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Law School Case Brief

Asakura v. Seattle - 265 U.S. 332, 44 S. Ct. 515 (1924)

Rule:

Treaties are to be construed in a broad and liberal spirit, and, when two constructions are possible, one restrictive of rights that may be claimed under it and the other favorable to them, the latter is to be preferred.

Facts:

Plaintiff Japanese citizen challenged a city ordinance that prohibited aliens from engaging in the pawnbroker business arguing that the ordinance violated the Treaty between Japan and the United States. The treaty states that citizens of each country enjoyed the right to carry on a trade or business within the other country. The court ruled against the plaintiff and plaintiff sought further review by the United States Supreme Court.

Issue:

Is a city ordinance prohibiting aliens to engage in pawnshop business violative of the treaty between Japan and the United States which allows citizens of the parties to carry on a trade or business within the other country?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court reviewed the ordinance and concluded that it did violate the treaty. First, the Court found that the treaty was within the treaty-making power of the United States and served to strengthen friendly relations. Next, the Court stated that the ordinance discriminated against aliens. Finally, the Court held that plaintiff's business fell within the definition of the statute. Finding that the ordinance was not valid, the Court reversed the judgment.

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