Today in Supreme Court History

Today in Supreme Court History: May 10, 1886


5/10/1886: Yick Wo v. Hopkins decided.

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  1. Wasn’t the issue that they wouldn’t give him a permit because he was Chinese?

    1. IANAL and especially not aware of all the trickery involved in racial decisions. The late 1800s is littered with racist laws which would seem to obviously violate the 14th amendment — can’t buy land, can’t be citizens, can’t perform certain jobs — and then, seemingly out of the blue, comes this decision saying it violated the 14th amendment to be indirectly racist by denying permits to Chinese laundries in wooden buildings, when white laundries in wooden buildings got permits, and restaurants in wooden buildings got permits (the danger was hot fires in wooden buildings, but the law only required permits for laundries). If each case had been tried by some random collection of justices from a pool, like the 9th does now, I could chalk it up to randomness, but it wasn’t. I never understood how this one decision slipped through the cracks when so many other blatantly racist laws were upheld for decades.

      1. Maybe laundry service was valued.

        I once asked the folks who’d organized the Montgomery bus boycott why the White folks cared and was told that these were the domestic help in the rich folks homes, and if they couldn’t get to work, then that was a problem.

        1. It’s also possible that the South was not invested in whether San Francisco laundry laws discriminated against Asians.

          Where as the South WAS invested in all the anti-black segregation, and probably favored the Chinese Exclusion Act too.

  2. Josh finishes his brief spiel by saying, “In 1884 Yick Wo got his license.”

    Well then what was the case or controversy?

    The fact that he couldn’t get it renewed in 1885 was the issue. But Mr. Short Attention Span can’t be bothered to get us that far.

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