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Call No.: MC 208
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Morris L. (Morris Leopold) Ernst, 1888-1976
Title: Papers of Morris Leopold Ernst, 1933-1937
Quantity: .21 linear feet (1/2 file box)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, trial and appeal material, other legal papers, etc., of Morris Leopold Ernst, lawyer who represented physician Hannah Stone in a 1930s case about the importation of contraceptives.
This volume documents United States v. One Package of Pessaries, a suit which challenged the seizure by the United States Customs authorities in January 1933 of one package of pessaries sent from Japan to Dr. Hannah Stone for research. The government's case was based on Section 305 (a) of the Tariff Act of 1930 which prohibited the importation of contraceptive articles. Morris Ernst successfully argued the case for Dr. Stone before Judge Grover Moscowitz of the United States District Court of Southern New York. The government appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals in April, 1936. The Moscowitz decision was unanimously affirmed by Judges Augustus N. Hand, Learned Hand, and Thomas Swan. Judge Augustus Hand wrote the majority opinion (although Learned Hand concurred, he wrote a separate opinion expressing doubts as to the legal correctness of the decision), claiming that Section 305 and other laws like it originated in the Comstock Act of 1873, and that "Its design, in our opinion, was not to prevent the importation, sale or carriage by mail of things which might intelligently be employed by conscientious and competent physicians for the purpose of saving life or promoting the well-being of their patients...." In 1937, Morris L. Ernst and Harriet Pilpel wrote that, "The holding that a doctor may, notwithstanding the ban of a sixty year old statute, prescribe a contraceptive in the interests of life and health, symbolizes a notable victory."
This volume, which is Morris L. Ernst's record of the case, contains correspondence, legal papers, memoranda, briefs, questionnaires, trial and appeal material, articles, editorials, newsclippings, index and summary of facts. These items are either printed or typescript carbon copies.