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U.S. Supreme Court

Cleveland v. United States, 329 U.S. 14 (1946)

Cleveland v. United States

Argued October 10, 1945

Reargued October 17, 1946

Decided November 18, 1946*

329 U.S. 14


1. It is a violation of the Mann Act, 36 Stat. 825, 18 U.S.C. § 398, for a man to transport a woman across state lines for the purpose of making her his plural wife or cohabiting with her as such -- notwithstanding the fact that the practice is founded on his religious belief. Pp. 329 U. S. 16, 329 U. S. 20.

2. While the Act was aimed primarily at the use of interstate commerce for the conduct of commercialized prostitution, it is not limited to that, and a profit motive is not a sine qua non to its application. Caminetti v. United States, 242 U. S. 470. Pp. 329 U. S. 17-18.

Page 329 U. S. 15

(a) It expressly applies to transportation for purposes of debauchery, which may be motivated solely by lust. P. 329 U. S. 17.

(b) Under the ejusdem generis rule, the words "or for any other immoral purpose" cannot be given a narrower meaning. P. 329 U. S. 18.

3. Polygamous practices are not excluded from the Act, have long been branded as immoral, and are of the same genus as the other immoral practices covered by the Act. Pp. 329 U. S. 18-19.

4. The fact that the regulation of marriage is a state matter does not make the Act an unconstitutional interference by Congress with the police power of the States. P. 329 U. S. 19.

5. The power of Congress over the instrumentalities of commerce is plenary; it may be used to defeat immoral practices, and the fact that the means used may have "the quality of police regulations" is not consequential. P. 329 U. S. 19.

6. Transportation of a woman across state lines for the purpose of entering into a plural marriage or cohabiting with her as a plural wife is for a purpose prohibited by the Act. P. 329 U. S. 19.

7. Guilt under the Act turns on the purpose which motivates the transportation, not on its accomplishment. P. 329 U. S. 20.

8. The fact that the accused was motivated by a religious belief is no defense to a prosecution under the Mann Act. P. 329 U. S. 20.

9. Under the ejusdem generis rule, the general words cannot be confined more narrowly than the class of which they are a part. P. 329 U. S. 18.

146 F.2d 730, affirmed.

Petitioners were convicted of violating the Mann Act, 36 Stat. 825, 18 U.S.C. § 398. 56 F.Supp. 890. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 146 F.2d 730. This Court granted certiorari. 324 U.S. 835. Affirmed, p. 329 U. S. 20.

Page 329 U. S. 16

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