1. introduction: the power of legislature to allocate wealth

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A. Limits on Legislative Power

  • Legislature has the power to repeal its own statutes and those of earlier legislatures and lower legislative bodies, e.g. city ordinances.

  • The Court will not look into the motive or intent to determine if the law was passed in a corrupt manner. If the bill has met the Constitutional requisites needed to pass the law, it will not be overturned by the judiciary. (Fletcher v. Peck)

      1. No standard of what is good motive or bad motive, corrupt or legitimate.

      2. Unclear how many legislators needed to be corrupt before one can challenge. Some judges may also be corrupt

      3. If private individuals could challenge legislation b/c of bad motives, all laws would be challenged and legislators would spend too much time defending them

      4. Cope with corrupt legislatures by limiting power to redistribute property rather than inquiring into corrupt motives

  • Once the government grants a track of land, it cannot take it back = property is important and legislature cannot pass ex post facto law that repeals old law which was used to convey land (Fletcher v. Peck)

  1. Land empowers owner and gives freedom and liberty. You cannot be coerced if you owns land and can support yourself.

  2. Limits legislature's power to enact laws that take property so that they do not have too much power to interfere in people's lives.

  3. Security of title to land is important


  • Fletcher v. Peck (1810) – Government sale of land before Peck was corrupted by fraud (legislature was bribed) so Peck never had good title when he sold land to Fletcher.

    • Court says grant is like an executed contract and legislature can’t take it away.

    • Can’t punish individuals for government corruption

  • The Corporation of the Brick Presbyterian Church v. Mayor of New York et al. (1826)

    • In 1766 City of NY granted land for use as church and cemetery

    • Attached to grant of land was covenant that the city wouldn’t interfere with use of that land

    • 70 years later city passed ordinance prohibiting all further burials in Manhattan, church sues for breach of covenant

    • Court says that city is allowed to change legislation based on changing circumstances

    • How do we reconcile with Fletcher = difference between talking title over property and legislating how property should be used

B. Police Power of the Legislature
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