Jacobson v. Massachusetts Case Brief

Why is the case important?

A state statute was alleged to be unconstitutional for requiring vaccination.

Facts of the case

A Massachusetts law allowed cities to require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox. Cambridge adopted such an ordinance, with some exceptions. Jacobson refused to comply with the requirement and was fined five dollars.

Question

In order to protect public health and safety, does the scope of the state’s police power include the authority to enact reasonable regulations to do so?

Answer

“(Harlan, J.)Â&nbsp

  • Yes.Â&nbsp
  • In order to protect public health and safety, the scope of the state’s police power includes the authority to enact reasonable regulations to do so.Â&nbsp
  • The Constitution secures liberty for every person within its jurisdiction, but does not give an absolute right for each person to be free from restraint at all times and in all circumstances.Â&nbsp
  • Every person is required to be subject to various restraints for the common good.Â&nbsp
  • The efforts by Cambridge to stamp out smallpox are substantially related to the protection of public health and safety.Â&nbsp
  • There has been nothing to clearly justify the Court holding the statute to be unconstitutional.Â&nbsp
  • Affirmed.”

    Conclusion

    “In order to protect public health and safety, the scope of the state””s police power includes the authority to enact reasonable regulations to do so. The Constitution secures liberty for every person within its jurisdiction, but does not give an absolute right for each person to be free from restraint at all times and in all circumstances. Every person is required to be subject to various restraints for the common good. The efforts by Cambridge to stamp out smallpox are substantially related to the protection of public health and safety. There has been nothing to clearly justify the Court holding the statute to be unconstitutional. Affirmed.”

    • Case Brief: 1905
    • Petitioner: Jacobson
    • Respondent: Massachusetts
    • Decided by: Fuller Court

    Citation: 197 US 11 (1905)
    Argued: Dec 6, 1904
    Decided: Feb 20, 1905