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Slaughter-House Cases

    Brief Fact Summary. A Louisiana statute granting a monopoly over the butchering trade in three areas of the state was unsuccessfully challenged by Plaintiffs, butchers not included in the monopoly, under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Thirteenth Amendment does not empower individuals when their rights are taken, but rather is limited only to slavery. The purpose of the Fifteenth Amendment is to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment. The Privileges and Immunities clause only protects United States citizens, not state citizens. Thus, only states can protect the rights of state citizens.

    Facts. Louisiana passed a statute creating a monopoly over the butchering trade in three areas of the state in order to promote health and safety of the state citizens. The Plaintiffs, butchers who were excluded, sued claiming that the state law created an “involuntary servitude” in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment and that the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment by abridging the “privileges and immunities” of the citizens of the United States, thereby denying the Plaintiffs “the equal protection of the laws,” as well as “deprivation of their property without due process of law.” The highest state court sustained the law.

    Issue. Whether state law created an “involuntary servitude” in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.
    Whether the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment by abridging the “privileges and immunities” of the citizens of the United States, thereby denying Plaintiffs “the equal protection of the laws,” as well as “deprivation of their property without due process of law.”

    Held. No. Judgment of the highest state court affirmed. The purpose of the Thirteenth Amendment was to abolish slavery and to guarantee freedom to the “slave race.” The word “servitude” is personal in nature and can only be applied to slavery.
    No. Judgment of the highest state court affirmed. There is a distinction between citizenship of the United States and citizenship of a state. Based on this distinction, the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects the “privileges and immunities of the United States citizens,” must differ from the content of the Article IV Section:2 Privileges and Immunities Clause, which protects the “privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states.” The federal privileges and immunities does not protect those rights protected by Article IV Section:2. Rather, the federal privileges and immunities clause merely required states to apply its laws equally to non-state residents, as well as state residents. Therefore, the Privileges and Immunities Clause under which the Plaintiffs sued does not provide protection for their claims.

    Dissent. The privileges and immunities referred to in the Fourteenth Amendment include “the right to pursue lawful employment.” Since the Plaintiffs were denied such employment, the Clause should provide them with protection.
    The Fourteenth Amendment was meant to secure fundamental rights of any citizen against discrimination by his state.

    Discussion. By holding that the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges and Immunities Clause did not afford protection to state citizens, the majority substantially limited the application of that Amendment.


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