Hadacheck v. Sebastian,
239 U.S. 394 (1915)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hadacheck v. Sebastian, 239 U.S. 394 (1915)

Hadacheck v. Sebastian

No. 32

Submitted October 22, 1915

Decided December 20, 1915

239 U.S. 394


While the police power of the state cannot be so arbitrarily exercised as to deprive persons of their property without due process of law or deny them equal protection of the law, it is one of the most essential powers of government and one of the least limitable -- in fact, the imperative necessity for its existence precludes any limitation upon it when not arbitrarily exercised.

A vested interest cannot, because of conditions once obtaining, be asserted against the proper exercise of the police power -- to so hold would preclude development. Chicago Alton R. Co. v. Tranbarger, 238 U. S. 67.

There must be progress, and in its march, private interests must yield to the good of the community.

The police power may be exerted under some conditions to declare that, under particular circumstances and in particular localities, specified businesses which are not nuisances per se (such as livery stables, as in Reinman v. Little Rock, 237 U. S. 171, and brick yards, as in this case) are to be deemed nuisances in fact and law.

While an ordinance prohibiting the manufacturing of bricks within a specified section of a municipality may be a constitutional exercise of the police power -- quaere whether prohibiting of digging the clay and moving it from that section would not amount to an unconstitutional deprivation of property without due process of law.

This Court cannot consider the contention of one attacking a municipal ordinance that it denies him equal protection of the laws when based upon disputable considerations of classification and on a comparison

Page 239 U. S. 395

of conditions of which there is no means of judicial determination.

In this case, the charges of plaintiff in error that the ordinance attacked and alleged to be ruining his business was adopted in order to foster a monopoly and suppress his competition with others in the same business is too illusive for this Court to consider, the state courts having also refuted it.

The fact that a particular business is not prohibited in all sections of a municipality does not, for that reason, make the ordinance unconstitutional as denying equal protection of the law to those carrying on that business in the prohibited section -- conditions may justify the distinction and classification.

In determining whether a municipal ordinance goes further than necessary to remedy the evil to be cured, this Court must, in the absence of clear showing to the contrary, accord good faith to the municipality.

Whether an ordinance is within the charter power of the city or valid under the state constitution are questions of state law.

An ordinance of Los Angeles prohibiting the manufacturing of bricks within specified limits of the city held, in an action brought by the owner of brick clay deposits and a brick factory, not to be unconstitutional as depriving him of his property without due process of law or as denying him equal protection of the laws.

165 Cal. 416 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality under the due process and equal protection provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of an ordinance of Los Angeles prohibiting brick yards within certain limits of the city, are stated in the opinion.

Page 239 U. S. 404

Primary Holding

A city can prohibit a certain type of manufacture within a certain area without leading to an unconstitutional taking of property under the Fifth Amendment.


The city of Los Angeles passed an ordinance that prohibited establishing or operating a brick yard or kiln anywhere in the city. The owner of such a business, Hadacheck, was convicted of a misdemeanor for violating the ordinance even though he had started his business before it was passed. Since a brick yard was not a nuisance under state law, Hadacheck argued that enforcing the ordinance against him violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution because it was a taking of property without just compensation.



  • Joseph McKenna (Author)
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
  • William Rufus Day
  • Charles Evans Hughes
  • Willis Van Devanter
  • Joseph Rucker Lamar
  • Mahlon Pitney
  • Edward Douglass White

Accepting Hadacheck's argument that his business was not a nuisance under state law, McKenna nevertheless found that state and local governments have broad authority under their police powers to regulate or prohibit activities that are harmful to the general public. He emphasized the importance of upholding the welfare of the community over the economic interests of an individual. The city had presented evidence showing that the fumes and dust from the brick yard had harmed the health of people living in the area. This was sufficient to justify the enforcement of the ordinance.


  • James Clark McReynolds (Author)

Case Commentary

This unanimous decision marked one of the earliest attempts to analyze the intersection of zoning laws with regulatory takings. Modern ordinances tend to be much more complex, but the analysis in this case has influenced later perspectives.

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