Insular Cases


Insular Cases

The Insular Cases are several U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning the status of territories acquired by the U.S. in the Spanish-American War (1898). The name "insular" derives from the fact that these territories are islands and were administered by the War Department's Bureau of Insular Affairs. The cases were in essence the court's response to a major issue of the 1900 presidential election and the American Anti-Imperialist League, summarized by the phrase "Does the Constitution follow the flag?" Essentially, the Supreme Court said that full constitutional rights did not automatically extend to all areas under American control. The "deepest ramification" of the Insular Cases is that inhabitants of unincorporated territories such as Puerto Rico, "even if they are U.S. citizens", may have no constitutional rights, such as to remain part of the United States if the United States chooses to engage in deannexation.[1]

In 1898, the United States annexed Hawaii. Also during that year, the Treaty of Paris (which entered into force April 11, 1899) ended the Spanish American War and the United States gained the islands of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Additionally, Cuba remained under the jurisdiction of the United States Military Government until its independence on May 20, 1902. At the time, there was a debate on how to govern these new territories since nothing was said about it in the U.S. Constitution. In the Insular (i.e., island-related) Cases, the Supreme Court of the United States established the framework for applying the Constitution to these islands.

From 1901 to 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of opinions known as the Insular Cases held that the Constitution extended ex proprio vigore to the territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation. Under the same, the Constitution only applied fully in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, whereas it only applied partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

Contents

List of Insular Cases

Various authorities have listed what they consider are the legitimate constituents of the Insular Cases.

Juan R. Torruella, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico) [2] considers that the landmark decisions consisted of six fundamental cases only, all decided in 1901: "strictly speaking the Insular Cases are the original six opinions issued concerning acquired territories as a result of the 1898 Treaty of Paris." These six cases were:[3]

  • De Lima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901)
  • Goetze v. United States, 182 U.S. 221 (1901)
  • Dooley v. United States, 182 U.S. 222 (1901)
  • Armstrong v. United States, 182 U.S. 243 (1901)
  • Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901)
  • Huus v. New York and Porto Rico Steamship Co., 182 U.S. 392 (1901)

Other authorities, such as José Trías Monge, former Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, states that the list also includes these additional two cases also decided in 1901:[4]

  • Dooley v. United States, 183 U.S. 151 (1901)
  • Fourteen Diamond Rings v. United States, 183 U.S. 176 (1901)

Law Professor Pedro A. Malavet,[5] indicates in his book America's Colony: The Political and Cultural Conflict Between the United and Puerto Rico that while many law experts include cases from 1903 to 1979, some scholars limit the number of cases in the list to just nine, adding also

  • Crossman v. United States, 182 U.S. 221 (1901)

to the list of eight cases above, as separate from the Goetze v. United States, 182 U.S. 221 (1901), case.[5]

Two-thirds (six) of the nine Insular Cases referred specifically to cases involving only Puerto Rico.[5]

Some authorities, such as Constitutional law professor, and expert on US-PR constitutional relations, Dr. Efren Rivera Ramos, state that the designation of Insular Cases has been extended beyond the first nine 1901 cases to include another set of cases decided from 1903 to 1914:[6]

  • Hawaii v. Mankichi, 190 U.S. 197 (1903)
  • Gonzales v. Williams, 192 U.S. 1 (1904)
  • Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100 (1904)
  • Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138 (1904)
  • Mendozana[7] v. United States, 195 U.S. 158 (1904)
  • Rasmussen v. United States, 197 U.S. 516 (1905)
  • Trono v. United States, 199 U.S. 521 (1905)
  • Grafton v. United States, 206 U.S. 333 (1907)
  • Kent v. Porto Rico, 207 U.S. 113 (1907)
  • Kopel v. Bingham, 211 U.S. 468 (1909)
  • Dowdell v. United States, 221 U.S. 325 (1911)
  • Ochoa v. Hernández, 230 U.S. 139 (1913)
  • Ocampo v. United States, 234 U.S. 91 (1914)

Insular Cases, hence, oftentimes include:[8]

Criticism

The decisions in the Insular Cases have not been without the dissenting voices of critics, among them distinguished scholars.

Former Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court José Trías Monge has stated that "The Insular Cases were based on premises that in today's world seem bizarre.[9] "They," Trias Monge continues, "and the policies on which they rest, answer to the following notions:

  • "democracy and colonialism are fully compatible;
  • "there is nothing wrong when a democracy such as the United States engages in the business of governing other [subjects who have not participated in their democratic election process];
  • "people are not created equal, some races being superior to others;
  • "it is the burden of the superior peoples, the white man's burden, to bring up others in their image, except to the extent that the nation which possesses them should in due time determine." [9]

In Harris v. Rosario, 446 U.S. 651 (1980), the Court in a succinct per curiam order, applied Califano, to hold that a lower level of aid to families with dependent children to residents of Puerto Rico did not violate the Equal Protection Clause, because in U.S. territories Congress can discriminate against its citizens applying a rational basis standard. Justice Marshall issued a staunch dissent, again noting that Puerto Ricans are United States citizens and that the Insular Cases are indeed questionable.

See also

References

  1. ^ The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion: 1803-1898. By Sanford Levinson and Bartholomew H. Sparrow. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2005. Page 15.
  2. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 243.
  3. ^ One Hundred Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century. By Juan R. Torruella. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 248.
  4. ^ Injustice According to Law: The Insular Cases and Other Oddities. By José Trías Monge. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 239.
  5. ^ a b c America's Colony: The Political and Cultural Conflict Between the United and Puerto Rico. By Pedro A. Malavet. Page 38. Retrieved December 8, 2009.
  6. ^ Deconstructing Colonialim. By Efren Rivera Ramos. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Pages 115-116.
  7. ^ As cited in "THE LEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF AMERICAN COLONIALISM: THE INSULAR CASES (1901-1922)" by Efrén Rivera Ramos, however the supreme court opinion spelling is "Mendezona"
  8. ^ "The name Insular Cases is normally given to a series of nine decisions rendered in 1901. Seven of those cases arose from Puerto Rico, one from Hawaii and one from the Philippine Islands. However, some authors have extended the name to another set of cases decided from 1903 to 1914, dealing with the same or related issues, and, finally, to a decision *241 handed down in 1922. Of the thirteen cases belonging to the second group, five originated in actions relating to Puerto Rico, six referred to the Philippines, one to Hawaii and another to Alaska. The 1922 case dealt with the status of Puerto Rico. I will refer to all of them as the Insular Cases because all the issues were related, the second group of cases rested on the decisions made in 1901, and the 1922 case, Balzac, must be read as the culmination of the series." Efren Rivera Ramos, The Legal Construction of American Colonialism: The Insular Cases (1901-1922), 65 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 225, 240-41 (1996)
  9. ^ a b Injustice According to Law: The Insular Cases and Other Oddities. By José Trías Monge. In, Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, The American Expansion, and the Constitution. Ed. by Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall. 2001. Duke University Press. Page 228.

Further reading


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