Supreme Court Cases: Great Depression / New Deal
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court declared the Minnesota law unconstitutional as a violation of the freedom of the press guarantee of the First Amendment. Using the so-called “incorporation doctrine,” the Court thus used the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to apply the First Amendment’s freedom of the press to the states. In his opinion for the majority, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote: “In determining the extent of the constitutional protection, it has been generally, if not universally, considered that it is the chief purpose of the guaranty to prevent previous restraints upon publication.” Hughes went on to note that, while the prohibition against previous restraint of the press is not absolute, it is allowed “only in exceptional cases.” The remedy, Hughes pointed out, for those who feel that they have been wronged by false accusations in the press is a suit for libel.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Schechters. The Court found that the Schechters were engaged in intrastate commerce which had only an indirect effect on interstate commerce and thus was beyond Congress’ regulatory power over interstate commerce. Second, the Court found that the law which empowered groups outside Congress to make the codes was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. The Court’s decision in the Schechter case was considered a major blow to the New Deal and Roosevelt’s plan for recovery from the Great Depression.