Lochner v. New York


There was a state law, that would not allow workers in the bakery business to work longer than 60 hours a week, regardless of whether or not they wanted to, or did not want to work that long.


Is this state law, abiding the 14th amendment in the constitution, and thus invalid?

Questions: which shall prevail? The right of citizens to contract as to how long they want to work vs. the right of the state to control such hours someone is working.




“There is no reasonable ground for interfering with the liberty of person or the right of free contract, by determining hours of labor…we think that the law before us involves neither the safety, morals, nor the welfare, of the public, and that the interests of the public is not in the slightest degree effected by such an act”

“The purpose of the statute must be determined from the natural and legal effect of the language employed; whether it is or is not repugnant to the constitution of the United States must be determined form the natural effect of such statutes when put into operation and not from their proclaimed purpose.”

Court reasoning

14th amendment stuff

–          Liberty – the ability to make a contract with someone else, is directly relating to the liberty of someone.

–          Under the provision, no state can deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process.

–          The states, via the 10th amendment, have the ability to police themselves; thus, they can regulate “safety, health, morals, and the general welfare.”

  • If the contract be one that the state legitimately exercise of its police power, that is fine then and is not prohibited by the 14th amendment.
  • There is a limit to police power w/in the states, otherwise the 14th amendment would have no power under the 10th amendment, and that was not its purpose of being drafted.

Questions court considers

–          Question always arises: Is this a fair, reasonable, and appropriate exercise of police power of the state, or is it an unreasonable unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right of an individual to his personal liberty, or to enter into those contracts in relation to labor which may seem appropriate to him….

–          If the act be within the power of the state is valid (i.e. procedural due process), although the judgment of the court might be totally opposed to the enactment of such a law (substantive due process).

–          ***Power of the state to legislate vs. the right of the individual to liberty of person and freedom of contract – the mere assertion that the act relates to public health is not enough. The act must have a more direct relation, as a means to an end, and the end itself must be appropriate and legitimate….

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