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Legal Milestone List

  The Great Ferris Fire
  Berrien County Courthouse
  Elloitt-Larsen Civil Rights Act
  Milliken v. Bradley
  Elk, Oil, and the Environment
  Whisper to Rallying Cry
  Poletown & Eminent Domain
  Prentiss M. Brown
  Otis Milton Smith
  Freedom Road
  President Gerald R. Ford
  Mary Coleman
  Committee of One
  Milo Radulovich
  Striking Racial Covenants
  Murphy's Dissent
  Conveying Michigan
  Ending Jim Crow
  Pond's Defense
  Mount Clemens Pottery
  Emelia Schaub
  Rose of Aberlone
  Protecting the Impaired
  Laughing Whitefish
  The Uninvited Ear
  The King's Grant
  Improving Justice
  One Person—One Vote
  Eva Belles' Vote
  Constitutional Convention
  Ten Hours or No Sawdust
  Access to Public Water
  Augustus Woodward
  Sojourner Truth
  Justice William Fletcher
  Roosevelt-Newett Trial
  Cooley Law Office
  Baseball Reserve Clause
  Ossian Sweet Trial

17. Protecting the Impaired

An act of the Michigan legislature providing for forced sterilization of the mentally impaired was held unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court. Dedicated and placed at the Old Lapeer County Courthouse on April 29, 1993.

Michigan Bar Journal


Complete Text on Milestone Marker

Protecting the Impaired

The Michigan Legislature passed a bill in 1913 authorizing sterilization of mentally impaired persons confined in public institutions, even over the objections of a parent or guardian. The legislation was enacted "to promote the general welfare of the human race by selective breeding through sterilization" of those confined to public institutions for the mentally ill.

The largest such institution in the state was the Michigan Home and Training School in Lapeer. The superintendent sought to sterilize a patient whose guardian objected, contending that the statute was unconstitutional. Lapeer County Circuit Judge William B. Williams agreed, stating that the law, limited only to those confined in public institutions, "so limits the class of feeble minded persons who may be brought within its provision as to almost entirely subvert its object and make it clearly class legislation," and therefore unconstitutional.

The Michigan Supreme Court upheld Judge Williams in 1918 in Haynes v. Lapeer Circuit Judge, questioning why such legislation should fall only upon those "already under public restraint" and "presumably helpless." Such a distinction was found to be discriminating class legislation violating the equal protection provision of the United States Constitution.

The Haynes decision demonstrates the power of the Constitution of the United States to protect even the most vulnerable members of our society.

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Lapeer County Bar Association, 1993.



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