l. A city ordinance is a law of a state within the meaning of
Jud.Code, § 237. P. 260 U. S.
2. It is the duty of this Court to decline jurisdiction whenever
it appears that the constitutional question upon which jurisdiction
depends was not, at the time of granting the writ, a substantial
question. P. 260 U. S.
3. City ordinances making vaccination a condition to attendance
at public or private schools and vesting broad discretion in health
authorities to determine when and under what circumstances the
requirement shall be enforced are consistent with the Fourteenth
Amendment, and, in view of prior decisions, a contrary contention
presents no substantial constitutional question. P. 260 U. S.
4. The question whether city officials have administered a valid
ordinance in such a way as to deny the plaintiff the equal
protection of the laws is not one of those upon which the judgment
of a state court may be brought here by writ of error. P.
260 U. S.
Writ of error to review 225 S.W. 267 dismissed.
Error to a judgment of the court below affirming a judgment of a
trial court which dismissed the bill in a suit for injunction,
mandamus, and damages.
Page 260 U. S. 175
MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Ordinances of the City of San Antonio, Texas, provide that no
child or other person shall attend a public school or other place
of education without having first presented a certificate of
vaccination. Purporting to act under these ordinances, public
officials excluded Rosalyn Zucht from a public school because she
did not have the required certificate and refused to submit to
vaccination. They also caused her to be excluded from a private
school. Thereupon Rosalyn brought this suit against the officials
in a court of the state. The bill charges that there was then no
occasion for requiring vaccination; that the ordinances deprive
plaintiff of her liberty without due process of law by, in effect,
making vaccination compulsory, and also that they are void because
they leave to the board of health discretion to determine when and
under what circumstances the requirement shall be enforced, without
providing any rule by which that board is to be guided in its
action and without providing any safeguards against partiality and
oppression. The prayers were for an injunction against enforcing
the ordinances, for a writ of mandamus to compel her admission to
the public school, and for damages. A general demurrer to the bill
of complaint was sustained by the trial court, and, plaintiff
having declined to amend, the bill was dismissed. This judgment was
affirmed by the Court of Civil Appeals for the Fourth Supreme
Judicial District. 225 S.W. 267. A motion for rehearing was
overruled, and an application
Page 260 U. S. 176
for a writ of error to the Supreme Court of Texas was denied by
that court. A petition for a writ of certiorari filed in this Court
was dismissed for failure to comply with Rule 37. 257 U.S. 650. The
case is now here on writ of error granted by the Chief Justice of
the Court of Civil Appeals. It is assigned as error that the
ordinances violate the due process and equal protection clauses of
the Fourteenth Amendment, and that as administered they denied to
plaintiff equal protection of the laws.
The validity of the ordinances under the federal Constitution
was drawn in question by objections properly taken below. A city
ordinance is a law of the state within the meaning of § 237 of the
Judicial Code, as amended, which provides a review by writ of error
where the validity of a law is sustained by the highest court of
the state in which a decision in the suit could be had.
Atlantic Coast Line v. Goldsboro, 232 U.
, 232 U. S. 555
But, although the validity of a law was formally drawn in question,
it is our duty to decline jurisdiction whenever it appears that the
constitutional question presented is not, and was not at the time
of granting the writ, substantial in character. Sugarman v.
United States, 249 U. S. 182
249 U. S. 184
Long before this suit was instituted, Jacobson v.
Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11
settled that it is within the police power of a state to provide
for compulsory vaccination. That case and others had also settled
that a state may, consistently with the federal Constitution,
delegate to a municipality authority to determine under what
conditions health regulations shall become operative. Laurel
Hill Cemetery v. San Francisco, 216 U.
. And still others had settled that the
municipality may vest in its officials broad discretion in matters
affecting the application and enforcement of a health law.
Lieberman v. Van de Carr, 199 U.
. A long line of decisions by this Court had also
Page 260 U. S. 177
that, in the exercise of the police power, reasonable
classification may be freely applied, and that regulation is not
violative of the equal protection clause merely because it is not
all-embracing. Adams v. Milwaukee, 228 U.
; Miller v. Wilson, 236 U.
, 236 U. S. 384
In view of these decisions, we find in the record no question as to
the validity of the ordinance sufficiently substantial to support
the writ of error. Unlike Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.
, these ordinances confer not arbitrary power, but
only that broad discretion required for the protection of the
The bill contains also averments to the effect that, in
administering the ordinance, the official have discriminated
against the plaintiff in such a way as to deny to her equal
protection of the laws. These averments do present a substantial
constitutional question. Neal v. Delaware, 103 U.
. But the question is not of that character which
entitles a litigant to a review by this Court on writ of error. The
question does not go to the validity of the ordinance, nor does it
go to the validity of the authority of the officials. Compare
United States v. Taft, 203 U. S. 461
Champion Lumber Co. v. Fisher, 227 U.
; Yazoo & Mississippi Valley R. Co. v.
Clarksdale, 257 U. S. 10
charge is of an unconstitutional exercise of authority under an
ordinance which is valid. Compare Stadelman v. Miner,
246 U. S. 544
Unless a case is otherwise properly here on writ of error,
questions of that character can be reviewed by this Court only on
petition for a writ of certiorari.
Writ of error dismissed.