Hadacheck v. Sebastian

239 U.S. 394, 36 S. Ct. 143 (1915)



Although the police power of a state cannot be arbitrarily exercised, it is to be remembered that it is one of the most essential powers of government, one that is the least limitable. It may, indeed, seem harsh in its exercise, and usually is harsh on some individual. But the imperative necessity for its existence precludes any limitation upon it when not exerted arbitrarily. A vested interest cannot be asserted against it because of conditions once obtaining. To so hold would preclude development and fix a city forever in its primitive conditions. 


Petitioner was convicted of a misdemeanor for the violation of an ordinance of the City of Los Angeles, which makes it unlawful for any person to establish or operate a brick yard or brick kiln, or any establishment, factory or place for the manufacture or burning of brick within described limits in the city. Sentence was pronounced against him and he was committed to the custody of defendant in error as Chief of Police of the City of Los Angeles. On petitioner's writ of habeas corpus filed against defendant in error, the police chief for the city, the state supreme court upheld the ordinance as a good faith police measure and declined to find that it discriminated against petitioner. 


Was the petitioner deprived of his property upon the enforcement of the ordinance in question?




The ordinance prohibited the conduct of the business within a certain defined area in Little Rock, Arkansas. This court said of it:  granting that the business was not a nuisance per se, it was clearly within the police power of the State to regulate it, "and to that end to declare that in particular circumstances and in particular localities a livery stable shall be deemed a nuisance in fact and in law." And the only limitation upon the power was stated to be that the power could not be exerted arbitrarily or with unjust discrimination

In the present case there is no prohibition of the removal of the brick clay; only a prohibition within the designated locality of its manufacture into bricks. And to this feature of the ordinance our opinion is addressed. Whether other questions would arise if the ordinance were broader, and opinion on such questions, we reserve.

It may be that brick yards in other localities within the city where the same conditions exist are not regulated or prohibited, but it does not follow that they will not be. That petitioner's business was first in time to be prohibited does not make its prohibition unlawful. And it may be, as said by the Supreme Court of the State, that the conditions justify a distinction. However, the inquiries thus suggested are outside of our province.

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