Keepers of the Spirits: The Judicial Response to Prohibition Enforcement in Florida, 1885-1935

By John J. Guthrie Jr. | Go to book overview

Preface

As the title suggests, this book explores the judicial response to state and federal liquor laws in Florida between 1885 and 1935. The interpretation rests heavily on an array of previously unexamined source material, including court records, newspaper stories, and other public documents. It is a case study in law enforcement and the consequences of trying to make people do what they often had refused to do. The narrative, moreover, assumes a variety of viewpoints to provide the fullest dimension possible. The perspective, then, will occasionally shift from the bench, to the violators, to the enforcement officers. In doing so, this account underscores the significant role that judges played in mediating the inevitable tension that exists between individual rights and governmental authority. In other words, the implementation of Florida's anti-liquor laws coupled with national prohibition restricted individual property rights in alcohol while expanding the police powers. Enforcement of these laws set in motion a host of constitutional problems for the courts to unravel. As it happened, judges generally relied on common law jurisprudence to strike a balance between personal liberty and notions that the commonwealth stood paramount to individual interest. With that, the judicial rulings in Florida liquor cases neither reflected vacillating public opinion nor issued from some outside catalyst. Instead, state and federal judges in Florida liquor litigation acted independently and grounded their opinions on the cornerstones of American justice: precedent and citation of authority.

Nearly a decade has passed since I first initiated my research on this book. During this time, I incurred numerous personal and professional debts that I can hardly credit with words. My mentors, colleagues, friends and family have enabled me to do a task that, at times, seemed beyond my reach. To these people I feel deeply obliged. I want to extend my utmost appreciation to Kermit L. Hall, who labored through early drafts of the manuscript, chapter by chapter,

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