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U.S. Supreme Court

Minnesota ex Rel. Pearson v. Probate Court, 309 U.S. 270 (1940)

Minnesota ex Rel. Pearson v.

Probate Court of Ramsey County

No. 394

Argued February 6, 7, 1940

Decided February 26, 1940

309 U.S. 270


Under a Minnesota statute, a person may be subjected to a proceeding akin to lunacy proceedings with a view to his restraint if proven to be of a "psychopathic personality." In a prohibition proceeding, the State Supreme Court construed the statute as intended to include those persons who, by a habitual course of misconduct in sexual matters, have evidenced an utter lack of power to control their sexual impulses and who, as a result, are likely to attack or otherwise inflict injury, loss, pain or other evil

Page 309 U. S. 271

on the objects of their uncontrolled and uncontrollable desire, and upheld the statute and quashed the alternative writ. Upon appeal here, held:

1. This Court must accept the state court's construction. P. 309 U. S. 273.

2. The word "include" as used in that court's opinion, will be taken as defining the entire class of persons to whom the statute applies, and not as describing merely a portion of a larger class. Pp. 309 U. S. 273-274.

3. The statute, so construed, is not too vague and indefinite to constitute valid legislation. P. 309 U. S. 274.

4. The objection that it denies the equal protection of the laws because of unreasonable classification is untenable. P. 309 U. S. 274.

The legislature is free to recognize degrees of harm, and may confine it restrictions to those classes of cases where the need is deemed to be clearest.

5. In its procedural aspect, the statute is not invalid on its face. P. 309 U. S. 275.

6. Procedural objections that are based upon possible applications of the statute in the progress of the cause which have not as yet been passed upon by the state court are premature. P. 309 U. S. 277.

205 Minn. 545, 287 N.W. 297, affirmed.

Appeal from a judgment quashing an alternative writ of prohibition.

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