Insular Cases

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The Insular Cases are a series of opinions by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1901 about the status of U.S. territories acquired in the Spanish–American War. The Supreme Court held that full constitutional rights do not automatically (or ex proprio vigore—i.e., of its own force) extend to all places under American control. This meant that inhabitants of unincorporated territories such as Puerto Rico—"even if they are U.S. citizens"—may lack some constitutional rights (e.g., the right to remain part of the United States in case of de-annexation).[1]

The Court also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation, under which the Constitution applied fully only in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, whereas it applied only partially in the newly unincorporated Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. extended ) to the territories.

The term "insular" signifies that the territories were islands administered by the War Department's Bureau of Insular Affairs.

Background[edit]

In 1898 the United States annexed Hawaii and signed the Treaty of Paris (entered into force April 11, 1899), which ended the Spanish–American War and granted the United States the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Additionally, Cuba remained under the jurisdiction of the United States Military Government until its independence on May 20, 1902. At the time, there was a debate on how to govern these new territories since nothing was said about it in the U.S. Constitution.

The cases were the Court's response to a major issue of the 1900 presidential election and the American Anti-Imperialist League, summarized by the phrase "Does the Constitution follow the flag?"[1]

List of the Insular Cases[edit]

Various authorities have listed what they consider are the legitimate constituents of the Insular Cases.

Juan R. Torruella, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico) considers that the landmark decisions consisted of six fundamental cases only, all decided in 1901: "strictly speaking the Insular Cases are the original six opinions issued concerning acquired territories as a result of the 1898 Treaty of Paris".[2] These six cases were:[3]

Other authorities, such as José Trías Monge, former Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, states that the list also includes these additional two cases also decided in 1901:[4]

  • Dooley v. United States, 183 U.S. 151 (1901)
  • Fourteen Diamond Rings v. United States, 183 U.S. 176 (1901)

Law professor Pedro A. Malavet wrote in his book America's Colony: The Political and Cultural Conflict Between the United States and Puerto Rico that while many law experts include cases from 1903 to 1979, some scholars limit the number of cases in the list to just nine, adding Crossman v. United States, 182 U.S. 221 (1901).[5]

Six of the nine Insular Cases only involve Puerto Rico.[5]

Constitutional law professor Efrén Rivera-Ramos argues that the "Insular Cases" designation has been extended beyond the first nine cases in 1901 to include additional cases decided between 1903 and 1914:[6]

  • Hawaii v. Mankichi, 190 U.S. 197 (1903)
  • Gonzales v. Williams, 192 U.S. 1 (1904)
  • Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100 (1904)
  • Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138 (1904)
  • Mendozana v. United States, 195 U.S. 158 (1904)[7]
  • Rasmussen v. United States, 197 U.S. 516 (1905)
  • Trono v. United States, 199 U.S. 521 (1905)
  • Grafton v. United States, 206 U.S. 333 (1907)
  • Kent v. Porto Rico, 207 U.S. 113 (1907)
  • Kopel v. Bingham, 211 U.S. 468 (1909)
  • Dowdell v. United States, 221 U.S. 325 (1911)
  • Ochoa v. Hernández, 230 U.S. 139 (1913)
  • Ocampo v. United States, 234 U.S. 91 (1914)

The Insular Cases, hence, often include:[8]

Criticism[edit]

Former Puerto Rico Supreme Court Chief Justice José Trías Monge contends that the Insular Cases were based on premises that would be considered bizarre today, such as:[9]

  • Democracy and colonialism are "fully compatible"
  • There is "nothing wrong when a democracy such as the United States engages in the business of governing other" subjects that have not participated in their democratic election process
  • People are not created equal, some races being superior to others
  • It is the "burden of the superior peoples, the white man's burden, to bring up others in their image, except to the extent that the nation which possesses them should in due time determine"[9]

In Harris v. Rosario, 446 U.S. 651 (1980), the Court applied Califano v. Torres, 435 U.S. 1 (1978) in a succinct per curiam order, holding that less aid to Puerto Rican families with dependent children did not violate the Equal Protection Clause, because in U.S. territories Congress can discriminate against its citizens applying a rational basis review. Justice Marshall wrote a staunch dissent, noting that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and that the Insular Cases are questionable.

In Torres v. Puerto Rico, 442 U.S. 465 (1979), cited above, Justice Brennan, with whom Justice Stewart, Justice Marshall, and Justice Blackmun joined, concurring in the judgment, cited Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, 14 (1957), in which Justice Black said the "concept that the Bill of Rights and other constitutional protections against arbitrary government are inoperative when they become inconvenient or when expediency dictates otherwise is a very dangerous doctrine and if allowed to flourish would destroy the benefit of a written Constitution and undermine the basis of our Government".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion: 1803–1898. By Sanford Levinson and Bartholomew H. Sparrow. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2005. Page 15.
  2. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 243.
  3. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 248.
  4. ^ Injustice According to Law: The Insular Cases and Other Oddities. By José Trías Monge. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 239.
  5. ^ a b America's Colony: The Political and Cultural Conflict Between the United States and Puerto Rico. By Pedro A. Malavet. Page 38. Retrieved December 8, 2009.
  6. ^ Deconstructing Colonialim. By Efren Rivera Ramos. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Pages 115–116.
  7. ^ As cited in "THE LEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF AMERICAN COLONIALISM: THE INSULAR CASES (1901–1922)" by Efrén Rivera Ramos, however the supreme court opinion spelling is "Mendezona"
  8. ^ "The name Insular Cases is normally given to a series of nine decisions rendered in 1901. Seven of those cases arose from Puerto Rico, one from Hawaii and one from the Philippine Islands. However, some authors have extended the name to another set of cases decided from 1903 to 1914, dealing with the same or related issues, and, finally, to a decision *241 handed down in 1922. Of the thirteen cases belonging to the second group, five originated in actions relating to Puerto Rico, six referred to the Philippines, one to Hawaii and another to Alaska. The 1922 case dealt with the status of Puerto Rico. I will refer to all of them as the Insular Cases because all the issues were related, the second group of cases rested on the decisions made in 1901, and the 1922 case, Balzac, must be read as the culmination of the series." Efren Rivera Ramos, The Legal Construction of American Colonialism: The Insular Cases (1901–1922), 65 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 225, 240–41 (1996)
  9. ^ a b Injustice According to Law: The Insular Cases and Other Oddities. By José Trías Monge. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 228.

Further reading[edit]