Brief Fact Summary.
Nebbia brought suit challenging New York legislation regarding milk prices in the state.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A state is free to adopt whatever economic policy may reasonably be deemed to promote the public welfare, and to enforce that policy by legislation adapted to its purpose.
There is no serious difference of opinion in respect of the validity of laws and regulations fixing the height of buildings within reasonable limits, the character of materials and methods of construction, and the adjoining area which must be left open, in order to minimize the danger of fire or collapse, the evils of over-crowding, and the like, and excluding from residential sections offensive trades, industries and structures likely to create nuisances.View Full Point of Law
To combat the effects of the Great Depression, New York adopted a Milk Control Law in 1933 which established a board to set a minimum retail price for milk. It set the price of a quart of milk at nine cents. Nebbia violated the law by offering two quarts of milk and a five-cent loaf of bread for a total of 18 cents.
Does the New York regulation on in-state milk prices violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
No, the New York regulation does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Not only does the statute interfere arbitrarily with the rights of the little grocer to conduct his business according to long-accepted standards, it also takes away the liberty of 12,000,000 consumers.
The guarantee of due process demands only that the law shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious, and that the means selected shall have a real and substantial relation to the object sought to be attained. The reasonableness of each regulation depends upon the relevant facts, but price regulations are not per se beyond the framework of due process. A state is free to adopt whatever economic policy may reasonably be deemed to promote public welfare, and to enforce that policy by legislation adapted to its purpose. The courts are without authority either to declare such policy or to override it when it is declared by the legislature.