Oyama v. California 332 U.S. 633 (1948)

views updated

OYAMA v. CALIFORNIA 332 U.S. 633 (1948)

inTerrace v. Thompson (1923) the Supreme Court had upheld the power of a state to limit land ownership to U.S. citizens. Oyama, together with takahashi v. fish and game commission (1948), both undermined Terrace and signaled a changing judicial attitude toward racial discrimination.

California's Alien Land Law forbade land ownership by aliens ineligible for citizenship; under existing federal law, that category was largely limited to persons of Asian ancestry. Invoking its law, California sought to take over title to land held in the name of a young U.S. citizen, on the ground that it was really owned by his father, an alien ineligible for citizenship. The father had paid for the land, and so under the law was presumed its owner. A similar presumption would not apply to ownership of land by citizens of other races. Without purporting to rule on the general validity of the Alien Land Law, the Supreme Court held, 7–2, that the presumption denied the equal protection of the laws.

Kenneth L. Karst