Holden v. Hardy 169 U.S. 366 (1898)

views updated

HOLDEN v. HARDY 169 U.S. 366 (1898)

Utah adopted a maximum hours law fixing an eight-hour day for miners. A mine owner, convicted for working his employees ten hours a day, claimed that the statute violated his fourteenth amendment rights. For a 7–2 Supreme Court, Justice henry b. brown declared that the right to freedom of contract protected by substantive due process of law is subject to legitimate police power regulations intended to protect the public health. The Court sustained the statute as a reasonable exercise of the police power on the ground that mining is a dangerous occupation that requires an exception to freedom of contract. Brown realistically observed that employees are often induced by fear of discharge to obey management rules that might be detrimental to health. In such cases self-interest is an unsure guide, justifying legislative intervention. Had the Court adhered to this understanding, lochner v. new york (1905) might have been stillborn.

Leonard W. Levy