Truax v. Corrigan

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257 U.S. 312 (1921), argued 29–30 Apr. 1920, reargued 5–6 Oct. 1921, decided 19 Dec. 1921 by vote of 5 to 4; Taft for the Court, Holmes, Pitney (joined by Clarke), and Brandeis in dissent. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, courts often ended labor disputes by issuing injunctions against strikers. To redress this judicial favoritism, some states, including Arizona, passed statutes seeking to insulate strikers from labor injunctions. Such statutes did not preclude suits for damages. The Arizona courts upheld a peaceful-picketing, no-injunction law when it was challenged by a local restaurant owner who saw his business decline more than 50 percent when strikers picketed his establishment.

A bare majority of the Supreme Court said that the picketing, despite an absence of violence, invalidated the law. Chief Justice William Howard Taft found that the law abridged the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving the owner of his property and violated the Equal Protection Clause of that same amendment by singling out disputes between an employer and his former employees for special treatment. The probusiness, antiunion bias of the majority was exposed in three dissenting opinions. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes protested the Court's continuing use of the Fourteenth Amendment to cut off state experimentation; Justice Mahlon Pitney challenged all of Taft's conclusions; and Justice Louis D. Brandeis provided historical and legal justification for the Arizona statute.

The decision in Truax v. Corrigan is representative of the Taft Court, but its reading of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses would not long survive. Specifically, in Senn v. Tile Layers Union (1937), a similar Wisconsin law was upheld.

John E. Semonche

Subjects: Law.

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