Hawker v. New York

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Hawker v. New York
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 9, 1898
Decided April 18, 1898
Full case name Hawker v. People of State of New York
Citations 170 U.S. 189 (more)
18 S. Ct. 573; 42 L. Ed. 1002; 1898 U.S. LEXIS 1537
Prior history Hawker convicted of unlawful practice of medicine
Subsequent history None
Laws may specify past acts (and convictions) as evidence of current qualification for a profession without being considered additional ex post facto punishment.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Melville Fuller
Associate Justices
John M. Harlan · Horace Gray
David J. Brewer · Henry B. Brown
George Shiras Jr. · Edward D. White
Rufus W. Peckham · Joseph McKenna
Case opinions
Majority Brewer, joined by Fuller, Gray, Brown, Shiras, White
Dissent Harlan, joined by Peckham, McKenna
Laws applied
New York state law

Hawker v. New York, 170 U.S. 189 (1898), is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a New York state law preventing convicted felons from practicing medicine, even when the felony conviction occurred before the law was enacted.

The case[edit]

Dr. Hawker was convicted in 1878 of performing an illegal abortion. He served his time, and then resumed the practice of medicine. In 1893 and 1895, the legislature of the State of New York passed public health laws making it illegal for convicted felons to practice medicine. Dr. Hawker was convicted under this law in 1896, but contended that the law passed after his conviction was putting an additional penalty on him, contrary to the protection from ex post facto laws in Section 10 of Article One of the United States Constitution.

Majority opinion[edit]

Justice Brewer's opinion cites Dent v. West Virginia and other cases which held that states may add new qualifications for practicing medicine that apply to those already in practice. It also cites Jones v. Brim 165 U.S. 180 (1897) which held that the states have a right to classify individuals for application of laws and also Alabama and California cases where the right to vote or to sell liquor (respectively) could be revoked on the basis of a prior conviction whan that conviction is reasonable evidence that a person has broken a law, and thus is evidence of insufficient good character to exercise the right.

Dissenting opinion[edit]

Justice Harlan's dissenting opinion contends that this is a case of an ex post facto law, given that the law does not consider the doctor's current fitness for the job, but rather relies on a conviction nearly 20 years old, which he does not consider evidence of current character.

See also[edit]