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Mugler v. Kansas


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123 U.S. 623 (1887), argued 11 Oct. 1887, decided 5 Dec. 1887 by vote of 8 to 1; Harlan for the Court, Field concurring in part and dissenting in part. Mugler v. Kansas was an important step toward the Court's acceptance of economic due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Peter Mugler continued manufacturing beer after the Kansas legislature, pursuant to a new provision of the state constitution, enacted a prohibition law, forbidding the manufacture or sale of liquor without a license. For violating the statute, the state fined and imprisoned Mugler and seized his brewery and inventory of beer. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Mugler denied that the police power was so broad to prohibit the manufacture of beer for Mugler's private consumption or for sale outside Kansas. The state law, therefore, deprived Mugler of property without due process. Kansas officials, however, defended their actions against Mugler as a valid exercise of the police power to regulate health and morals.

Under the state's police power the Supreme Court upheld the prohibition statute. Justice John Marshall Harlan held, however, that courts may scrutinize the purpose behind state regulations in order to determine whether the regulation had any real relationship to health, safety, or morals under the police power. Justice Stephen Field's dissent argued that the seizure of the property and prohibition of beer manufactured for export were violations of the due process clause. Taken together Justice Harlan's opinion and Field's dissent helped to lay the foundation for the Court's acceptance of Field's broader property rights theory after 1890.

Tony Freyer

Subjects: Law.


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