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Civil Rights Cases

Law Dictionary

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Constitutional Law Keyed to Cohen

Held. No. Such an act of refusal has nothing to do with slavery or involuntary servitude, and that if it violates any right; the proper redress is under the laws of the state.
If these laws are adverse to his rights, and do not properly protect him, his remedy will be found in the corrective legislation which congress has adopted or may adopt for counteracting the effect of state laws, or state action, prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment.
It would be running the slavery argument into the ground to make it apply to every act of discrimination, which a person may see it fit to make as to the guests he will entertain, or as to the people he will take in his coach or cab, or admit to his concert.
If the laws make unjust discriminations according to the Fourteenth Amendment is it up to Congress to provide an adequate remedy. There is a point at which a former slave becomes a normal citizen and ceases to be a special favorite of the laws. In conclusion the Court finds that there is no ground of authority in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and therefore invalidates the rule in question in this case.

Dissent. Feels that the substance and spirit of the recent Amendments of the Constitution have been sacrificed by the decision in this case. Feels that the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments gave Congress the power to legislate directly with reference to private individuals engaged in such quasi-public businesses as those involved in this case. The dissent also feels that this law is aimed at all people independent of their race, rather than special legislation towards a certain class. This legislation aims to make the black race stand on equal ground with the white race, not to provide them with special benefits, and the majority’s classification of this law as providing them special benefits is unfounded. Therefore, this law is a valid exercise of power granted t o Congress by the United States Constitution.

Discussion. The civil rights cases involved in this section are important not for its impact on the current status of the law in this area, but for recognizing how far the status of the law has come over the years. This case shows that the majority feels the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments carve out a very limited grant of power to Congress to prohibit slavery, and not promote equality. The dissent in this case, prefers to grant Congress a much broader power to regulate equality in this country, and over time it is this dissent rather than the majority decision that has influenced the jurisprudence of the Court over time.
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