Hadacheck v. Sebastian

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Hadacheck v. Sebastian
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 22, 1915
Decided December 20, 1915
Full case name Hadacheck v. Sebastian, Chief of Police of the City of Los Angeles
Citations 239 U.S. 394 (more)
60 L.Ed. 348; 36 S.Ct. 143
Prior history On habeas corpus from the Supreme Court of California
An ordinance of Los Angeles prohibiting the manufacturing of bricks within specified limits of the city was a legitimate exercise of the police power.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority McKenna, joined by unanimous

Hadacheck v. Sebastian, 239 U.S. 394 (1915),[1] was an early U.S. Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of zoning ordinances. The Court held that an ordinance of Los Angeles, California prohibiting the manufacturing of bricks within specified limits of the city did not unconstitutionally deprive the petitioner of his property without due process of law, or deny him equal protection of the laws.

Facts and procedural history[edit]

Petitioner Hadacheck was convicted of a misdemeanor for the violation of a city ordinance, which prohibited the establishment or operation a brickyard or brick kiln, or any manufacture or burning of brick within described limits in the city. Hadacheck was taken into custody by Los Angeles Chief of Police Charles E. Sebastian, whereupon he filed a petition for habeas corpus with the California Supreme Court.

In his petition, Hadacheck (who had acquired his property prior to his district's annexation by the city of Los Angeles) set forth at length his grievances with the ordinance and the decision of the lower court, including inter alia (among other things) that his land contained valuable deposits of clay which were ideal for making bricks, that his land was quite valuable and that he acquired this particular tract for the express purpose of manufacturing bricks, that the ordinance would deprive him of his use of the property and force him to abandon his business, that his business was conducted in such a manner as to emit as little pollution as possible and could not be considered a nuisance under the California Civil Code, and that the district described by the ordinance was drawn in such a manner solely to disrupt his business. Hadacheck further alleged an unconstitutional taking by the city, and that the ordinance violated both the California Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The California Supreme Court found in favor of the city, accepting the judgment of the legislators. The court held that the business was one which could be lawfully regulated, and the fact that the petitioner began his business prior to the enactment of the ordinance was no defense. The court also discussed the affidavits submitted by interested parties which contradicted Hadacheck's assertions that the business was conducted in a sanitary, non-polluting manner.


Justice McKenna, writing for a unanimous court, upheld the California Supreme Court's decision, holding that the ordinance was a legitimate use of the police power. He analogized this case to an earlier one, Reinman v. Little Rock, 237 U.S. 171 (1915), which dealt with a similar ordinance banning livery stables. Reinman was distinguishable on the grounds that a livery stable could be moved and operated anywhere, while bricks can only be manufactured where suitable clay is found. Hadacheck contended that the removal of clay from his land was not physically impossible, but was prohibitively expensive. The Court held that even though relocating the brick factory would be costly, the ordinance did not amount to a complete denial of the use of Hadacheck's property, because the ordinance did not completely deny Hadacheck the use of the clay on his land.

The Court further held that the ordinance did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Hadacheck alleged that his business was prohibited while those of his competitors elsewhere were not. The Court responded that just because his business was the first to be shut down, it does not follow that others will not be in the future, thus this issue was beyond the scope of the case.

Historical importance[edit]

Hadacheck v. Sebastian was one of the first cases to deal with the issue of regulatory takings under zoning laws, even though the ordinance in question was simple and primitive in comparison to modern American zoning schemes. Because of this, the case is commonly discussed in first year constitutional law and/or property law classes in American law schools.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Text of Hadacheck v. Sebastian is available from:  Cornell  Findlaw  Justia  vLex 

External links[edit]