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Supreme Court Cases That Changed America
Transcript of Supreme Court Cases That Changed America
American History Dissecting A Case The court must weigh
individual liberty vs.
collective security What individual liberty is
-fundamental equality -Free Speech
-Right to Privacy
-Due Process What individual liberty or
freedom is threatented? What issue of collective security, safety or reserved power is at risk? Stare Decisis Legal principle in which judges are obliged to respect the precedents set by previous judges/courts. The court must consider previous court decisions, but weigh them against shifting social conditions. First Amendment Cases Zenger Trial - 1735 Governor of New York William Cosby was appointed in 1731, but didn't take office until 1732. Former Governor Rip Van Dam continued to fill the position of governor until Cosby arrived from England. Cosby sued Van Dam for the wages Van Dam had earned during the interim.
When the New York court ruled in Van Dam's favor, Gov. Cosby replaced NY's chief justice with a someone friendlier.
The displaced judge hired John Peter Zenger to publish a paper critical of the new governor's actions. Zenger was ultimately charged with seditious libel (he expressed views that undermined the authority of the government) Two Major Outcomes First, truth became a legal defense against libel. Under English common law, this was not so.
Second, this was the PRECEDENT for the principle of JURY NULLIFICATION. This is the idea that a jury acts as the conscience of the community and judges both the law and the facts. In the Zenger case, the jury chose to disregard English common law and find Zenger not guilty Tinker v. Des Moines, 1969 John and Mary Beth Tinker and Chris Eckhardt wore black armbands to school in a silent protest of the Vietnam War.
The school district learned of the protest and passed a policy prohibiting armbands and suspending any student who wore them.
The school suspended the students based on the fact that their behavior would be disruptive. A graduate of the school had recently been killed in Vietnam and the school feared the protest would lead to counter protests and disrupt the educational process. In a landmark decision, the court ruled in favor of the students. In the majority opinion, Justice Abe Fortas wrote that students and teachers do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse door".
According to the court, the evidence showed that NO disruption had taken place. The general concern that something MAY HAPPEN is not enough to restrict a students right to free speech. The case also began to erode the principle of
IN LOCO PARENTIS
in which school officials acted "in the place of parents". While parents have the right to "parent", public schools must respect fundamental rights of students. Schenck v. United States, 1919 Is free speech and expression protected when it opposes a government war action? As the US entered WWI, Congress passed the Conscription Act which activated the military draft.
Shortly after, Congress also passed the Espionage Act which prohibited anyone from interfering with the war effort.
Charles Schenck, leader of the Socialist Party, organized the mailing of 15,000 leaflets urging men to protest the draft on the grounds that it was the equivalent of slavery and violated the due process clause of the 5th Amendment.
Schenck was ultimately convicted of conspiracy to obstruct conscription. The significance of jury nullification was that it gave citizens the right to overrule an oppressive government action.
Combined with the principle of DOUBLE JEOPARDY, the government could not re-try a case that had been "nullified". "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.… The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree." - Oliver Wendell Holmes First Freedom of Speech Court Case Changed the focus from the content of the speech to the CONTEXT and CIRCUMSTANCE in which the speech is exercised. Clearly separated protected speech, such as criticizing the goverment from unprotected speech, like promoting illegal activity Equal Protection Under the Law Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896 The Case:
Homer Plessy, a civil rights activist who was 1/8th black, challenged a Louisiana law that provided for segregated train cars.
Citing the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause which states, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges . . . of citizens of the United States " Plessy argued that Jim Crow laws "stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority." The railroad, despite being opposed to the law based on the high cost of providing separate facilities, argued that they had the right to make decisions that reflected the majority will of their customers. Sign Of The Times
"As a race . . . the [blacks] are altogether inferior to the whites . . . [and] can never rise to a very high place. . . I do not believe that the average Negro . . . is as yet in any way fit to take care of himself and others. . . If he were . . . there would be no Negro race problems." - Teddy Roosevelt The Verdict
The Court sided with the state 7-1 stating the 14th Amendment was not intended to address social inequalities and "If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of voluntary consent of the individuals."
The broad impact was that Plessy v. Ferguson institutionalized legal discrimination as many states raced to codify separation of the races. Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1857 The Case
Dred Scott, a Missouri slave, was taken to Illinois and then to Fort Snelling by his master who was a doctor in the military.
In 1820 the Missouri Compromise clearly defined that some states were "free" while others were "slave".
Dred Scott would argue the bonds of slavery were broken when he lived in a "free" state, thus he was no longer a slave. The Constitutional Questions:
First, did Dred Scott a slave, have the rights of citizenship and, thus, protection of the Constitution and Bill of Rights?
Secondly, did Scott's residence in a free state make him free when he returned to a slave state? The Verdict
Chief Justice Taney used Dred Scott to make a sweeping ruling regarding the legality of slavery. First, Taney ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional based on the 5th Amendment "due process" clause.
The Court ruled that the law deprived slave owners of their "articles of merchandise" without legal proceedings should they travel to a "free" state. This brought into question the relationship between the federal government and state rights. In effect, the decision meant the federal government could pass no laws regulating the ownership of slaves.
For only the second time in it's history, the SC declared an act of Congress unconstitutional. Secondly, the Taney court ruled that the Court held that all individuals of African descent were “beings of an inferior order,” and therefore “had no rights which the White man was bound to respect.”
This also meant that Scott had no legal standing to bring suit in a court of law and clarified that the children of slaves inherited their chattel status from their parents; indeed, slave parents had no rights over their children. Korematsu v. U.S., 1944 After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,the U.S. government feared that Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast posed a threat to national security. Exercising his war powers, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 ordering 120,000 Japanese-Americans to leave their homes and report to "Civil control stations". Fred Korematsu, a loyal Japanese American working in the defense industry, refused to report to a detention center. He went so far as to have minor plastic surgery, changed his name, and pretended to be Mexican to avoid detention.
Korematsu was arrested and charged with failure to comply with the Order 9066. The Constitutional Issue:
Did military necessity of war outweigh the individual liberty of Japanese Americans? The Verdict
The court ruled against Korematsu and concluded that the government action was necessary for national defense. It was not easy to distinguish between loyal and disloyal citizens quickly enough to protect America. Brown v. Board of Education, 1954 The Case
Linda Brown, a student in Topeka, KS, walked by a white school in her neighborhood in order to attend a "colored" school. The intent of the case was to overturn the "separate, but equal" ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson by arguing that schools were NOT equal.
The Topeka school board argued that educating children was a state right rather than a federal one. Clark Conducts Study On Impact of Race on Self-Perception Using plastic dolls, identical except for skin color, Kenneth Clark determined that segregation and discrimination caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred.
The modern science of psychology would have an impact on the court's consideration of the Brown case Court Rules On Schools:
Separate is "Inherently Unequal" The Brown case lingered for 4 years and included a change of presidents and the death of a SC justice. Applying modern psychology, the court determined that segregation created "a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way never to be undone..." While Brown is often considered the most significant court ruling of the 20th century, it was not a complete victory.
The court set no timetable or process for the integration of of public schools.
The ruling applied ONLY to public schools and not to other areas impacted by Jim Crow laws.
In the end, the stage was set for further dramatic resistance to segregation. Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965 The Case
In 1879 Connecticut passed several laws that made it illegal to use, or share information on the use of birth control. The intent of the law was to preserve marriages by preventing people from having sexual relations outside of their marriage. Estelle Griswold of Planned Parenthood opened a birth control clinic and was promptly arrested.
Griswold argued that the law violated her freedom of speech by preventing doctors from providing counsel to their patients.
Lower courts upheld the arrest and fine, leading Griswold to the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Question:
Does the Connecticut law violate a couple's "right to privacy"?
Does the Constitution imply the right to privacy, even if it isn't an enumerated right? The Verdict:
The court ruled in favor or Griswold citing that the right to privacy is found in the "penumbras" of the amendments. For example, the freedom of speech protects our rights to have private thoughts, the 4th Amendment protects us from illegal searches, the 5th Amendment protects us from self-incrimination.
Married couples had a right to privacy and by preventing use the birth control the law could not be enforced without a violation of the "right to privacy". The Impact:
Eight years after Griswold, the court extended the right to use birth control to unmarried couples.
In 1973, the court ruled that privacy protects a woman's right to have an abortion.
In 1977, it ruled that the right to privacy prevented states from passing laws blocking birth control to those under age 16 Roe v. Wade, 1973 Undoubtedly the most controversial court decision of the past 50 years, Roe v. Wade still inspires debate, passion, and violence. The Case:
Norma McCorvey was unmarried and pregnant. She sought an abortion, but a Texas law prohibited it.
She sought to have the law ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated her "right to privacy" as established by Griswold in 1965. The case was complicated by the resignation of two justices just prior to the case being heard.
Originally the case was heard by 7 justices, but the court chose to rehear the case after two new justices were sworn in and seated. This ruling marked the first time the court applied the principle of "substantive due process". Prior to this the court limited itself to "procedural due process".
Procedural due process focus on the "processes" that guarantee specific rights in the 5th amendment - jury trial, right to counsel, self-incrimination.
Substantive due process focuses on the "life, liberty, and property" rights that are NOT enumerated.
In Scott, the court decided that the Missouri Compromise unfairly limited the LIBERTY to own property (slaves) The Verdict
The court struck down the Texas law on the grounds that it violated the DUE PROCESS clause which protects the right of privacy from any state action. (5th, 9th, 14th amendments - substantive due process). The court, however, struck a balance between individual liberty and the STATE'S INTEREST by noting that the state "has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman's health and the potentiality of human life". As a result, the court established guidelines. The court ruled that a woman's right to an
abortion could NOT be denied in the first 3
months of pregnancy.
In the second trimester, the state may regulate the procedure in ways that are reasonably related to the mother's health.
This may include licensing clinics and doctors Finally, the court ruled that by the 3rd trimester, a fetus is capable of living outside the womb and therefore deserves protection of the state.
A woman's right to an abortion may be limited to only those circumstances necessary to save the life of the mother. The Dissent:
Justice Rehnquist contended that as "Roe" was no longer pregnant the case was hypothetical rather than actual and didn't belong before the court.
He also felt the the majority opinion "partakes more of judicial legislation than it does of a determination of intent of the drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment" The Impact:
Roe v. Wade still stirs emotions and passions and many still consider the decision was way stop in a longer fight.
While some see it as a victory for gender equality and women's rights, others interpret the court's actions as social policy. The Dissent:
Justice Roberts called it a "case of convicting a citizen as a punishment for not submitting to imprisonment in a concentration camp, based on his ancestry, and solely because of his ancestry." The Impact:
Korematsu was convicted of violating Order 9066 and NOT for failure to report to the internment camps. As a result the court never ruled on the constitutionality of the internment camps. It wasn't until 1988 that the US government apologized and offered reparations. Brown II, 1955
In 1954, the court heard Brown II which became the remedy phase of Brown I. The court chose a course of "gradualism" out of necessity. While the court could make rulings, it had no power to enforce it's decisions. It feared the Eisenhower administration would offer no support and their only tool in the South was the all-white federal court system. In this remedy stage, the court failed to define "desegregation" - did it mean the repeal of segregation laws or did it mean schools would be forced to mix races? Nor did the court establish any timelines or tests of compliance.
This ambiguous duty was left up to local school boards....at least for the time being! The Impact of John Marshall Marbury v. Madison, 1803 "It is, emphatically, the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." In an attempt to pack the court system with Federalists and limit the ability of the Anti-Federalists to undo Federalist laws, John Adams packed the courts by appointing over 200 new federal judges.
Working until late at night, Adams entrusted John Marshall (in his role as Secretary of State) with delivering the commissions to the new judges. Unfortunately, several commissions were missed. William Marbury was one of the "midnight judges". Under the Judiciary Act of 1789, Marbury sought a "writ of mandamus" from the Supreme Court...ironically now led by the same John Marshall who failed to deliver his commission. Marshall, understood that the Judiciary Act granted the Supreme Court additional powers beyond the scope of the Constitution. The court's power of original jurisdiction did NOT include issuing writs of mandamus.
Marshall, using the power of JUDICIAL REVIEW determined that the Judiciary Act of 1789 was NULL and VOID, marking the the law unconstitituional. McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819 In 1791, Congress granted a 20 year charter to create the Bank of the United States. Long opposed by the Anti-Federalists, the charter was allowed to lapse when when AF James Madison was president. When the War of 1812 broke out, Madison quickly discovered it was difficult to wage a war without a national bank. He readily agreed to the creation of the Second National Bank which would hold government funds, create loans, and support the defense of the nation. The Bank was unpopular, especially in the South and West where it overextended credit, then tightened it...driving many state charted banks out of business.
In order to keep the national bank out, many states imposed a special tax on any banks "not chartered by the state". Maryland was one of those banks.
When the Bank of the United States didn't pay, Maryland filed suit against James McCulloch, cashier. The Constitutional Question:
Was the Bank of the United State constitutional?
Could a state pass laws that tax or limit the federal government? The Verdict:
Marshall further expanded the power of the national goverment in the federal system by invoking the "elastic clause" of Article 1.
The elastic clause granted the federal government all powers "proper and necessary" to carry out it's enumerated powers.
The impact was to make the Constitution the "Supreme Law of the Land". New Jersey v. T.L.O., 1983 The Case:
Tammy Lynne Overton was accused of smoking in the girls restroom. The assistant principal escorted her to the office and searched her purse. In it, he found cigarettes, marijuana, rolling papers, and a list of customers.
TLO was suspended from school The police were notified
and TLO was charged as a delinquent.
Her attorney tried to get the evidence thrown out claiming the evidence was seized without a search warrant. The Constitutional Issues:
Were teachers "agents of the government" and required to obtain a search warrant prior to searching students?
Does a students right to privacy outweigh a schools need for discipline and security? The court ruled that while students have a right to privacy, schools have a greater right to maintain discipline.
While schools cannot arbitrarily search student anywhere or anytime, they are held to a standard lower than "probably cause". School personnel may conduct searches of students and their property when there is a "reasonable suspicion" that a violation has occurred. Clear and Present Danger What is the