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Terrace v. Thompson

263 U.S. 197 (1923)

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Terrace v. Thompson

United States Supreme Court

263 U.S. 197 (1923)

Facts

Terrace (plaintiff) was a white resident of Washington state who wanted to lease agricultural land to Nakatsuka, a resident alien, for five years. Nakatsuka was a Japanese farmer who Terrace believed would make a great tenant. However, Washington’s constitution forbade aliens who had not declared an objective to pursue citizenship from owning land, with few exceptions. Also, Washington enacted an alien-land law that not only forbade such aliens from owning land, but provided that the owner who conveyed land to such an alien would forfeit the land to the state and be subject to a fine and/or imprisonment for allowing the alien to use or possess land. Further, the law made it a crime for the alien with title or use of land to fail to reveal it to the attorney general. Given these penalties, it was too risky for Terrace to lease the land to Nakatsuka as a test of the law’s constitutionality. Whether the law was valid or not, citizens had to submit to it or lose their land without due process or equal protection of law. Terrace brought suit seeking to prevent Attorney General Thompson (defendant) from enforcing the act and asking a court to decide the validity of the Anti-Alien Land Law. The court upheld the law. The case proceeded to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Butler, J.)

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