18 FALL 2013 PHI KAPPA PHI FORUM
Oyez, Oyez, Oyez:
Curious Cases at the Supreme Court
By David E. Bernstein
Every first-year law student learns that the United States Supreme Court only presides over real “cases” and “controversies,” according to the Constitution in Article III, Section 2. No matter how pressing the con- cern, the Supreme Court must wait for a properly litigated case involving adverse parties disputing a live
issue to wind its way through the lower courts up to what is the highest court in the land.
Because Supreme Court decisions are binding throughout the nation, it’s important that the cases involve
competing camps with a bona fide stake in winning, a scenario that helps ensure all points are properly argued.
Also, given the extraordinary powers granted to this unelected branch of government, it’s important that the Supreme Court adheres to protocol by not proactively inserting itself into the legislative or executive processes.
But sometimes funny business happens. This article explores two historical cases: Barbier v. Connolly, which
rigged the proceedings, and Lochner v. New York, which launched a notorious preemptive strike against a law.
Barbier v. Connolly
Measures are firmly in place to impose sig-
nificant burdens on anyone attempting to ma-
nipulate the judicial process by bringing a
phony case to the Supreme Court in which the
parties, rather than clash, collude to persuade
the justices to reach a particular decision. Nev-
ertheless, at least one such case, Barbier v. Con-
nolly, from 1885, slipped through. It involved
legislation meant to curb laundries owned by
Tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants,
the vast majority of them men, settled in the
American West after the California Gold Rush
that began in 1848. Driven out of mining and
other vocations by violence and harassment
stemming from prejudice, many arrivals wound
up owning laundries. Pretty soon, the Chinese
dominated the industry throughout the West.
But anti-Chinese forces refused to leave them
in peace. The hatemongers charged that the Chinese crowded out American widows and other
single women from working as laundresses,
thereby forcing the fair sex to resort to prostitution. The objectors also claimed Chinese laundries were a fire hazard and used unsanitary
methods, plus lowered property values.
Chinatown in Auburn, Calif., in this undated period photo includes
Kee Laundry on the right and, according to the sign on the left near
the unknown man sitting on the step, Hop Sing Washing and Ironing.