Truax v. Corrigan 257 U.S. 312 (1921)

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TRUAX v. CORRIGAN 257 U.S. 312 (1921)

A 1913 Arizona law, similar to the labor provisions of the clayton antitrust act, prohibited state court injunctions against peaceful picketing. Following a dispute with restaurant proprietor William Truax, a local union peacefully picketed and distributed handbills calling for a boycott. Truax's business receipts dropped dramatically, and after the Arizona courts denied him relief, he appealed to the Supreme Court, contending that the state law deprived him of his property without due process of law and violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment.

Chief Justice william howard taft, speaking for a 5–4 majority, held the state statute unconstitutional. He reasoned that Truax held a property right in his business; free access to it by employees and customers was incidental to that right. Concerted action that intentionally injured that right was a conspiracy and a tort. In this case, the union's activities constituted an "unlawful annoyance and hurtful nuisance." Such wrongs, Taft concluded, could not be remediless, and he declared that the anti-injunction law deprived Truax of due process. He also ruled that the law violated equal protection by limiting the application of an injunction to a particular class.

Justice louis d. brandeis, dissenting, maintained that even if the employer had a constitutional right to be free from boycotting and picketing, the state was not compelled to protect that right with an injunction, as states were free to expand or control their equity jurisdiction. In a separate dissent, Justice oliver wendell holmes argued that the state law was a valid "social experiment," however "futile or even noxious." Beyond that, he challenged the assumption equating "business" with a property right. Business, he asserted, was "a course of conduct," and like any other was subject to modification regarding what would justify doing it a harm.

Stanley I. Kutler