Joseph Hadacheck (plaintiff) owned a tract of land that included a very valuable bed of clay. He purchased the land because of the clay, and he built up extensive machinery and infrastructure on the land for purposes of making fine quality bricks using the clay on the land. So valuable was the clay that the land was worth as much as $800,000 when used for commercial purposes, but less than $60,000 for residential purposes. At some point, the City of Los Angeles annexed Hadacheck’s property. The city then enacted an ordinance prohibiting the operation of brickmaking facilities within a specified district in the city, including on Hadacheck's land. Hadacheck was convicted of a misdemeanor for violating the ordinance and committed to the custody of Charles Sebastian (defendant), the Los Angeles Chief of Police. Hadacheck filed a writ of habeas corpus with the California Supreme Court, challenging the validity of the ordinance under which he was charged. The court discharged the writ and remanded Hadacheck to custody. The United States Supreme Court granted a writ of error to review.