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Barron v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Baron (Plaintiff), a wharf owner sued the Defendant, the city of Baltimore (Defendant) for taking his property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Bill of Rights does not apply to state and local government, only to Federal government.

    Facts. The Plaintiff sued the Defendant because they ruined his wharf by diverting streams and making water too shallow for his boats. The Plaintiff claimed that the city took his property without just compensation and in violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution

    Issue. Does the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution apply to local government?

    Held. No. Justice John Marshall (J. Marshall) writing for the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) observed that the framers intended the Amendments of the United States Constitution (Constitution) to apply only to the Federal government and not the states. Each state formulated their own constitution, so the Amendments did not apply to them. Article 1 Section: 10 of the Constitution provides an exclusive list of the restriction upon state government. Without words specifically stating that the Amendments of the Constitution apply to the states, the Supreme Court refused to recognize that they did. Moreover, the Amendments themselves lack words allowing for an interpretation that they apply to the states. Here, since there was no conflict between the city and state’s action and the Constitution the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction.

    Discussion. The Constitution was designed for the federal government and not the states. The States each have their own Constitution with their own powers. Amendments were enacted to guard against the encroachments of the federal government and not the states. Also, the amendments do not have any language indicating that they apply to the states.


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