The type of control specifically questioned
in this case was the ability of the Government to dictate the type of labor
contracts people are permitted to engage in.

Lochner enforced his right to
freedom of contract. Lochner’s attorney argued against the defense saying that
the Bakeshop Act was not protecting the health of bakery workers because modern
bakeries were sufficiently ventilated.

The United States Supreme Court’s decision, written by Justice
Rufus Peckham, held that the Bakeshop Act was unconstitutional. Peckham
acknowledged that, although the freedom of contract doctrine was not unlimited,
it did protect Lochner in this case. The Supreme Court Justice
 went on
to say that some labor restrictions by the Government are necessary to protect
individuals who are being exploited, but that this does not apply to bakers.

This
decision set precedent for several other cases including a ruling that declared
certain minimum wage laws unconstitutional. The Lochner case furthered the substantive
interpretation of the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This means
that not only does this Clause entitle a person to a proper legal procedure,
but also limits the amount of control the U.S. Government can exercise over
individuals. This case sparked a “Lochner era” where the Supreme
Court declared a great deal of statutes regulating labor conditions to be
unconstitutional.    
   

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