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The Supreme Court in the Progressive Era

The Supreme Court in the Progressive Era. Northern Securities Co. v. United States (1904). Background

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The Supreme Court in the Progressive Era

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  1. The Supreme Court in the Progressive Era

  2. Northern Securities Co. v. United States (1904) • Background • Two competing railroad companies set up a holding company to buy the controlling interest of the two railroads. The constitutionality of the holding company was questioned when President Theodore Roosevelt pursued his “trust busting” campaign under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 • Constitutional Issue • Does the Congress have the authority under the commerce clause to regulate the holding company’s effort to eliminate competition?

  3. Northern Securities Company v. United States • Decision • The Supreme Court ruled that a holding company formed solely to eliminate competition between the 2 railroads was in violation of the anti-trust laws because it unreasonably restrained commerce. • Importance • The federal government now had the authority to regulate any conspiracy which sought to eliminate competition between otherwise competitive railroads. • The government’s policy of trust busting helped restore competition in the American economy.

  4. Northern Securities Co. v. United States (1904) • Topic: Use of Anti-Trust legislation against railroad consolidation • Was decision a POSITIVE or NEGATIVE for Progressive reform? • POSITIVE – gave the gov’t power to restore competition in railroad industry

  5. Lochner v. New York(1905) • Background • A New York law limited the number of hours bakery employees could work. Lochner was convicted and fined for permitting an employee to work more than the lawful number of hours in one week. • Constitutional Issue • Does the law limiting the number of hours the employees were allowed to work interfere with the bakery owner’s right to make employer/employee contracts?

  6. Lochner v. New York • Decision • The Supreme Court ruled that even though states have the power to regulate areas of health, safety, morals, and public welfare, the New York law in question was not within the limits of these “police powers” of the State. • Importance • During the time that Progressive reformers were working to improve the conditions and terms of employment for Americans, the Court struck down a number of state laws that interfered with an individual’s economic and property rights. (This decision was later overturned by the Court.)

  7. Lochner v. New York (1905) • Topic: New York law to limit workers hours • Was decision a POSITIVE or NEGATIVE for Progressive reform? • NEGATIVE – state can’t interfere with the workers’ right to negotiate contract

  8. Muller v. Oregon(1908) • Background • An Oregon law prohibited women from working in factories or laundries more than 10 hours a day. Mr. Muller was convicted for making a female employee work more than the 10 hour limit. • Constitutional Issue • Does the state of Oregon’s law regulating women’s work hours violate the “privileges and immunities” clause of the 14th amendment by forbidding the employment of women for more than ten hours a day in laundries and factories?

  9. Muller v. Oregon • Decision • The Court upheld the Oregon law that barred women from certain factory and laundry work. The Court took into account the physical differences between men and women, based on the brief submitted by Louis D. Brandeis stating that “women’s physical structure and the function she performs…justify special legislation restricting the conditions under which she should be permitted to toil.” • Importance • So-called “protective legislation” regulated the hours, locations, and type of work that women could do. This protective legislation also prevented women from entering certain occupations, many of the occupations that paid higher salaries. (The use of the “Brandeis Brief”, introducing sociological and economic data, statistics, historical records and expert opinions in addition to the legal arguments revolutionized courtroom presentations. Louis Brandeis who was known as the “people’s attorney” was later appointed to the Supreme Court by Wilson.)

  10. Muller v. Oregon (1908) • Topic: Protective legislation limiting the hours women could work • Was decision a POSITIVE or NEGATIVE for Progressive reform? • POSITIVE – improved working conditions for women; use of Brandeis brief • Later became a NEGATIVE when it was used to discriminate against women in the workplace

  11. Hammer v. Dagenhart (1916) Unable to regulate hours and working conditions for child labor within individual states, Congress sought to regulate child labor by banning the product of that labor from interstate commerce. The Keating-Owen Act of 1916 prohibited interstate commerce of any merchandise that had been made by children under the age of fourteen, or merchandise that had been made in factories where children between the ages of 14 and 16 worked for more than eight hours a day, worked overnight, or worked more than six days a week. • Decision: Ruled in favor of Dagenhart by finding that Congress had no authority under the Commerce Clause to restrict manufacturing activities involving children. (Justices Brandies and O. W. Holmes, dissenting) • Hammer v. Dagenhart was overruled in 1941 in the case of United States v. Darby Lumber Co.

  12. Hammer v. Dagenhart (1916) • Topic: Child labor laws • Was decision a POSITIVE or NEGATIVE for Progressive reform? • NEGATIVE – declared child labor law unconstitutional because it couldn’t be connected to interstate commerce clause of the Constitution • Effective child labor laws will eventually tie no child labor with mandatory school attendance

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