Tag Archives | Lochner

Regulatory Takings and “Lochnerism”: An Observation

It is often argued that regulatory takings doctrine is a form of “Lochnerism” and a revival of “substantive due process” constraints on economic regulation.  So, for instance, in his Dolan v. Tigard dissent, Justice Stevens traces the history of the doctrine to the Lochner period and finds the roots of regulatory takings doctrine in late-19th century substantive due process.

The so called “regulatory takings” doctrine . . . has an obvious kinship with the line of substantive due process cases that Lochner exemplified. Besides having similar ancestry, both doctrines are potentially open ended sources of judicial power to invalidate state economic regulations that Members of this Court view as unwise or unfair.

As a historical matter, Justice Stevens was correct that the first decisions obligating states to compensate  landowners for the taking private property for public use  (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad v. Chicago) and holding that the regulation of land use could require compensation if it “goes too far” (Pennsylvania Coal v. Mahon) date from the so-called “Lochner era.”  Curiously enough, the authors of these two opinions are, respectively, Justice John Marshall Harlan and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Why is this curious?  Because Justices Harlan and Holmes wrote the two dissenting opinions in Lochner.  So while contemporary commentators and critics may see regulatory takings doctrine as Lochnerism reborn.  Those who challenged Lochner at the time apparently saw things differently. [...]

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How I’d Approach the Privileges or Immunities Issue in McDonald

Let’s say someone hired me to write an amicus brief in the McDonald Second Amendment case, and my goal was to get the Court to overrule the SlaughterHouse Cases (holding that the Privileges or Immunities Clause is a virtual nullity) and get the Court to hold that the Clause protects a right to bear arms, how would I go about it?

First, I would recount the scholarly consensus that SlaughterHouse was incorrectly decided, in that the P or I Clause was meant to provide substantive protection for individual rights beyond the extremely narrow category of rights enumerated in SlaughterHouse.

Second, I would explain why I think it’s important to decide this case on P or I grounds.  My argument would be that in due process incorporation cases, the Court has consistently (and thoughtlessly) determined that the scope of the right against the states is precisely the same as the scope of the right against the Federal government.  This is problematic in the context of the right to bear arms because of the confusion over what the “militia” language in the Second Amendment means.  Heller came out the “right” way, but by a bare 5-4 majority, with much dispute about whether the Second Amendment was meant to protect an individual right to bear arms.  By contrast, it’s entirely clear that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment thought that the P or I Clause protected an individual right to bear arms.  In particular, they understood that African Americans and “carpetbaggers” needed weaponry to protect themselves from assaults by armed Southern terrorist groups.

Third, I would try to craft an argument that would appeal to the Court’s four conservatives, by far my most likely votes.  I would conclude that originalism isn’t  nearly enough–as witnessed by Antonin “Mr. Originalism” Scalia’s appalling concurrence in the [...]

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Louis Brandeis and the Incorporation Doctrine

I’ve read most of Mel Urofsky’s new biography of Louis Brandeis, and it’s an extremely good, and very informative, book.  But I’m afraid that Mel vastly exaggerates Brandeis’s influence on the Supreme Court’s adoption of the “incorporation doctrine”, to wit:

(1) p. 618: “Scholars now believe that the Fourteenth Amendment … was intended to extend the protection of the Bill of Rights to the states.  Brandeis took this position in his dissent in Gilbert v. Minnesota.”  False.  You can read the dissent here. The last paragraph contains everything Brandeis wrote about the Fourteenth Amendment in that opinion, and he certainly did not take the position Mel attributes to him, or anything like it.

(2) p.619 “Within a few years the first fruits of Brandeis’s dissent appeared in, of all places, an opinion of Justice McReynolds [Meyer v. Nebraska]“.  False.  There is no reason to believe that Justice McReynolds’ opinion was influenced in any way by Brandeis’s Gilbert dissent.   Rather, McReynolds, who hated Brandeis both as a Jew and as a “radical”, cited a long string of liberty-of-contract decisions, including Lochner v. New York.

(3) p. 619 McReynolds in Meyer “found a violation of free speech,” and “applied the clear-and-present danger test” without using those words.  False.  Meyer was not decided as a free speech case, and neither the concept of freedom of speech nor the text of the First Amendment appears in the opinion.

(4) p. 641 “Brandeis’s assertion that the Due Process Clause implicated rights other than property is the starting point for the idea of incorporation by which the states become bound by the same standards for individual liberties as the national government.”  False.  The first Justice Harlan had argued over a period of decades, always in dissent (but getting as many as [...]

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