United States v. Carolene Products Co.
304 U.S. 144 (1938)
Congress passed the Filled
Milk Act, which prohibited mixing
vegetable oil to skim milk to make it look like cream.
Caroline Products made an
imitation milk product and was fined. They appealed.
Caroline argued that the Filled
Milk Act was be unconstitutional
because it interfered with the freedom of contract included
within the Due Process Clause of
the 5th Amendment.
The US Supreme Court upheld
the Filled Milk Act.
The US Supreme Court found
that that government can interfere with freedom of contract only to serve a valid police purpose of protecting public health, public safety or
In this case, the
government was protecting public health by assuring nutritious,
This case is famous for it's
dicta (Footnote 4), which said that in general, the courts should defer to
government economic regulations, with more aggressive judicial review
reserved for cases involving fundamental rights and "discrete and
insular minorities," or there is a clear, specific prohibition in the
That's a major change in how
the Court approached constitutional jurisprudence. Prior to this case,
the Court routinely overturned government economic regulations for being
in violation of the vague wording of the concept of freedom of
contract in the Constitution.
The basic idea espoused in
Footnote 4 is that if possible, the courts should leave regulation to the
political process, and only intervene in cases where the political
process is broken.
The concept laid out in
Footnote 4 served as the basis for modern judicial review of
Constitutional Law issues.
If there is no fundamental
right or suspect class involved, then the courts will uphold the law
as long as there is a rational basis for it.
If there is a fundamental
right or suspect class involved, the courts will only uphold the law
if it meets strict scrutiny.