New York Law School

Archive for November, 2010

13th Amendment: Modern Slavery

The 13th amendment is the only constitutional provision that can be applied to private action. Shocking to hear if you have never studied constitutional law. But more shocking, even for those who have studied it, is the idea that the despite this power the 13th amendment is not being used to combat modern day slavery. A clear prohibition of the institution of slavery is recognizable from the language of the amendment itself. However the Supreme Court in The Civil Rights Cases, 103 U.S. 3 (1883), recognized that the 13th amendment also provides Congress with the power to “pass all laws necessary and proper for abolishing all “badges and incidents of slavery.” Thus the power of the 13th amendment is two-fold and sweeping. First it forbids outright slavery and involuntary servitude. Second, it allows for passage of laws that prohibit any activity which may be the effect of slavery. In order to apply the 13th amendment to modern day slavery, each clause must be analyzed separately because each applies to different forms of modern slavery.

Click here to read the rest of this post as a PDF.