Yick Wo v. Hopkins

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Yick Wo v. Hopkins
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Date decided May 10, 1886
Appealed from 9th Circuit


Yick Wo was a Chinese citizen who resided in San Francisco in the 1800s. He ran a commercial laundry.

In 1880, a city ordinance was passed requiring all laundry operators whose businesses are in wooden buildings to obtain permits from the fire warden.

In 1885, the permits of 237 out of 238 Chinese-operated laundry establishments were denied renewals. On the other hand, 80 out of 81 non-Chinese laundries were able to renew their permits.

Having seen the disparate application of the ordinance, Yick Wo continued to operate his laundry in San Francisco.

Procedural History

Yick Wo was fined for operating without a permit. After refusing to pay the fine, he was jailed.

The California Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of Yick Wo for operating his business without a permit.


Subject: Equal Protection for Non-Citizens

Does a state law that is facially neutral violate the Equal Protection Clause if that law if un-equally applied solely based on a person's race or nationality?


Stanley Matthews was joined unanimously by the court in contending that the EPC extends to a person's nationality or alienage.


Yes. A facially neutral law that is applied in a discriminatory manner based on race or nationality violates the Equal Protection Clause (EPC) of the 14th Amendment.


A neutral rule should not be applied "with an evil eye and an unequal hand."