Yick Wo v. Hopkins, Sheriff; Wo Lee v. Hopkins, Sheriff,   Supreme Court of The United States 118 U.S. 356; 6 S. Ct. 1064; 1886

May 10, 1886, Decided

These two cases were argued as one and depended upon precisely the same state of facts; the first coming here upon a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the State of California, the second on appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for that district.

The plaintiff in error, Yick Wo, on August 24, 1885, petitioned the Supreme Court of California for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he was illegally deprived of his personal liberty by the defendant as sheriff of the city and county of San Francisco.

The sheriff made return to the writ that he held the petitioner in custody by virtue of a sentence of the Police Judges Court, No. 2, of the city and county of San Francisco, whereby he was found guilty of a violation of certain ordinances of the board of supervisors of that county, and adjudged to pay a fine of $10, and, in default of payment, be imprisoned in the county jail at the rate of one day for each dollar of fine until said fine should be satisfied, and a commitment in consequence of non-payment of said fine.

The plaintiffs were arrested under the following ordinance:

Order No. 1569, passed May 26, 1880, prescribing the kind of buildings in which laundries may be located.

"The people of the city and county of San Francisco do ordain as follows:

"SEC. 1. It shall be unlawful, from and after the passage of this order, for any person or persons to establish, maintain, or carry on a laundry within the corporate limits of the city and county of San Francisco without having first obtained the consent of the board of supervisors, except the same be located in a building constructed either of brick or stone.

"SEC. 2. It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, build, or maintain, or cause to be erected, built, or maintained, over or upon the roof of any building now erected or which may hereafter be erected within the limits of said city and county, any scaffolding, without first obtaining the written permission of the board of supervisors, which permit shall state fully for what purpose said scaffolding is to be erected and used, and such scaffolding shall not be used for any other purpose than that designated in such permit.

"SEC. 3. Any person who shall [***3] violate any of the provisions of this order shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not more than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

Order No. 1587, passed July 28, 1880, the following section:

"SEC. 68. It shall be unlawful, from and after the passage of this order, for any person or persons to establish, maintain, or carry on a laundry within the corporate limits of the city and county of San Francisco without having first obtained the consent of the board of supervisors, except the same be located in a building constructed either of brick or stone."

The petitioner applied for a permit under this ordinance and was denied. However, white citizens under similar conditions were not denied a permit. When they continued operation of there establishments, they were arrested.

CORE TERMS: ordinance, laundry, supervisors, regulation, wooden, imprisonment, municipal, carrying, fine, treaty, unequal, license, washing, withhold, erected, stone, situated, occupation, unjust, confer, brick, sheriff, withheld, petitioned, dollar, discharged, engine, steam, void, precaution

THE OPINION HELD:

The suit brought was brought to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of ordinances made by a municipal corporation in the State. The Court opined that it may put its own construction on these ordinances in order to reach a conclusion on this matter.

An ordinance that confers on a municipality arbitrary power to give or withhold consent to persons and places, violates the provisions of the Constitution of the United States.

Any procedure that makes arbitrary an unjust discriminations, founded on differences of race, between persons otherwise in similar circumstances violates the provisions of the constitution.

The guarantees of protection contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution extend to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, without regard to differences of race, of color, or of nationality. Thus, subjects of the Emperor of China who have the right to temporarily or permanently reside within the United States, are entitled to enjoy the protection guaranteed by the Constitution and afforded by the laws.

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