The Taft Court (1921–30)

Criminal Justice and Procedure

What was the position of the dissenting judges in the Truax Case?

Four justices dissented in three separate opinions. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that the Court had misapplied the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing a state from experimenting with the particular problems caused by labor disputes. “If, as many intelligent people believe, there is more danger in labor cases than elsewhere I can fell no doubt of the power of the Legislature to deny it in such cases,” he wrote.

Justice Mahlon Pitney questioned the majority’s conclusions, reasoning that the Arizona law was not arbitrary or irrational. He said the statute was a constitutional “measure of police regulation,” entitled to a presumption of constitutionality. He questioned the majority’s equal-protection reasoning, accusing it of “transforming] the provision of the Fourteenth Amendment from a guaranty of the ‘protection of equal laws’ into an insistence upon laws complete, perfect, symmetrical.”

Justice Louis Brandeis’s dissenting opinion focused on the history of labor disputes and the regulation of peaceful picketing. The court noted that historically, court injunctions issued against picketers “endangered the personal liberty of wage earners” and employers seeking to enjoin such picketing were “seeking sovereign power” under “the guise of protecting property rights.”


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