Budd v. New York

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143 U.S. 517 (1892), argued 17–18 Nov. 1891, decided 29 Feb. 1892 by vote of 6 to 3; Blatchford for the Court, Brewer, Field, and Brown in dissent. Budd v. New York was an appeal from a decision of the New York Court of Appeals, People v. Budd (1889), which had upheld the constitutionality of a New York statute regulating rates charged by grain elevators, the same issue that had been resolved in Munn v. Illinois (1877). Conservative critics of Munn urged its repudiation in light of the doctrine of substantive due process that had grown ever more potent since 1877 and that had recently triumphed in Justice Samuel Blatchford's majority opinion in Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Co. v. Minnesota (1890).

But in Budd Justice Blatchford reaffirmed Munn, upholding the legitimacy of regulating grain elevators as businesses affected with a public interest. Rate regulation of such enterprises did not deny their owners due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Because regulation was confined to the territorial jurisdiction of New York, Blatchford found no violation of the Commerce Clause of Article I, section 8, either.

All this was too much for Justice David J. Brewer, dissenting. Brewer denounced the basic doctrine of Munn as “radically unsound” (p. 548) and trumpeted his clarion of laissezfaire constitutionalism. “The paternal theory of government is to me odious,” Brewer wrote (p. 551). Though never explicitly overruled, Munn and Budd suffered an erosion of their authority through the New Deal.

William M. Wiecek

Subjects: Law.

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