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Do Great Cases Make Bad Law?$
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Lackland H. Bloom, Jr.

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199765881

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199765881.001.0001

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The Civil Rights Cases

The Civil Rights Cases

(p.137) 8 The Civil Rights Cases
Do Great Cases Make Bad Law?

Lackland H. Bloom

Oxford University Press

The Civil Rights Cases struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which had extended protection against racial discrimination to certain private businesses including common carriers, inns, restaurants and places of public amusement. The Court held that the text of Fourteenth Amendment was addressed to state action and as such Congress could not reach private conduct pursuant to its section five enforcement powers. Justice Harlan wrote a powerful dissent. The decision, which was well received by the public, was a major setback for civil rights enforcement but was probably a correct interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment The chapter discusses the impact of the decision and suggests that it was re-enforced if not dictated by the public backlash against the recently ended Reconstruction era.

Keywords:   civil rights, Fourteenth Amendment, state action, Justice Harlan, private discrimination, reconstruction

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