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Center for Law and the Public’s Health


  Kirk v. Board of Health [Wyman]
Mary Kirk was a woman of "culture and refinement." She was also afflicted with leprosy, contracted while working as a missionary in Brazil. To prevent the disease from infecting others, the local Board of Health ordered her isolation. Although leprosy is contagious, was the Board’s decision necessary to protect the public?

  Yick Wo v. Hopkins
A San Francisco ordinance provided that applications to conduct laundry businesses in wooden buildings were to be approved or denied at the discretion of city officials. The ordinance purported to reduce the hazard of fire, but of 280 applications, only those made by non-Chinese applicants were approved. The Supreme Court discusses this matter in which discrimination masquerades as public protection.

Jacobson v. Massachusetts
To protect its citizens from smallpox, the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts adopted a policy of mandatory vaccination. Cantabrigian Henning Jacobson refused to comply and faced the prescribed penalty – a fine of five dollars. In this seminal Supreme Court challenge, Justice Harlan lays the foundation for the next 100 years of public health jurisprudence.


United States v. Emerson
Defendant Emerson was indicted under a Texas law prohibiting the possessing a firearm while subject to a court order barring harm and threatening behavior against an intimate partner or child. Emerson challenged the Constitutionality of the law on the grounds of due process violation, violation of the commerce clause, and violation of his second amendment right to bear arms. In its decision, the 5th Circuit discusses the nature of this right and the state’s right to limit it.




  Romer v. Evans
In 1992, Colorado voters passed a referendum precluding all legislative, judicial, or executive actions designed to counteract discrimination based on sexual orientation. In its finding that this amendment to the Colorado constitution violates the Equal Protection Clause, the majority argues that "a State cannot deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws." The dissent, however, defends the amendment as "a modest attempt… to preserve traditional sexual mores."

  Jew Ho v. Williamson
After several alleged bubonic plague deaths, the San Francisco Board of Health imposed a quarantine on a 12-block district that was home to more than 15,000 residents. The public health benefit of the quarantine was questionable, and the quarantine restrictions were enforced almost exclusively against persons of Chinese origin. In considering the lawfulness of the quarantine, the court hearkens back to the reasoning of Yick Wo v. Hopkins.

  City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center
Exercising it statutory power, Cleburne, Texas denied a special use permit to a home for the mentally retarded. The respondent sued, stating an Equal Protection argument. Is mental retardation a classification that deserves heightened judicial scrutiny? Is this classification rationally related to the city’s interest in maintaining its ordinance requiring a special use permit for a "hospital for the feebleminded?"

  Mathews v. Eldridge
What kind of administrative recourse should be available to Social Security disability benefits recipients whose benefits are to be terminated? Hearings provide recipients with the opportunity to be heard, but such procedural safeguards are expensive and burdensome to the government. How should these competing interests be balanced?


Board of Regents v. Roth
In 1968, David Roth received a one year appointment to an assistant professorship at Wisconsin State University at Oshkosh. At the end of his term of employment, the University informed him that he would not be rehired for another academic year. Roth challenged the decision, arguing that he was not afforded procedural due process. In its decision, the Court discusses the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment’s procedural due process protections.



Greene v. Edwards
Pursuant to a state tuberculosis control law, William Greene was granted a hearing before being committed to a hospital. At the hearing, the court appointed counsel to represent Greene. However, Greene was not able to meet privately with his attorney before appearing before the judge. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia discusses the changing requirements of due process.




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