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The Insular Cases are several U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 cases concerning the status of territories acquired by the U.S. in the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 (1898). The name "insular" derives from the fact that these territories are islands and were administered by the War Department's Bureau of Insular Affairs
Bureau of Insular Affairs
The Bureau of Insular Affairs was a division of the United States War Department that oversaw United States administration of certain territories from 1902 until 1939....

. The cases were in essence the court's response to a major issue of the 1900 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1900
The United States presidential election of 1900 was a re-match of the 1896 race between Republican President William McKinley and his Democratic challenger, William Jennings Bryan. The return of economic prosperity and recent victory in the Spanish–American War helped McKinley to score a decisive...

 and the American Anti-Imperialist League
American Anti-Imperialist League
The American Anti-Imperialist League was an organization established in the United States on June 15, 1898 to battle the American annexation of the Philippines as an insular area...

, summarized by the phrase "Does the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 follow the flag
Flag of the United States
The national flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars alternating with rows...

?" Essentially, the Supreme Court said that full constitutional rights did not automatically extend to all areas under American control. The "deepest ramification" of the Insular Cases is that inhabitants of unincorporated territories such as Puerto Rico, "even if they are U.S. citizens", may have no constitutional rights, such as to remain part of the United States if the United States chooses to engage in deannexation.

In 1898, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 annexed
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 Hawaii
Territory of Hawaii
The Territory of Hawaii or Hawaii Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 7, 1898, until August 21, 1959, when its territory, with the exception of Johnston Atoll, was admitted to the Union as the fiftieth U.S. state, the State of Hawaii.The U.S...

. Also during that year, the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1898)
The Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed on December 10, 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, and came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the ratifications were exchanged....

 (which entered into force April 11, 1899) ended the Spanish American War and the United States gained the islands of the Philippines, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

, and Guam
Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

. Additionally, Cuba remained under the jurisdiction of the United States Military Government until its independence on May 20, 1902. At the time, there was a debate on how to govern these new territories since nothing was said about it in the U.S. Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

. In the Insular (i.e., island-related) Cases, the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 established the framework for applying the Constitution to these islands.

From 1901 to 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of opinions known as the Insular Cases held that the Constitution extended ex proprio vigore to the territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation. Under the same, the Constitution only applied fully in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii
Territory of Hawaii
The Territory of Hawaii or Hawaii Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 7, 1898, until August 21, 1959, when its territory, with the exception of Johnston Atoll, was admitted to the Union as the fiftieth U.S. state, the State of Hawaii.The U.S...

, whereas it only applied partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

, Guam
Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

 and the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

.

List of Insular Cases


Various authorities have listed what they consider are the legitimate constituents of the Insular Cases.

Juan R. Torruella
Juan R. Torruella
Juan R. Torruella is a Puerto Rican jurist, who currently serves as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He is the first and to date only Hispanic to serve in that court.-Education:...

, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over the Federal Court for the District of Puerto Rico)
considers that the landmark decisions consisted of six fundamental cases only, all decided in 1901: "strictly speaking the Insular Cases are the original six opinions issued concerning acquired territories as a result of the 1898 Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1898)
The Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed on December 10, 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, and came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the ratifications were exchanged....

." These six cases were:
  • De Lima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901)
  • Goetze v. United States, 182 U.S. 221 (1901)
  • Dooley v. United States, 182 U.S. 222 (1901)
  • Armstrong v. United States, 182 U.S. 243 (1901)
  • Downes v. Bidwell
    Downes v. Bidwell
    Downes v. Bidwell, , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court decided whether United States territories were subject to the provisions and protections of the United States Constitution. This question is sometimes stated as "does the Constitution follow the flag?". The resulting decision...

    , 182 U.S. 244 (1901)
  • Huus v. New York and Porto Rico Steamship Co., 182 U.S. 392 (1901)


Other authorities, such as José Trías Monge
José Trías Monge
José Trías Monge was a lawyer and judge in Puerto Rico. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico from 1974 to 1985. He was appointed, without any prior court service, by Gov...

, former Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, states that the list also includes these additional two cases also decided in 1901:
  • Dooley v. United States, 183 U.S. 151 (1901)
  • Fourteen Diamond Rings v. United States, 183 U.S. 176 (1901)


Law Professor Pedro A. Malavet, indicates in his book America's Colony: The Political and Cultural Conflict Between the United and Puerto Rico that while many law experts include cases from 1903 to 1979, some scholars limit the number of cases in the list to just nine, adding also
  • Crossman v. United States, 182 U.S. 221 (1901)

to the list of eight cases above, as separate from the Goetze v. United States, 182 U.S. 221 (1901), case.

Two-thirds (six) of the nine Insular Cases referred specifically to cases involving only Puerto Rico.

Some authorities, such as Constitutional law professor, and expert on US-PR constitutional relations, Dr. Efren Rivera Ramos, state that the designation of Insular Cases has been extended beyond the first nine 1901 cases to include another set of cases decided from 1903 to 1914:
  • Hawaii v. Mankichi, 190 U.S. 197
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1903)
  • Gonzales v. Williams, 192 U.S. 1
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1904)
  • Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1904)
  • Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1904)
  • Mendozana v. United States, 195 U.S. 158 (1904)
  • Rasmussen v. United States, 197 U.S. 516
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1905)
  • Trono v. United States, 199 U.S. 521 (1905)
  • Grafton v. United States, 206 U.S. 333 (1907)
  • Kent v. Porto Rico, 207 U.S. 113 (1907)
  • Kopel v. Bingham, 211 U.S. 468 (1909)
  • Dowdell v. United States, 221 U.S. 325
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1911)
  • Ochoa v. Hernández, 230 U.S. 139 (1913)
  • Ocampo v. United States, 234 U.S. 91
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1914)


Insular Cases, hence, oftentimes include:
  • DeLima v. Bidwell
    DeLima v. Bidwell
    DeLima v. Bidwell, , was one of a group of the first Insular Cases decided by the United States Supreme Court.The case was argued on January 8-11, 1901 and was decided on May 27, 1901....

    , 182 U.S. 1
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1901) Argued: January 8–11, 1901 Decided: May 27, 1901
  • Goetze v. United States, 182 U.S. 221
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1901) Argued: December 17–20, 1900; January 14–15, 1901. Decided: May 27, 1901
  • Armstrong v. United States, 182 U.S. 243
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1901) Argued: January 8–11, 1901. Decided: May 27, 1901
  • Downes v. Bidwell
    Downes v. Bidwell
    Downes v. Bidwell, , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court decided whether United States territories were subject to the provisions and protections of the United States Constitution. This question is sometimes stated as "does the Constitution follow the flag?". The resulting decision...

    , 182 U.S. 244
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1901) Argued: January 8–11, 1901. Decided: May 27, 1901
  • Huus v. New York & Porto Rico S.S. Co., 182 U.S. 392
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1901) Argued: January 11, 14, 1901. Decided: May 27, 1901
  • Dooley v. United States, 183 U.S. 151
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1901) Argued: January 8–11, 1901. Decided: December 2, 1901
  • Fourteen Diamond Rings v. United States, 183 U.S. 176
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1901) Argued: December 17–20, 1900. Decided: December 2, 1901
  • Hawaii v. Mankichi, 190 U.S. 197
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1903)
  • Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1904)
  • Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1904)
  • Gonzales v. Williams, 192 U.S. 1
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1904)
  • Rasmussen v. United States, 197 U.S. 516
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1905)
  • Dowdell v. United States, 221 U.S. 325
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1911)
  • Ocampo v. United States, 234 U.S. 91
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1914)
  • Balzac v. Porto Rico
    Balzac v. Porto Rico
    Balzac v. Porto Rico, , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that certain provisions of the U.S. Constitution did not apply to territories not incorporated into the union. It originated when Jesús M. Balzac was prosecuted for criminal libel in a district court of Puerto...

    , 258 U.S. 298
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1922)
  • Torres v. Puerto Rico
    Torres v. Puerto Rico
    Torres v. Puerto Rico, , was a United States Supreme Court case holding that the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure applies to Puerto Rico.-Facts:...

    , , 442 U.S. 465
    Case citation
    Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

     (1979)

Criticism


The decisions in the Insular Cases have not been without the dissenting voices of critics, among them distinguished scholars.

Former Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court José Trías Monge
José Trías Monge
José Trías Monge was a lawyer and judge in Puerto Rico. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico from 1974 to 1985. He was appointed, without any prior court service, by Gov...

 has stated that "The Insular Cases were based on premises that in today's world seem bizarre.
"They," Trias Monge continues, "and the policies on which they rest, answer to the following notions:
  • "democracy and colonialism
    Colonialism
    Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

     are fully compatible;
  • "there is nothing wrong when a democracy such as the United States engages in the business of governing other [subjects who have not participated in their democratic election process];
  • "people are not created equal, some races being superior to others;
  • "it is the burden of the superior peoples, the white man's burden, to bring up others in their image, except to the extent that the nation which possesses them should in due time determine."


In Harris v. Rosario, 446 U.S. 651 (1980), the Court in a succinct per curiam order, applied Califano, to hold that a lower level of aid to families with dependent children to residents of Puerto Rico did not violate the Equal Protection Clause, because in U.S. territories Congress can discriminate against its citizens applying a rational basis standard. Justice Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991...

 issued a staunch dissent, again noting that Puerto Ricans are United States citizens and that the Insular Cases are indeed questionable.

See also

  • Insular area
    Insular area
    An insular area is a United States territory, that is neither a part of one of the fifty U.S. states nor the District of Columbia, the federal district of the United States...

  • Guano Islands Act
    Guano Islands Act
    The Guano Islands Act is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, on August 18, 1856. It enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other...

  • Philippines
    Philippines
    The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

  • Puerto Rico
    Puerto Rico
    Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

  • Guantánamo Bay
  • Philippine–American War

Further reading