Joseph Patsone v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 38

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHolmes
Citation232 U.S. 138,34 S.Ct. 281,58 L.Ed. 539
PartiesJOSEPH PATSONE, Plff. in Err., v. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Docket NumberNo. 38
Decision Date19 January 1914

232 U.S. 138
34 S.Ct. 281
58 L.Ed. 539
JOSEPH PATSONE, Plff. in Err.,

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA.

No. 38.
Argued November 4, 1913.
Decided January 19, 1914.

Page 139

Mr. Marcel A. Viti fpr plaintiff error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 139-142 intentionally omitted]

Page 142

Mr. John C. Bell, Attorney General of Pennsylvania, and Messrs. William M. Hargest and W. H. Lemon for defendant in error.

Page 143

Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff in error was an unnaturalized foreign-born resident of Pennsylvania, and was complained of for owning or having in his possession a shotgun, contrary to an act of May 8, 1909. Laws 1909, No. 261, p. 466. This statute makes it unlawful for any unnaturalized foreign-born resident to kill any wild bird or animal except in defense of person or property, and 'to that end' makes it unlawful for such foreign-born person to own or be possessed of a shotgun or rifle; with a penalty of $25 and a forfeiture of the gun or guns. The plaintiff in error was found guilty and was sentenced to pay the above-mentioned fine. The judgment was affirmed on successive appeals. 231 Pa. 46, 79 Atl. 928. He brings the case to this court on the ground that the statute is contrary to the 14th Amendment and also is in contravention of the treaty between the United States and Italy, to which latter country the plaintiff in error belongs.

Under the 14th Amendment the objection is two fold; unjustifiably depriving the alien of property, and discrimination against such aliens as a class. But the former really depends upon the latter, since it hardly can be disputed that if the lawful object, the protection of wild life (Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U. S. 519, 40 L. ed. 793, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 600), warrants the discrimination, the means adopted for making it effective also might be adopted. The possession of rifles and shotguns is not necessary for other purposes not within the statute. It is so peculiarly appropriated to the forbidden use that if such a use may be denied to this class, the possession of the instruments desired chiefly for that end also may be. The prohibition does not extend to weapons such as pistols that may be supposed to be needed occasionally for self-defense. So far, the case is within the principle of Lawton v. Steele, 152 U. S. 133, 38 L. ed. 385, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 499.

Page 144

See further, New York ex rel. Silz v. Hesterberg, 211 U. S. 31, 53 L. ed. 75, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 10; Purity Extract & Tonic Co. v. Lynch, 226 U. S. 192, 57 L. ed. 184, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 44.

The discrimination undoubtedly presents a more difficult question. But we start with the general consideration that a state may classify with reference to the evil to be prevented, and that if the class discriminated against is or reasonably might be considered to define those from whom the evil mainly is to be feared, it properly may be picked out. A lack of abstract symmetry does not matter. The question is a practical one, dependent upon experience. The demand for symmetry ignores the specific difference that experience is supposed to have shown to mark the class. It is not enough to invalidate the law that others may do the...

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279 practice notes
  • Pennsylvania Coal Co v. Mahon, No. 549
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 11, 1922
    ...567, 53 L. Ed. 923; Laurel Hill Cemetery v. San Francisco, 216 U. S. 358, 365, 30 Sup. Ct. 301, 54 L. Ed. 515; Patsone v. Pennsylvania, 232 U. S. 138, 144, 34 Sup. Ct. 281, 58 L. Ed. 539. May we say that notice would afford adequate protection of the public safety where the Legislature and ......
  • State v. Hedrick, No. 23106.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 3, 1922
    ...which it might possibly reach. Dealing with practical exigencies, the Legislature may be guided by experience. Patsone v. Pennsylvania, 232 U. S. 138-144. It is free to recognize degrees of harm, and it may confine its restrictions to those classes of cases where the need is deemed to be cl......
  • ABC Liquidators, Inc. v. Kansas City, No. 46954
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 13, 1959
    ...limited to the dangers of fraud or other imposition on buyers. The United States Supreme Court in Patsone v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 232 U.S. 138, loc. cit. 144, 34 S.Ct. 281, 282, 58 L.Ed. 539, in dealing with the police power of the state said: 'A state may classify with reference t......
  • George v. United States, No. 13095.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 23, 1952
    ...condemn a classification so long as a reasonable ground exists for inclusion or exclusion. Patsone v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1914, 232 U.S. 138, 144, 34 S.Ct. 281, 58 L.Ed. 539; People of the State of New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 1928, 278 U.S. 63, 73-77, 49 S.Ct. 61, 73 L.E......
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278 cases
  • Pennsylvania Coal Co v. Mahon, No. 549
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 11, 1922
    ...567, 53 L. Ed. 923; Laurel Hill Cemetery v. San Francisco, 216 U. S. 358, 365, 30 Sup. Ct. 301, 54 L. Ed. 515; Patsone v. Pennsylvania, 232 U. S. 138, 144, 34 Sup. Ct. 281, 58 L. Ed. 539. May we say that notice would afford adequate protection of the public safety where the Legislature and ......
  • State v. Hedrick, No. 23106.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 3, 1922
    ...which it might possibly reach. Dealing with practical exigencies, the Legislature may be guided by experience. Patsone v. Pennsylvania, 232 U. S. 138-144. It is free to recognize degrees of harm, and it may confine its restrictions to those classes of cases where the need is deemed to be cl......
  • ABC Liquidators, Inc. v. Kansas City, No. 46954
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 13, 1959
    ...limited to the dangers of fraud or other imposition on buyers. The United States Supreme Court in Patsone v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 232 U.S. 138, loc. cit. 144, 34 S.Ct. 281, 282, 58 L.Ed. 539, in dealing with the police power of the state said: 'A state may classify with reference t......
  • George v. United States, No. 13095.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 23, 1952
    ...condemn a classification so long as a reasonable ground exists for inclusion or exclusion. Patsone v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1914, 232 U.S. 138, 144, 34 S.Ct. 281, 58 L.Ed. 539; People of the State of New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 1928, 278 U.S. 63, 73-77, 49 S.Ct. 61, 73 L.E......
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1 books & journal articles
  • State Water Ownership and the Future of Groundwater Management.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 7, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...(water); Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U.S. 519 (1896) (game birds), overruled by Hughes, 441 U.S. 322; see also Patsone v. Pennsylvania, 232 U.S. 138 (1914) (prohibiting foreign-born residents from hunting wild game); McCready v. Virginia, 94 U.S. 391 (1876) (imposing restrictions on noncitizen......

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