U.S. v. Carolene Products Co.

US Constitutional Law

US v Carolene Products Co
Image: ‘Oreo Cookies and Milk’ by Mick McGinty

Amendment rights and the need to protect against fraud, are central to a case involving a distributor of food products and the intervention by Congress in the interests of public safety when in 1938, a corporate entity was indicted under §§ 61 and 62 of the Filled Milk Act 1923.

After having shipped a number of containers of ‘Milnut’, a product that fell within the scope of the Act, and which resulted in a sentence of either imprisonment or a $1000 fine as per § 63, the now appellee was charged with illegal distribution and misrepresentation, within which § 62 clearly expressed how:

“It is declared that filled milk, as herein defined, is an adulterated article of food, injurious to the public health, and its sale constitutes a fraud upon the public. It shall be unlawful for any person to ship or deliver for shipment in interstate or foreign commerce, any filled milk.”

Whereupon the matter was taken to appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court under the Criminal Appeals Act 1907. Here, the appellee demurred that application of the 1923 Act was subject to the limitations prescribed by the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

And that seizure of the prohibited goods was a breach of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which expresses how:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”

Therefore the decision by Congress to create and apply prohibitive legislation which conflicts with the aims of the Constitution, was both ultra vires and an affront to the privacy rights and freedoms of the individual citizens of the United States of America.

Contrastingly, the Court drew reference to Hebe Co. v. Shaw, in which the Supreme Court ruled that any state law forbidding the manufacture and sale of filled milk under § 6(c) of the 1923 Act, which clarified how:

“The term ‘filled milk’ means any milk, cream, or skimmed milk, whether or not condensed, evaporated, concentrated, Powdered, dried, or desiccated, to which has been added, or which has been blended or compounded with, any fat or oil other than milk fat, so that the resulting product is in imitation or semblance of milk, cream, or skimmed milk, whether or not condensed, evaporated, concentrated, powdered, dried, or desiccated.”

Was not an infringement of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which again stipulates that:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This translated that while the rights afforded under the Constitution were exempt from the wishes of Congress, the importance of public interest and compelling evidence submitted by the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry in relation to ‘doctored’ milk, justified the prevention of misrepresentation through sensitive regulation, as opposed to wanton deprivation of liberty or distortion of justice. Thus it was for this fundamental reason that the Court dismissed the demurrer and reversed the judgment accordingly.

H v Associated Newspapers Ltd and N (A Health Authority)

English Medical Law

H (A Healthcare Worker) v Associated Newspapers Ltd and N (A Health Authority)
Image: ‘HIV Aids’ by Judy Seidman

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Balancing the need to protect individual privacy against those of public interest, is both difficult and often painful for the party that loses. When a healthcare worker retires through ill-health, it is under a truth that HIV infection was the primary cause for departure.

The employer concerned, followed procedural rules during the ending of the relationship, but later found themselves torn between performing an obligatory ‘look back’ exercise, requiring contact with patients that had been assigned the retirees care when carrying our their duties, and assisting with the request that the former healthcare worker’s privacy be respected (the former element was still uncertain due to a change of guidelines and therefore such actions may have proven unnecessary pending the revised policy). The escalating factor in this appeal case, was the knowledge that while the infected worker was contractually obliged to submit the medical records of those treated under the NHS, a reasonable percentage of the remaining patients were seen privately, and therefore liable for protection against disclosure under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Shortly after the ‘look back’ request was made, the former employee secured a court order preventing any publication of patient records that might allow for disclosure of the infected party, on grounds of unlawfulness and a fundamental right to individual privacy. After a newspaper learned of the matter, it published an article on grounds of public interest, although in breach of a previously issued restraining order, and aware that disclosure of the health authority at least would soon allow readers to make educated guesses as to the identity of the infected party. This then led to action being taken against the newspaper, on the footing that the previously published article had indirectly disclosed the identity of the healthcare worker through disclosure of the gagging order and the subject to which it applied.

There were of course a number of other factors that required diligence from the courts, but the essence of the argument also addressed very sensitive and fear-laden concerns that threatened disproportionate cost implications upon the State, along with a risk of flagrant sensationalism. On this occasion, the court ruled that until such time as the new guidelines were issued, the newspaper must reduce the identities of both the employer and employee to initials, which would allow the nature of the matter to become publicly accessible, while concealing the names of the two parties involved; and that should the new guidelines require absolute disclosure of medical records, private or otherwise, the infected party must comply.