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U.S. Supreme Court


249 U.S. 265

No. 178.

Submitted March 11, 1919.
Decided March 24, 1919.

Mr. Harvey M. Friend, of Washington, D. C., for plaintiff in error.[ Dominion Hotel v. State of Arizona 249 U.S. 265 (1919) ]

[249 U.S. 265, 267]   Mr. Wiley E. Jones, Atty. Gen., Ariz., for the State of Arizona.

Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an information alleging that the defendant, the plaintiff in error, was engaged in the hotel business and permitted a woman to work in the hotel for eight hours and that the 'said eight hours of work was not then and there performed within a period of twelve hours,' with a denial that the defendant was within the exceptions made by the statute governing the case. The statute provides as follows:

The defendant by demurrer and otherwise set up that the exceptions in the statute made it void under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States as depriving the defendant of the equal protection of the laws. There was a trial and judgment against the defendant which was sustained by the Supreme Court of the State, Arizona.

The Fourteenth Amendment is not a pedagogical requirement of the impracticable. The equal protection of the laws does not mean that all occupations that are called by the same name must be treated in the same way. The power of the State 'may be determined by degrees of evil or exercised in cases where detriment is specially experienced.' Armour & Co. v. North Dakota, 240 U.S. 510, 517 , 36 S. Sup. Ct. 440, Ann. Cas. 1916D, 548. It may do what it can to prevent what is deemed an evil and stop short of those cases in which the harm to the few concerned is thought less important than the harm to the public that would ensue if the rule laid down were made mathematically exact. The only question is whether we can say on our judicial knowledge that the Legislature of Arizona could not have had any reasonable ground for believing that there were such public considerations for the distinction made by the present law. The deference due to the judgment of the Legislature on the matter has been emphasized again and again. Hebe Co. v. Shaw, 248 U.S. 297, 303 , 39 S. Sup. Ct. 125. Of course, this is especially true when local conditions may affect the answer, conditions that the Legislature does but that we cannot know. Thomas Cusack Co. v. Chicago, 242 U.S. 526, 530 , 531 S., 37 Sup. Ct. 190, L. R. A. 1918A, 136, Ann, Cas. 1917C, 594.

Presumably, or at least possibly, the main custom of restaurants upon railroad rights of way comes from the passengers upon trains that stop to allow them to eat. The work must be adjusted to the hours of the trains. This fact makes a practical and, it may be, an important [249 U.S. 265, 269]   distinction between such restaurants and others. If in its theory the distinction is justifiable, as for all that we know it is, the fact that some cases, including the plaintiff's, are very near to the line makes it none the worse. That is the inevitable result of drawing a line where the distrinctions are distinctions of degree; and the constant business of the law is to draw such lines.

We cannot pronounce the statute void.

Judgment affirmed.

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