The Waite Court (1874–88)

Miscellaneous Decisions

In what decision did the Waite Court rule that a state can prohibit lotteries under its police powers?

The Waite Court ruled 8–0 (Justice Ward Hunt did not participate) in Stone v. Mississippi (1880) that the state of Mississippi could retroactively ban lotteries by constitutional amendment and apply that law against a company that had previously been granted a contract to conduct a lottery for twenty-five years.

In 1867, the state government had granted a contract to a corporation run by John Stone to conduct a lottery for twenty-five years. However, a year later, the state adopted a new constitution outlawing lotteries. Stone asserted that the state could not prohibit him from running a lottery since the state had previously contracted with him. The Waite Court disagreed, with Chief Justice Waite writing that “no legislature can bargain away the public health or the public morals.”


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