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Case Basics
Dilmus, James, Jasper, and Neal Yarbrough
Location: Congress
Facts of the Case 

The Enforcement Act of 1870, which targeted the violence caused by the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War South, prohibited the use of violence or intimidation to prevent African-Americans from voting. In 1883, eight Georgia men, including Dilmus, James, Jasper, and Neal Yarbrough, were charged under the Enforcement Act with intimidating Berry Saunders, an African-American, to prevent him from voting in the 1882 congressional election. The eight were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. Following their conviction, the eight men filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus on the ground that Congress had no authority to pass the Enforcement Act.


Did Congress have the authority to pass the Enforcement Act of 1870?


Yes. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Samuel Freeman Miller, the Court concluded that the federal government "must have the power to protect the elections on which its existence depends from violence and corruption." After noting that the implied powers of the Constitution are "as much a part of the instrument as what is expressed," Justice Miller wrote that the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, Section 8, in conjunction with Article I, Section 4, which provides that "Congress may at any time make or alter" regulations regarding the "times, places, and manner of holding elections," granted Congress the necessary authority to pass the Enforcement Act. Additionally, the Court found additional defense of Congress' authority in the enforcement provision of the Fifteenth Amendment. The Court determined that "this fifteenth article of amendment does…substantially confer on the negro the right to vote, and Congress has the power to protect and enforce that right."

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EX PARTE YARBROUGH. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 31 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1883/1883_4>.
EX PARTE YARBROUGH, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1883/1883_4 (last visited August 31, 2015).
"EX PARTE YARBROUGH," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 31, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1883/1883_4.