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Ho Ah Kow v. Nunan

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
12 F. Cas. 252 (No. 6546) (1879)


The City of San Francisco (defendant) passed an ordinance requiring every man in county jail to have his hair cut to a length of one inch. Ho Ah Kow (plaintiff), a Chinese man and a prisoner in county jail, brought suit, claiming that the ordinance violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was religious custom for Chinese men to shave the front of their scalp and wear the rest of their hair in a long braid called a queue. Ho Ah Kow presented evidence that the ordinance, while generally applicable by its terms, was enforced against only Chinese men. The city’s avowed purpose of the ordinance was to induce Chinese men into paying their fines to avoid being put in jail. In fact, the ordinance was colloquially known as the “Queue Ordinance.”

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Field, J.)

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