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Transcript of Constitutional Law
Structural Limits on the State & Federal Governments
A. The Nature of Judicial Review
B. Structural Limits on Federal Power
C. Structural Limits on State Power
D. Separation of Powers
General Introduction to the Course & the subject of Constitutional Law
The Origin of Judicial Review
Theories of Judicial Review
Appendix B: The U.S. Constitution
Marbury v. Madison
The Nature of Federal Power Under the Constitution
The Commerce Power
The Spending Power
State Immunity from Federal Regulation
The Interstate Privileges & Immunities Clause
Implicit Powers, & the Necessary & Proper Clause
McColloch v. Maryland
Individual Rights Against the Government
A. Economic Substantive Due Process
B. Modern Substantive Due Process: The Right of Privacy
C. Equal Protection
Federalism, Separation of Powers, & Individual Rights Together
Gibbons v. Ogden
Marbury v. Madison
McCulloch v. Maryland
Dred Scott v. Sandford
Plessy v. Ferguson
Korematsu v. United States
Brown v. Board of Education
Mapp v. Ohio
Gideon v. Wainwright
Miranda v. Arizona
Roe v. Wade
United States v. Nixon
Provision in 14th amendment of Federal Constitution, U.S.C.A. providing that no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge privileges or immunities of citizens of United States, is intended to apply only to privileges and immunities of citizens of United States, as such, and not to privileges and immunities of citizens of the states.
Champion v. Ames
[The Lottery Case]
Did the transport of lottery tickets by independent carriers constitute "commerce" that Congress could regulate under the Commerce Clause?
In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that lottery tickets were indeed "subjects of traffic," and that independent carriers may be regulated under the Commerce Clause. The Court emphasized the broad discretion Congress enjoys in regulating commerce, noting that this power "is plenary, is complete in itself, and is subject to no limitations except such as may be found in the Constitution." The Court argued that Congress was merely assisting those states that wished to protect public morals by prohibiting lotteries within their borders
Houston, East & West Texas Ry. Co. v. United States
The Houston, East and West Texas Railroad and the Texas and Pacific Railway were railroad companies operating rail lines between Shreveport, Louisiana and points in Texas. The Texas Railroad Commission mandated that they charge higher rates on freight travelling between Louisiana and Texas than on freight travelling solely within Texas. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) found that the interstate rates were unreasonable and illegally discriminated against freight traffic originating in Shreveport. The ICC established maximum rates and ordered the railroads to fix their intrastate rate schedules. The railroads challenged the order in United States Commerce Court, alleging that the ICC did not have the power to regulate intrastate commerce. The Commerce Court upheld the ICC order. The railroads then appealed to the Supreme Court.
Did the ICC have the power to regulate the railroads' intrastate rates?
Yes. In a 7-2 decision, the Court affirmed the Commerce Court and upheld the ICC order. Congress was granted the power to regulate interstate commerce, which it chose to do through the ICC. This power extended to "matters having such a close and substantial relation to interstate traffic," Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote for the majority. Since the price discrimination adversely affected interstate commerce, "it is immaterial…that the discrimination arises from intrastate rates as compared with interstate rates." Therefore, the railroads' intrastate rates were subject to regulation and the ICC order was valid.
Hammer v. Dagenhart
The Keating-Owen Child Labor Act prohibited the interstate shipment of goods produced by child labor. Reuben Dagenhart's father had sued on behalf of his freedom to allow his fourteen year old son to work in a textile mill.
Does the congressional act violate the Commerce Clause, the Tenth Amendment, or the Fifth Amendment?
Decision: 5 votes for Dagenhart, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art 1, Section 8, Clause 3; US Const. Amend 10; Keating-Owen Act of 1916
Day spoke for the Court majority and found two grounds to invalidate the law: (1) Production was not commerce, and thus outside the power of Congress to regulate, and (2) the regulation of production was reserved by the Tenth Amendment to the states. Day wrote that "the powers not expressly delegated to the national government are reserved" to the states and to the people. In his wording, Day revised the Constitution slightly and changed the intent of the framers: The Tenth Amendment does not say "expressly." The framers purposely left the word expressly out of the amendment because they believed they could not possibly specify every power that might be needed in the future to run the government.
Carter Coal Co.
Schechter Poultry Corp.
v. United States
Section 3 of the National Industrial Recovery Act empowered the President to implement industrial codes to regulate weekly employment hours, wages, and minimum ages of employees. The codes had standing as penal statutes.
Did Congress unconstitutionally delegate legislative power to the President?
Decision: 9 votes for Schechter Poultry Corp., 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: U.S. Const. Art I; U.S. Const. Amend. 10; 15 U.S.C. § 703 (1933) (National Industrial Recovery Act § 3)
The Court held that Section 3 was "without precedent" and violated the Constitution. The law did not establish rules or standards to evaluate industrial activity. In other words, it did not make codes, but simply empowered the President to do so. A unanimous Court found this to be an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.
In 1935, Congress enacted the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act, also known as the Guffey Coal Act. The Act regulated prices, minimum wages, maximum hours, and "fair practices" of the coal industry. Although compliance was voluntary, tax refunds were established as incentives to abide by the regulations. Carter, a stockholder, brought suit against his own company in an attempt to keep it from paying the tax for noncompliance. This case was decided together with R.C. Tway Coal Co. v. Clark, R.C. Tway Coal Co. v. Glenn, and Halvering v. Carter.
Did the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act of 1935 exceed congressional powers under the Commerce Clause?
In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court held that the 1935 Act overstepped the bounds of congressional power. The Court ruled that "commerce" is plainly distinct from "production." Employing workers, setting wages and working hours, and mining coal were found to be part of the local process of production, separate from any trade of goods that could be regulated under the Commerce Clause. In striking down the law, Justice Sutherland argued that "[e]verything which moves in interstate commerce has had a local origin. Without local production somewhere, interstate commerce. . . would practically disappear."
Griswold v. Connecticut
Griswold was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Both she and the Medical Director for the League gave information, instruction, and other medical advice to married couples concerning birth control. Griswold and her colleague were convicted under a Connecticut law which criminalized the provision of counselling, and other medical treatment, to married persons for purposes of preventing conception.
Does the Constitution protect the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on a couple's ability to be counseled in the use of contraceptives?
Decision: 7 votes for Griswold, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process
Though the Constitution does not explicitly protect a general right to privacy, the various guarantees within the Bill of Rights create penumbras, or zones, that establish a right to privacy. Together, the First, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments, create a new constitutional right, the right to privacy in marital relations. The Connecticut statute conflicts with the exercise of this right and is therefore null and void.
NLRB v. Jones &
Laughlin Steel Co.
With the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, Congress determined that labor- management disputes were directly related to the flow of interstate commerce and, thus, could be regulated by the national government. In this case, the National Labor Relations Board charged the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. with discriminating against employees who were union members.
Was the Act consistent with the Commerce Clause?
Decision: 5 votes for NLRB, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art 1, Section 8, Clause 3; US Const. Amend 5; National Labor Relations Act of 1935, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.
Yes. The Court held that the Act was narrowly constructed so as to regulate industrial activities which had the potential to restrict interstate commerce. The justices abandoned their claim that labor relations had only an indirect effect on commerce. Since the ability of employees to engage in collective bargaining (one activity protected by the Act) is "an essential condition of industrial peace," the national government was justified in penalizing corporations engaging in interstate commerce which "refuse to confer and negotiate" with their workers.
United States v. Darby
In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act to regulate many aspects of employment including minimum wages, maximum weekly hours, and child labor. Corporations which engaged in interstate commerce or produced goods which were sold in other states were punished for violating the statute.
Was the act a legitimate exercise of Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce?
Decision: 8 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Fair Labor Standards Act; US Const. Art 1, Section 8
The unanimous Court affirmed the right of Congress to exercise "to its utmost extent" the powers reserved for it in the Commerce Clause. Relying heavily on the Court's decision in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), Justice Stone argued that the "motive and purpose of a regulation of interstate commerce are matters for the legislative judgment . . . over which the courts are given no control." Congress acted with proper authority in outlawing substandard labor conditions since they have a significant impact on interstate commerce.
The case began on March 2, 1801, when an obscure Federalist, William Marbury, was designated as a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. Marbury and several others were appointed to government posts created by Congress in the last days of John Adams's presidency, but these last-minute appointments were never fully finalized. The disgruntled appointees invoked an act of Congress and sued for their jobs in the Supreme Court. (Justices William Cushing and Alfred Moore did not participate.)
Is Marbury entitled to his appointment? Is his lawsuit the correct way to get it? And, is the Supreme Court the place for Marbury to get the relief he requests?
Decision: 4 votes for Madison, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789
Yes; yes; and it depends. The justices held, through Marshall's forceful argument, that on the last issue the Constitution was "the fundamental and paramount law of the nation" and that "an act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution is void." In other words, when the Constitution--the nation's highest law--conflicts with an act of the legislature, that act is invalid. This case establishes the Supreme Court's power of judicial review.
In 1816, Congress chartered The Second Bank of the United States. In 1818, the state of Maryland passed legislation to impose taxes on the bank. James W. McCulloch, the cashier of the Baltimore branch of the bank, refused to pay the tax.
The case presented two questions: Did Congress have the authority to establish the bank? Did the Maryland law unconstitutionally interfere with congressional powers?
Decision: 7 votes for McCulloch, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art 1, Section 8 Clauses 1 and 18
In a unanimous decision, the Court held that Congress had the power to incorporate the bank and that Maryland could not tax instruments of the national government employed in the execution of constitutional powers. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Marshall noted that Congress possessed unenumerated powers not explicitly outlined in the Constitution. Marshall also held that while the states retained the power of taxation, "the constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof are supreme. . .they control the constitution and laws of the respective states, and cannot be controlled by them."
A New York state law gave to individuals the exclusive right to operate steamboats on waters within state jurisdiction. Laws like this one were duplicated elsewhere which led to friction as some states would require foreign (out-of-state) boats to pay substantial fees for navigation privileges. In this case Thomas Gibbons -- a steamboat owner who did business between New York and New Jersey under a federal coastal license -- challenged the monopoly license granted by New York to Aaron Ogden. New York courts consistently upheld the state monopoly.
Did the State of New York exercise authority in a realm reserved exclusively to Congress, namely, the regulation of interstate commerce?
Decision: 6 votes for Gibbons, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art 1, Section 8, Clause 3; Act of February 1793, Section 1, Clause 8
The unanimous Court found that New York's licensing requirement for out-of-state operators was inconsistent with a congressional act regulating the coasting trade. The New York law was invalid by virtue of the Supremacy Clause. In his opinion, Chief Justice John Marshall developed a clear definition of the word commerce, which included navigation on interstate waterways. He also gave meaning to the phrase "among the several states" in the Commerce Clause. Marshall's was one of the earliest and most influential opinions concerning this important clause. He concluded that regulation of navigation by steamboat operators and others for purposes of conducting interstate commerce was a power reserved to and exercised by the Congress.
In a concurring opinion, Justice William Johnson argued a much stronger position: that the national government had exclusive power over interstate commerce, negating state laws interfering with the exercise of that power.
Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri. From 1833 to 1843, he resided in Illinois (a free state) and in an area of the Louisiana Territory, where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After returning to Missouri, Scott sued unsuccessfully in the Missouri courts for his freedom, claiming that his residence in free territory made him a free man. Scott then brought a new suit in federal court. Scott's master maintained that no pure-blooded Negro of African descent and the descendant of slaves could be a citizen in the sense of Article III of the Constitution.
Was Dred Scott free or a slave?
Decision: 7 votes for Sandford, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Amend. 5; Missouri Compromise
Dred Scott was a slave. Under Articles III and IV, argued Taney, no one but a citizen of the United States could be a citizen of a state, and that only Congress could confer national citizenship. Taney reached the conclusion that no person descended from an American slave had ever been a citizen for Article III purposes. The Court then held the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, hoping to end the slavery question once and for all.
The state of Louisiana enacted a law that required separate railway cars for blacks and whites. In 1892, Homer Adolph Plessy--who was seven-eighths Caucasian--took a seat in a "whites only" car of a Louisiana train. He refused to move to the car reserved for blacks and was arrested.
Is Louisiana's law mandating racial segregation on its trains an unconstitutional infringement on both the privileges and immunities and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Decision: 7 votes for Ferguson, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Amend 14, Section 1
No, the state law is within constitutional boundaries. The majority, in an opinion authored by Justice Henry Billings Brown, upheld state-imposed racial segregation. The justices based their decision on the separate-but-equal doctrine, that separate facilities for blacks and whites satisfied the Fourteenth Amendment so long as they were equal. (The phrase, "separate but equal" was not part of the opinion.) Justice Brown conceded that the 14th amendment intended to establish absolute equality for the races before the law. But Brown noted that "in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races unsatisfactory to either." In short, segregation does not in itself constitute unlawful discrimination.
During World War II, Presidential Executive Order 9066 and congressional statutes gave the military authority to exclude citizens of Japanese ancestry from areas deemed critical to national defense and potentially vulnerable to espionage. Korematsu remained in San Leandro, California and violated Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 of the U.S. Army.
Did the President and Congress go beyond their war powers by implementing exclusion and restricting the rights of Americans of Japanese descent?
Decision: 6 votes for United States, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Executive Order 9066; U.S. Const. amend. 5
The Court sided with the government and held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Korematsu's rights. Justice Black argued that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, is justified during circumstances of "emergency and peril."
Black children were denied admission to public schools attended by white children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to the races. The white and black schools approached equality in terms of buildings, curricula, qualifications, and teacher salaries. This case was decided together with Briggs v. Elliott, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, and Gebhart v. Belton. (A separate but related case -- Bolling v. Sharpe -- presented the same issue in the context of the District of Columbia, which is not subject to the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment because the District is not a state.)
Does the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprive the minority children of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment?
Decision: 9 votes for Brown, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection
Yes. Despite the equalization of the schools by "objective" factors, intangible issues foster and maintain inequality. Racial segregation in public education has a detrimental effect on minority children because it is interpreted as a sign of inferiority. The long-held doctrine that separate facilities were permissible provided they were equal was rejected. Separate but equal is inherently unequal in the context of public education. The unanimous opinion sounded the death-knell for all forms of state-maintained racial separation.
Dollree Mapp was convicted of possessing obscene materials after an admittedly illegal police search of her home for a fugitive. She appealed her conviction on the basis of freedom of expression.
Were the confiscated materials protected by the First Amendment? (May evidence obtained through a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment be admitted in a state criminal proceeding?)
Decision: 6 votes for Mapp, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 4: Fourth Amendment
The Court brushed aside the First Amendment issue and declared that "all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by [the Fourth Amendment], inadmissible in a state court." Mapp had been convicted on the basis of illegally obtained evidence. This was an historic -- and controversial -- decision. It placed the requirement of excluding illegally obtained evidence from court at all levels of the government. The decision launched the Court on a troubled course of determining how and when to apply the exclusionary rule.
Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in Florida state court with a felony: having broken into and entered a poolroom with the intent to commit a misdemeanor offense. When he appeared in court without a lawyer, Gideon requested that the court appoint one for him. According to Florida state law, however, an attorney may only be appointed to an indigent defendant in capital cases, so the trial court did not appoint one. Gideon represented himself in trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Gideon filed a habeas corpus petition in the Florida Supreme Court and argued that the trial court’s decision violated his constitutional right to be represented by counsel. The Florida Supreme Court denied habeas corpus relief.
Does the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel in criminal cases extend to felony defendants in state courts?
Decision: 9 votes for Gideon, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Right to Counsel
Yes. Justice Hugo L. Black delivered the opinion of the 9-0 majority. The Supreme Court held that the framers of the Constitution placed a high value on the right of the accused to have the means to put up a proper defense, and the state as well as federal courts must respect that right. The Court held that it was consistent with the Constitution to require state courts to appoint attorneys for defendants who could not afford to retain counsel on their own.
Justice William O. Douglas wrote a concurring opinion in which he argued that the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply a watered-down version of the Bill of Rights to the states. Since constitutional questions are always open for consideration by the Supreme Court, there is no need to assert a rule about the relationship between the Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights. In his separate opinion concurring in judgment, Justice Tom C. Clark wrote that the Constitution guarantees the right to counsel as a protection of due process, and there is no reason to apply that protection in certain cases but not others. Justice John M. Harlan wrote a separate concurring opinion in which he argued that the majority’s decision represented an extension of earlier precedent that established the existence of a serious criminal charge to be a “special circumstance” that requires the appointment of counsel. He also argued that the majority’s opinion recognized a right to be valid in state courts as well as federal ones; it did not apply a vast body of federal law to the states.
The Court was called upon to consider the constitutionality of a number of instances, ruled on jointly, in which defendants were questioned "while in custody or otherwise deprived of [their] freedom in any significant way." In Vignera v. New York, the petitioner was questioned by police, made oral admissions, and signed an inculpatory statement all without being notified of his right to counsel. Similarly, in Westover v. United States, the petitioner was arrested by the FBI, interrogated, and made to sign statements without being notified of his right to counsel. Lastly, in California v. Stewart, local police held and interrogated the defendant for five days without notification of his right to counsel. In all these cases, suspects were questioned by police officers, detectives, or prosecuting attorneys in rooms that cut them off from the outside world. In none of the cases were suspects given warnings of their rights at the outset of their interrogation.
Does the police practice of interrogating individuals without notifying them of their right to counsel and their protection against self-incrimination violate the Fifth Amendment?
Decision: 5 votes for Miranda, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Self-Incrimination
The Court held that prosecutors could not use statements stemming from custodial interrogation of defendants unless they demonstrated the use of procedural safeguards "effective to secure the privilege against self- incrimination." The Court noted that "the modern practice of in-custody interrogation is psychologically rather than physically oriented" and that "the blood of the accused is not the only hallmark of an unconstitutional inquisition." The Court specifically outlined the necessary aspects of police warnings to suspects, including warnings of the right to remain silent and the right to have counsel present during interrogations.
Roe, a Texas resident, sought to terminate her pregnancy by abortion. Texas law prohibited abortions except to save the pregnant woman's life. After granting certiorari, the Court heard arguments twice. The first time, Roe's attorney -- Sarah Weddington -- could not locate the constitutional hook of her argument for Justice Potter Stewart. Her opponent -- Jay Floyd -- misfired from the start. Weddington sharpened her constitutional argument in the second round. Her new opponent -- Robert Flowers -- came under strong questioning from Justices Potter Stewart and Thurgood Marshall.
Does the Constitution embrace a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion?
Decision: 7 votes for Roe, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process
The Court held that a woman's right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision gave a woman total autonomy over the pregnancy during the first trimester and defined different levels of state interest for the second and third trimesters. As a result, the laws of 46 states were affected by the Court's ruling.
A grand jury returned indictments against seven of President Richard Nixon's closest aides in the Watergate affair. The special prosecutor appointed by Nixon and the defendants sought audio tapes of conversations recorded by Nixon in the Oval Office. Nixon asserted that he was immune from the subpoena claiming "executive privilege," which is the right to withhold information from other government branches to preserve confidential communications within the executive branch or to secure the national interest. Decided together with Nixon v. United States.
Is the President's right to safeguard certain information, using his "executive privilege" confidentiality power, entirely immune from judicial review?
Decision: 8 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art. II
No. The Court held that neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the generalized need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified, presidential privilege. The Court granted that there was a limited executive privilege in areas of military or diplomatic affairs, but gave preference to "the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of justice." Therefore, the president must obey the subpoena and produce the tapes and documents. Nixon resigned shortly after the release of the tapes.
Wickard v. Filburn
Filburn was a small farmer in Ohio. He was given a wheat acreage allotment of 11.1 acres under a Department of Agriculture directive which authorized the government to set production quotas for wheat. Filburn harvested nearly 12 acres of wheat above his allotment. He claimed that he wanted the wheat for use on his farm, including feed for his poultry and livestock. FiLburn was penalized. He argued that the excess wheat was unrelated to commerce since he grew it for his own use.
Is the amendment subjecting Filburn to acreage restrictions in violation of the Constitution because Congress has no power to regulate activities local in nature?
Decision: 8 votes for Wickard, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art 1, Section 8, Clause 3; Agricultural Adjustment Act
According to Filburn, the act regulated production and consumption, which are local in character. The rule laid down by Justice Jackson is that even if an activity is local and not regarded as commerce, "it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as 'direct' or 'indirect.'"
The owner of Ollie's Barbecue, in Birmingham Alabama, refused to serve blacks in apparent violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Part of the Act prevented restaurants serving interstate travelers, or receiving a substantial amount of their food from interstate commerce, from discriminating on the basis of race.
Does a restaurant's refusal to serve blacks burden interstate commerce to an extent that Congress can legitimately prohibit such discrimination?
Decision: 9 votes for Katzenbach, 0 vote(s) against (Decided Dec. 14)
Legal provision: Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II
The Court found that discrimination in restaurants posed significant burdens on "the interstate flow of food and upon the movement on products generally." Furthermore, argued Justice Clark, discrimination also posed restrictions on blacks who traveled from state to state. Congress's solution to this problem was appropriate and within its bounds to regulate interstate commerce.
Heart of Atlanta Motel
v. United States
Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade racial discrimination by places of public accommodation if their operations affected commerce. The Heart of Atlanta Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, refused to accept Black Americans and was charged with violating Title II.
Did Congress, in passing Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, exceed its Commerce Clause powers by depriving motels, such as the Heart of Atlanta, of the right to choose their own customers?
Decision: 9 votes for U.S., 0 vote(s) against (Decided Dec. 14)
Legal provision: Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II
The Court held that the Commerce Clause allowed Congress to regulate local incidents of commerce, and that the Civil Right Act of 1964 passed constitutional muster. The Court noted that the applicability of Title II was "carefully limited to enterprises having a direct and substantial relation to the interstate flow of goods and people. . ." The Court thus concluded that places of public accommodation had no "right" to select guests as they saw fit, free from governmental regulation.
United States v. Lopez
Alfonzo Lopez, a 12th grade high school student, carried a concealed weapon into his San Antonio, Texas high school. He was charged under Texas law with firearm possession on school premises. The next day, the state charges were dismissed after federal agents charged Lopez with violating a federal criminal statute, the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. The act forbids "any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that [he] knows...is a school zone." Lopez was found guilty following a bench trial and sentenced to six months' imprisonment and two years' supervised release.
Is the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act, forbidding individuals from knowingly carrying a gun in a school zone, unconstitutional because it exceeds the power of Congress to legislate under the Commerce Clause?
Decision: 5 votes for Lopez, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 922
Yes. The possession of a gun in a local school zone is not an economic activity that might, through repetition elsewhere, have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. The law is a criminal statute that has nothing to do with "commerce" or any sort of economic activity.
In 1994, while enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech), Christy Brzonkala alleged that Antonio Morrison and James Crawford, both students and varsity football players at Virginia Tech, raped her. In 1995, Brzonkala filed a complaint against Morrison and Crawford under Virginia Tech's Sexual Assault Policy. After a hearing, Morrison was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to immediate suspension for two semesters. Crawford was not punished. A second hearing again found Morrison guilty. After an appeal through the university's administrative system, Morrison's punishment was set aside, as it was found to be "excessive." Ultimately, Brzonkala dropped out of the university. Brzonkala then sued Morrison, Crawford, and Virginia Tech in Federal District Court, alleging that Morrison's and Crawford's attack violated 42 USC section 13981, part of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA), which provides a federal civil remedy for the victims of gender-motivated violence. Morrison and Crawford moved to dismiss Brzonkala's suit on the ground that section 13981's civil remedy was unconstitutional. In dismissing the complaint, the District Court found that that Congress lacked authority to enact section 13981 under either the Commerce Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment, which Congress had explicitly identified as the sources of federal authority for it. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Does Congress have the authority to enact the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 under either the Commerce Clause or Fourteenth Amendment?
Decision: 5 votes for Morrison, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 42 U.S.C. 1398
No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that Congress lacked the authority to enact a statute under the Commerce Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment since the statute did not regulate an activity that substantially affected interstate commerce nor did it redress harm caused by the state. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote for the Court that [i]f the allegations here are true, no civilized system of justice could fail to provide [Brzonkala] a remedy for the conduct of...Morrison. But under our federal system that remedy must be provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and not by the United States." Dissenting, Justice Stephen G. Breyer argued that the majority opinion "illustrates the difficulty of finding a workable judicial Commerce Clause touchstone." Additionally, Justice David H. Souter, dissenting, noted that VAWA contained a "mountain of data assembled by Congress...showing the effects of violence against women on interstate commerce."
Gonzales v. Raich
In 1996 California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, legalizing marijuana for medical use. California's law conflicted with the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which banned possession of marijuana. After the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized doctor-prescribed marijuana from a patient's home, a group of medical marijuana users sued the DEA and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in federal district court.
The medical marijuana users argued the Controlled Substances Act - which Congress passed using its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce - exceeded Congress' commerce clause power. The district court ruled against the group. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and ruled the CSA unconstitutional as it applied to intrastate (within a state) medical marijuana use. Relying on two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that narrowed Congress' commerce clause power - U.S. v. Lopez (1995) and U.S. v. Morrison (2000) - the Ninth Circuit ruled using medical marijuana did not "substantially affect" interstate commerce and therefore could not be regulated by Congress.
Does the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801) exceed Congress' power under the commerce clause as applied to the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical use?
Decision: 6 votes for Gonzales, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 21 U.S.C. 801
No. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that the commerce clause gave Congress authority to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana, despite state law to the contrary. Stevens argued that the Court's precedent "firmly established" Congress' commerce clause power to regulate purely local activities that are part of a "class of activities" with a substantial effect on interstate commerce. The majority argued that Congress could ban local marijuana use because it was part of such a "class of activities": the national marijuana market. Local use affected supply and demand in the national marijuana market, making the regulation of intrastate use "essential" to regulating the drug's national market. The majority distinguished the case from Lopez and Morrison. In those cases, statutes regulated non-economic activity and fell entirely outside Congress' commerce power; in this case, the Court was asked to strike down a particular application of a valid statutory scheme.
NFIB v. Sibelius
Amid intense public interest, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which became effective March 23, 2010. The ACA sought to address the fact that millions of Americans had no health insurance, yet actively participated in the health care market, consuming health care services for which they did not pay. The ACA contained a minimum coverage provision by amending the tax code and providing an individual mandate, stipulating that by 2014, non-exempt individuals who failed to purchase and maintain a minimum level of health insurance must pay a tax penalty. The ACA also contained an expansion of Medicaid, which states had to accept in order to receive Federal funds for Medicaid, and an employer mandate to obtain health coverage for employees.
The plaintiffs argued that: (1) the individual mandate exceeded Congress' enumerated powers under the Commerce Clause; (2) the Medicaid expansions were unconstitutionally coercive; and (3) the employer mandate impermissibly interfered with state sovereignty.
1. Is the suit brought by respondents to challenge the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, 2 U.S.C. 7421(a)?
2. Does Congress have power under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, specifically under the Commerce Clause or the Taxing and Spending Clause, to require most Americans to purchase health insurance?
Yes, under the Taxing & Spending Clause
3. Is the individual mandate severable from the ACA?
4. Did Congress exceed its enumerated powers and violate principles of federalism when it pressured States into accepting conditions that Congress could not impose directly by threatening to withhold all federal funding under Medicaid, the single largest grant-in-aid program?
Decision: 5 votes for United States Department of Health and Human Services, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Taxing Power
Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, concluded that the Individual Mandate penalty is a tax for the purposes of the Constitution's Taxing and Spending Clause and is a valid exercise of Congressional authority. The payment is not so severe as to be coercive, is not limited to willful violations like fines for unlawful acts, and is collected by the Internal Revenue Service by normal means. As part of a jointly written dissenting opinion, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito disagreed, arguing that because Congress characterized the payment as a penalty, to instead characterize it as a tax would amount to rewriting the Act.
Chief Justice Roberts, with Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, concluded that the Individual Mandate was not a valid exercise of Congress' power to regulate commerce. The Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate existing commercial activity, but not to compel individuals to participate in commerce. This would open a new realm of Congressional authority. Justice Ginsburg, as part of an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan disagreed with this conclusion, arguing that the Chief Justice's distinction between economic "activity" and "Inactivity" is ill-defined and unsupported by either the Court's precedents or the text of the Constitution. Furthermore, even if the distinction were permissible, individuals who fail to purchase insurance nonetheless frequently participate in the healthcare marketplace, substantially impacting healthcare commerce, and may therefore be regulated by Congress. Justice Thomas, in a separate dissent, added that the "substantial effects test" has encouraged Congress to push the limits of its power.
The majority did not address the serverability question after concluding that the Individual Mandate was constitutional. Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito argued that the Individual Mandate and Medicaid expansion are inserverable, and that the entirety of the ACA is therefore unconstitutional. The provisions of the Act, they argue, are "closely interrelated," with the two unconstitutional provisions serving as "pillars."
Chief Justice Roberts, with Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, concluded that the Medicaid expansion provisions was unconstitutionally coercive as written. Congress does not have authority under the Spending Clause to threaten the states with complete loss of Federal funding of Medicaid, if the states refuse to comply with the expansion. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor disagreed, arguing, "Congress' authority to condition the use of federal funds is not confined to spending programs as first launched. The legislature may, and often does, amend the law."
Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, concluded that the remainder of the Medicaid expansion provision, without the unconstitutional threat to completely withdraw Medicaid funding, could stand as a valid exercise of Congress' power under the Spending Clause. Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito argued that the Court does not have the power to remedy the unconstitutional expansion as written. Such power should be vested exclusively in Congress.
As an exercise of its taxing powers Congress enacted the Revenue Act of 1919, also called the Child Labor Tax Law. Under the law, companies employing children under fourteen years of age would be assessed ten percent of their annual profits. During the same year in which the act was passed, Drexel Furniture Company was found in violation of it and required to pay over $6000 in taxes, which it did under protest.
Did Congress violate the Constitution in adopting the Child Labor Tax Law in attempting to regulate the employment of children, a power reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment?
Yes. The Court found that the Child Labor Tax Law was in violation of the Constitution as it intruded on the jurisdiction of states to adopt and enforce child labor codes. Chief Justice Taft argued that the tax law in question did much more than simply impose an "incidental restraint" but exerted a "prohibitory and regulatory effect" in a realm over which Congress had no jurisdiction. Taft feared that upholding this law would destroy state sovereignty and devastate "all constitutional limitation of the powers of Congress" by allowing it to disguise future regulatory legislation in the cloak of taxes.
Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co.
As part of the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act, Congress implemented a processing tax on agricultural commodities, from which funds would be redistributed to farmers who promised to reduce their acreage. The Act intended to solve the crisis in agricultural commodity prices which was causing many farmers to go under.
Did Congress exceed its constitutional taxing and spending powers with the Act?
Decision: 6 votes for Butler, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const Amend 10; Agricultural Adjustment Act
The Court found the Act unconstitutional because it attempted to regulate and control agricultural production, an arena reserved to the states. Even though Congress does have the power to tax and appropriate funds, argued Justice Roberts, in this case those activities were "but means to an unconstitutional end," and violated the Tenth Amendment.
Co. v. Davis
The Steward Machine Company challenged the validity of a tax imposed by the Social Security Act. The Act established a federal payroll tax on employers; however, if employers paid taxes to a state unemployment compensation fund (created by the states subject to federal standards), they were allowed to credit those payments toward the federal tax.
Did the Act arbitrarily impose taxes in violation of the Fifth Amendment or subvert principles of federalism?
In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the tax under the Social Security Act was a constitutional exercise of congressional power. The Court found that the tax was uniform throughout the states and did not coerce the states in contravention of the Tenth Amendment. The Court took note of recent unemployment statistics from the years 1929 to 1936, maintaining that "[i]t is too late today for the argument to be heard with tolerance that in a crisis so extreme the use of the moneys of the nation to relieve the unemployed and their dependents is a use for any purpose narrower than the promotion of the general welfare. . .The nation responded to the call of the distressed."
Helvering v. Davis
The first section of this title creates an account in the United States Treasury to be known as the ‘Old-Age *636 Reserve Account.’ Section 201 (42 U.S.C.A. s 401). This suit is brought by a shareholder of the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston, a Massachusetts corporation, to restrain the corporation from making payments and deductions called for by the act, which is stated to be void under the Constitution of the United States.
(1) ‘Whether the tax imposed upon employers by section 804 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C.A. s 1004) is within the power of Congress under the Constitution,’ and (2) ‘Whether the validity of the tax imposed upon employees by section 801 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C.A. s 1001) is properly in issue in this case, and if it is, whether that tax is within the power of Congress under the Constitution.’
Title of Social Security Act providing for federal old age benefits and authorizing appropriations to old age reserve account for monthly pensions and lump sum payments held not unconstitutional as violating provision reserving to states powers not delegated to United States and not prohibited to states, since unemployment is a general, national ill which Congress may check by nation's resources under general welfare clause, whether it results from lack of work or because of disabilities of age, and laws of separate states could not deal with problem effectively because of states' lack of resources and their reluctance to increase tax burdens. Social Security Act § 201 et seq., 42 U.S.C.A. § 401 et seq.; U.S.C.A.Const. art. 1, § 8; art. 6, par. 2; Amend. 10.
United States v.
Gerlach Live Stock Co.
FACTS & QUESTION
The Court is asked "to relieve the United States from six awards by the Court of Claims as just compensation for deprivation of riparian rights along the San Joaquin River in California caused by construction of Friant Dam, and its dependent irrigation system, as part of the Central Valley Project. This is a gigantic undertaking to redistribute principal fresh-water resources of California. Such a project inevitably unsettles many advantages long enjoyed in reliance upon the natural order, and it is with deprivation of such benefits that we are here concerned. Claimants own land parcels riparian to the San Joaquin.
The Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Jackson, held that the owners of riparian grass land which benefited from natural seasonal overflow of the San Joaquin River were the owners of property rights which survived amendment of California Constitution in 1928, and that such owners were entitled to compensation for deprivation of rights by construction of the Friant Dam as part of the Central Valley Project. "When a project has been regarded by the highest Executive authorities as a reclamation project, and has been carried as such from its initiation to final payment for these rights, and Congress, knowing its history, has given the approvals that it has, we think there is no ground for asking us to hold that the provisions of the Reclamation Act do not apply. We hold that they do apply."
South Dakota v. Dole
In 1984, Congress enacted legislation ordering the Secretary of Transportation to withhold five percent of federal highway funds from states that did not adopt a 21-year-old minimum drinking age. South Dakota, a state that permitted persons 19 years of age to purchase alcohol, challenged the law.
Did Congress exceed its spending powers, or violate the Twenty-first Amendment, by passing legislation conditioning the award of federal highway funds on the states' adoption of a uniform minimum drinking age?
Decision: 7 votes for Dole, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 23 U.S.C. 158
No. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Court held that Congress, acting indirectly to encourage uniformity in states' drinking ages, was within constitutional bounds. The Court found that the legislation was in pursuit of "the general welfare," and that the means chosen to do so were reasonable. The Court also held that the Twenty-first Amendment's limitations on spending power were not prohibitions on congressional attempts to achieve federal objectives indirectly. The five percent loss of highway funds was not unduly coercive.
Sabri v. United States
Basim Omar Sabri, a Minneapolis landlord and developer, tried to bribe a Minneapolis City Council member who sat on the board of an organization that dispersed funding for economic revitalization of city neighborhoods. Some of the funds dispersed by the organization were federal funds. Sabri was charged in federal court with bribery. He moved to dismiss the charges, claiming that the section of United States Code that he was charged under was unconstitutional. He claimed that Congress could only regulate the dispersal of federal funds; because the statute did not require the prosecutors to show that the bribery had affected any federal funds, only that it had affected an organization that received federal funds, he argued that it was outside of Congress's power to legislate. The district court sided with Sabri and dismissed the charges.
On appeal, an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed. It found that, because federal funds were often mixed with other funds by organizations that distributed them, it would be difficult for prosecutors to prove that the funds affected by an attempted bribe were federal funds. As a result, the government would have to regulate all bribes to organizations that dispersed federal funds in order to meaningfully protect federal funds. Because Congress had authority under the necessary and proper clause and the spending clause (both found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) to ensure that government funds were not misspent, the bribery statute was therefore constitutional.
May Congress make it a federal crime to bribe officials of non-federal organizations that distribute some federal funds without requiring prosecutors to prove that the bribe actually affected federal funds?
Decision: 9 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 666
Yes. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice David Souter, the Court held that Article I of the Constitution allows Congress to prohibit bribery of organizations that distribute federal funds. The Justices found that the Spending Clause authorizes Congress to spend money for the general welfare, and that the Necessary and Proper Clause authorizes it to take any reasonable steps to prevent such money from being misspent. These reasonable steps include prohibiting bribery. The Court rejected Sabri's argument that the law was unconstitutional because it applied to all bribes, not just those made in connection with actual federal funds. The Court held that to require proof of a connection between the bribes and federal funds would unreasonable and impractical; it was within Congress's power to prohibit all bribes to all federally-funded organizations. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion concurring in the judgment, in which he questioned whether the Court had been correct to interpret the Necessary and Proper Clause so expansively.
Maryland v. Wirtz
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (Act) requires every employer to pay each of his employees engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce a minimum hourly wage and a higher rate for exceeding a maximum number of hours per week. The Act excluded the federal government or any state government or political subdivision from the definition of “employer.” In 1961, the Act was amended to include employees of any enterprise engaged in commerce or production of commerce, such as the operation of a hospital or any place that cares for the sick, a school, or an institution of higher education. The Act also removed the exemption for the state governments and their political subdivisions.
The state of Maryland and twenty-seven other states sued W. Willard Wirtz, the Secretary of Labor, to prevent the enforcement of the Act as it applied to schools and hospitals operated by states or their subdivisions. The states argued this expansion of the Act was unconstitutional because it violated the Commerce Clause and conflicted with the Eleventh Amendment’s protection of states’ sovereign immunity. A three-judge district court held that the extension of the Act’s coverage to commercial enterprise and state institutions did not exceed Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause because it did not transgress the sovereignty of the states. However, the court declined to consider the Eleventh Amendment issue. Maryland appealed directly to the Supreme Court.
Does the expansion of the Fair Labor Standards Act to include schools and hospitals operated by states or their subdivisions violate the Commerce Clause and the Eleventh Amendment?
Decision: 6 votes for Wirtz, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 3: Interstate Commerce Clause
No. Justice John Marshall Harlan, Jr. delivered the opinion of the 6-2 majority. The Court held that the inclusion of commercial enterprises is constitutional because otherwise commercial enterprises that utilize substandard wages and excessive hours would have an advantage over other companies. Substandard labor conditions also lead to labor disputes and strikes, which Congress wanted to avoid. Furthermore, the Court held that the Act did not interfere with states’ sovereignty by telling them how to perform medical and educational functions; rather it subjected a state that employs people performing such functions to the same restrictions as other employers whose activities affect commerce. Therefore, the Court held that minimum wage amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act extending to non-professional, non-executive and non-administrative employers of state public schools, hospitals, and related institutions was also constitutional.
Justice William O. Douglas wrote a dissenting opinion in which he argued that bringing employees of state-owned enterprises under the auspices of the Fair Labor Standards Act was an invasion of state sovereignty. Requiring states to pay employees minimum wage would force them to increase taxes, lower the standard of services in these institutions, reduce services in other government activities, and refrain from entering into new governmental fields needed for social change. The Act therefore affected the states fiscally and was a clear invasion of state sovereignty. Justice Potter Stewart joined the dissent.
Justice Thurgood Marshall took no part in the
consideration or decision of this case.
Nat'l League of Cities
In 1974, Congress passed amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The purpose of the amendments was to regulate minimum wage and overtime pay for state and local government employees. The National League of Cities, as well as several states and cities, challenged the constitutionality of the amendments.
May Congress, acting under its commerce power, regulate the labor market of state employees, which the Tenth Amendment reserves to the states?
Decision: 5 votes for National League of Cities, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 3: Interstate Commerce Clause
Congress may not regulate the labor market of state employees. The Tenth Amendment prohibits Congress from enacting legislation which operates "to directly displace the States' freedom to structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental functions." While the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause is "plenary," that power has constitutional limits. In this case, the exercise of the commerce power ran afoul of the Tenth Amendment which protects the states' traditional activities. Overruled Wirtz decision.
Garcia v. San Antonio
Metro Transit Auth.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (SAMTA), the main provider of transportation in the San Antonio metropolitan area, claimed it was exempt from the minimum-wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. SAMTA argued that it was providing a "traditional" governmental function, which exempted it from federal controls according to the doctrine of federalism established in National League of Cities v. Usery (1976). Joe G. Garcia, an employee of SAMTA, brought suit for overtime pay under Fair Labor Standards Act.
Did principles of federalism make the San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority immune from the Fair Labor Standards Act?
Decision: 5 votes for Garcia, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Fair Labor Standards
In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the guiding principles of federalism established in National League of Cities v. Usery were unworkable and that SAMTA was subject to Congressional legislation under the Commerce Clause. The Court found that rules based on the subjective determination of "integral" or "traditional" governmental functions provided little or no guidance in determining the boundaries of federal and state power. The Court argued that the structure of the federal system itself, rather than any "discrete limitations" on federal authority, protected state sovereignty.
N.Y. v. U.S.
The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Act Amendments of 1985 required states alone or in compacts with other states to dispose of such radioactive waste within their borders. New York State and Allegany and Cortland counties were frustrated in their compliance efforts by resistance from residents to proposed radioactive waste sites and a lack of cooperation from neighboring states. New York filed suit against the federal government, questioning the authority of Congress to regulate state waste management.
Does the Low-Level Waste Act violate the Tenth Amendment and the "guarantee clause" of Article Four?
Decision: 6 votes for New York, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 3: Interstate Commerce Clause
In a 6-3 decision, the Court upheld two of the three provisions of the Act under review, reasoning that Congress had the authority under the Commerce Clause to use financial rewards and access to disposal sites as incentives for state waste management. The third provision, the "take-title" qualification, stipulated that states must take legal ownership and liability for low-level waste or by the regulatory act. "Either type of federal action," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "would 'commandeer' state governments into the service of federal regulatory purposes, and would for this reason be inconsistent with the Constitution's division of authority between federal and state governments." This last provision violated the Tenth Amendment.
Printz v. U.S.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Bill) required "local chief law enforcement officers" (CLEOs) to perform background-checks on prospective handgun purchasers, until such time as the Attorney General establishes a federal system for this purpose. County sheriffs Jay Printz and Richard Mack, separately challenged the constitutionality of this interim provision of the Brady Bill on behalf of CLEOs in Montana and Arizona respectively. In both cases District Courts found the background-checks unconstitutional, but ruled that since this requirement was severable from the rest of the Brady Bill a voluntary background-check system could remain. On appeal from the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the interim background-check provisions were constitutional, the Supreme Court granted certiorari and consolidated the two cases deciding this one along with Mack v. United States.
Using the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I as justification, can Congress temporarily require state CLEOs to regulate handgun purchases by performing those duties called for by the Brady Bill's handgun applicant background-checks?
Decision: 5 votes for Printz, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 922
No. The Court constructed its opinion on the old principle that state legislatures are not subject to federal direction. The Court explained that while Congress may require the federal government to regulate commerce directly, in this case by performing background-checks on applicants for handgun ownership, the Necessary and Proper Clause does not empower it to compel state CLEOs to fulfill its federal tasks for it - even temporarily. The Court added that the Brady Bill could not require CLEOs to perform the related tasks of disposing of handgun-application forms or notifying certain applicants of the reasons for their refusal in writing, since the Brady Bill reserved such duties only for those CLEO's who voluntarily accepted them.
Reno v. Condon
State departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) require drivers and automobile owners to provide personal information, which may include a person's name, address, telephone number, Social Security number, and photograph, as a condition of obtaining a driver's license or registering an automobile. Congress enacted the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 (DPPA),which establishes a regulatory scheme that restricts the States' ability to disclose a driver's personal information without the driver's consent, after finding that many States sell such information. The DPPA conflicts with South Carolina law, under which information contained in the State's DMV records is available to any person or entity that fills out a form listing the requester's name and address and stating that the information will not be used for telephone solicitation. The Attorney General of South Carolina filed suit, alleging the DPPA violated the Tenth and Eleventh Amendments. The District Court concluded that the DPPA was incompatible with the principles of federalism, granted summary judgement for the State, and permanently enjoined the DPPA's enforcement against the State. In affirming, the Court of Appeals also concluded that the DPPA violated the constitutional principles of federalism.
Does the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 violate the constitutional principles of federalism?
Decision: 9 votes for Reno, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 2721
No. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that the DPPA is a proper exercise of Congress' regulation of interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause and doesn't run afoul of federalism principles. The law "does not require the states in their sovereign capacity to regulate their own citizens," Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote for the Court. "It does not require the South Carolina Legislature to enact any laws or regulations, and it does not require state officials to assist in the enforcement of federal statutes regulating private individuals," the Chief Justice added.
If a federal court with jurisdiction over a civil action declines to exercise supplement jurisdiction over other related claims, the claims will be dismissed and must be refiled in state court. To prevent the limitations period on those claims from expiring, 28 USC section 1367(d) requires state courts to toll the period while a supplemental claim is pending in federal court. In 1994, Susan Jinks filed a federal-court action against Richland County, South Carolina. The District Court granted the county summary judgment and declined to exercise jurisdiction over Jinks's state-law claims. Jinks then filed the supplemental claims in state court and won. In reversing, the Supreme Court of South Carolina found the state-law claims time-barred. Although they would not have been barred under section 1367(d)'s tolling rule, the court held section 1367(d) unconstitutional as applied to claims brought in state court against a State's political subdivisions.
Is 28 USC section 1367(d), which requires state statute of limitations to be tolled for the period during which a plaintiff's cause of action had previously been pending in federal court, constitutional as applied to lawsuits brought against a State's political subdivisions?
Decision: 9 votes for Jinks, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 28 U.S.C. 1367
Yes. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court held that section 1367(d)'s application to claims brought against a State's political subdivisions is constitutional. The Court reasoned that section 1367(d) is necessary and proper for carrying into execution Congress's power "to constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court" under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, as it provides a straightforward tolling rule, which promotes fair and efficient operation of the federal courts and is therefore conducive to the administration of justice. The Court also reiterated that, while Congress lacks Article I authority to override a State's immunity from suit in its own courts, it may subject a municipality to suit in state court if that is done pursuant to a valid exercise of its enumerated powers. Justice David H. Souter filed a concurring opinion, noting that he did not shift from his dissent in Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706.
Baldwin v. Fish & Game
Comm'n of Montana
In its licensing system for elk-hunters, the state of Montana required nonresidents to pay a substantially higher fee than residents for a hunting permit.
Did the Montana law violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution as delineated in Article IV, Section 2?
Decision: 6 votes for Fish & Game Commission of Montana, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 4, Section 2, Paragraph 1: Privileges and Immunities Clause
The Court affirmed the right of Montana to charge higher fees for out-of-state elk hunters. Justice Blackmun found that the Privileges and Immunities Clause only applied to activities which bear "on the vitality of the Nation as a single entity." Since elk hunting is a recreational activity and not fundamental to the survival of nonresidents of Montana, Blackmun argued that it did not fall within the scope of the protections guaranteed by the Constitution. "Equality in access to Montana elk is not basic to the maintenance or well-being of the Union," he concluded.
In April of 1952, during the Korean War, President Truman issued an executive order directing Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer to seize and operate most of the nation's steel mills. This was done in order to avert the expected effects of a strike by the United Steelworkers of America.
Did the President have the constitutional authority to seize and operate the steel mills?
Decision: 6 votes for Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art. II
In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that the President did not have the authority to issue such an order. The Court found that there was no congressional statute that authorized the President to take possession of private property. The Court also held that the President's military power as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces did not extend to labor disputes. The Court argued that "the President's power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker."
Youngstown Sheet &
Tube Co. v. Sawyer
Dames & Moore
In reaction to the seizure of the U.S. embassy and American nationals in Iran, President Jimmy Carter invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and froze Iranian assets in the United States. When the hostages were released in 1981, Treasury Secretary Donald Regan affirmed the agreements made the Carter administration that terminated all legal proceedings against the Iranian government and created an independent Claims Tribunal. Dames & Moore attempted to recover over $3 million owed to it by the Iranian government and claimed the executive orders were beyond the scope of presidential power.
Did the president have the authority to transfer Iranian funds and to nullify legal claims against Iran?
Decision: 8 votes for Regan, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 50 U.S.C. 1702
The Court held that the International Emergency Economic Powers Act constituted a specific congressional authorization for the President to order the transfer of Iranian assets. The Court further held that although the IEEPA itself did not authorize the presidential suspension of legal claims, previous acts of Congress had "implicitly approved" of executive control of claim settlement. The Court emphasized the narrowness of its ruling, limiting the decision to the facts of the case.
Jose Medellin, a Mexican national, was convicted and sentenced to death for participating in the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston. Medellin raised a post-conviction challenge arguing that the state had violated his rights under the Vienna Convention, a treaty to which the United States is a party. Article 36 of the Vienna Convention gives any foreign national detained for a crime the right to contact his consulate. After his petition was ultimately dismissed by the Supreme Court (see Medellin v. Dretke), Medellin's case returned to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Medellin's argument rested in part on a ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) holding that the U.S. had violated the Vienna Convention rights of 51 Mexican nationals (including Medellin) and that their convictions must be reconsidered. Medellin argued that the Vienna Convention granted him an individual right that state courts must respect, a possibility left open by the Supreme Court's 2006 decision in Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon. Medellin also cited a memorandum from the President of the United States that instructed state courts to comply with the ICJ's rulings by rehearing the cases. Medellin argued that the Constitution gives the President broad power to ensure that treaties are enforced, and that this power extends to the treatment of treaties in state court proceedings.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected each of Medellin's arguments and dismissed his petition. The court interpreted Sanchez-Llamas as standing for the principle that rulings of the ICJ are not binding on state courts. The Texas court stood by its position that allowing Medellin to raise the Vienna Convention issue after his trial would violate state procedural rules, and that those rules were not supplanted by the Convention. The President had no authority to order the enforcement in state court of an ICJ ruling, because that would imply a law-making power not allocated to him by the Constitution.
Did the President act within his constitutional and statutory foreign affairs authority when he determined that states must comply with the U.S. treaty obligation under the Vienna Convention by enforcing a decision of the International Court of Justice?
Does the Constitution require state courts to honor the treaty obligation of the U.S. by enforcing a decision of the International Court of Justice?
Decision: 6 votes for Texas, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Treaty
The Court upheld the rulings of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in a 6-3 opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts. The Court held that the signed Protocol of the Vienna Convention did not make the treaty self- executing and, therefore,
the treaty is not binding upon state courts until it is enacted into law by Congress
. Furthermore, Chief Justice Roberts characterized the
presidential memorandum as an attempt by the executive branch to enforce a non-self executing treaty without the necessary Congressional action, giving it no binding authority on state courts
. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred in the opinion and Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, authored a dissent.
Medellin v. Texas
Yakus v. U.S.
Albert Yakus, Benjamin Rottenberg, and B. Rottenberg, Inc., were convicted of making sales of wholesale cuts of beef at prices above maximum prices prescribed by Revised Maximum Price Regulation in violation of the Emergency Price Control Act.
Does he Emergency Price Control Act of 1942 involve an unconstitutional delegation to the Price Administrator of the legislative power of Congress to control prices?
No. (6-3 decision) Justice Stone delivered the opinion of the Court, upholding the WWII emergency price control act authorizing the president-appointed administrator to issue regulations establishing maximum prices & rents to carry out the act’s purposes “to stabilize prices and to prevent speculative, unwarranted, and abnormal increases in prices and rents and protect low-fixed income persons from undue impairment."
The Pennsylvania legislature amended its abortion control law in 1988 and 1989. Among the new provisions, the law required informed consent and a 24 hour waiting period prior to the procedure. A minor seeking an abortion required the consent of one parent (the law allows for a judicial bypass procedure). A married woman seeking an abortion had to indicate that she notified her husband of her intention to abort the fetus. These provisions were challenged by several abortion clinics and physicians. A federal appeals court upheld all the provisions except for the husband notification requirement.
Can a state require women who want an abortion to obtain informed consent, wait 24 hours, and, if minors, obtain parental consent, without violating their right to abortions as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade?
Decision: 5 votes for Planned Parenthood, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process
In a bitter, 5-to-4 decision, the Court again reaffirmed Roe, but it upheld most of the Pennsylvania provisions. For the first time, the justices imposed a new standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The new standard asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an "undue burden," which is defined as a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability." Under this standard, the only provision to fail the undue-burden test was the husband notification requirement. The opinion for the Court was unique: It was crafted and authored by three justices.
Gonzales v. Carhart
In 2003, Congress passed and the President signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The controversial concept of partial-birth abortion is defined in the Act as any abortion in which the death of the fetus occurs when "the entire fetal head [...] or [...] any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother." Dr. Leroy Carhart and other physicians who perform late-term abortions sued to stop the Act from going into effect. The plaintiffs argued that the Act could apply to a more common abortion procedure known as "D&E;" ("dilation and evacuation"), as well as to the less common "intact D&E;," sometimes called D&X; ("dilation and extraction"). With this application the Act would ban most late-term abortions and thus be an unconstitutional "undue burden" on the right to an abortion, as defined by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The plaintiffs also argued that the Act's lack of an exception for abortions necessary to protect the health of the mother rendered it unconstitutional under the Supreme Court's decision in Stenberg v. Carhart, regardless of Congress's finding in the Act that partial-birth abortions are never medically necessary.
A federal District Court agreed and ruled the Act unconstitutional on both grounds. The government appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The government argued that the Act only bans a narrow category of abortion procedures, and that a health exception is not required when Congress determines that a banned abortion procedure is never necessary for the health of the mother. The Eighth Circuit disagreed and upheld the District Court, ruling that a health exception is required for all bans on abortion procedures when "substantial medical authority" supports the necessity of the procedure. The Circuit Court ruled that the ongoing disagreement among medical experts over the necessity of intact D&E; abortions was sufficient to establish that the Act was unconstitutional without a health exception. The Circuit Court did not reach the question of whether the Act was so broad as to qualify as an unconstitutional "undue burden."
Is the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 an unconstitutional violation of personal liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment because the Act lacks an exception for partial-birth abortions necessary to protect the health of the mother?
Decision: 5 votes for Gonzales, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 1531
No. The Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that Congress's ban on partial-birth abortion was not unconstitutionally vague and did not impose an undue burden on the right to an abortion. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority. The Court held that, under the most reasonable interpretation, the Act applies only to the intact D&E; method (also known as "partial-birth abortion") and not to the more common D&E; procedure. The Act's application was limited by provisions that restrict enforcement to cases where the physician intends to perform an intact D&E; and delivers the still-living fetus past specific "anatomical landmarks." Because the majority found that the Act applies only to a specific method of abortion, it held that the ban was not unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, or an undue burden on the decision to obtain an abortion. The Court also held that Congress, after finding intact D&E; never to be medically necessary, could validly omit a health exception from the ban, even when "some part of the medical community" considers the procedure necessary. To require the exception whenever "medical uncertainty" exists would be "too exacting a standard to impose on the legislative power [...] to regulate the medical profession." The Court left open the possibility that an as-applied challenge could be brought against the Act if it were ever applied in a situation in which an intact D&E; was necessary to preserve a woman's health. Justice Ginsburg's dissent disputed the majority's claim that the opinion was consistent with the Casey and Stenberg precedents and said "The Court's hostility to the right Roe and Casey secured is not concealed."
Stenberg v. Carhart
A Nebraska law prohibited any "partial birth abortion" unless that procedure was necessary to save the mother's life. It defined "partial birth abortion" as a procedure in which the doctor "partially delivers vaginally a living unborn child before killing the... child," and defined the latter phrase to mean "intentionally delivering into the vagina a living unborn child, or a substantial portion thereof, for the purpose of performing a procedure that the [abortionist] knows will kill the... child and does kill the... child." Violation of the law is a felony, and it provides for the automatic revocation of a convicted doctor's state license to practice medicine. Leroy Carhart, a Nebraska physician who performs abortions in a clinical setting, brought suit seeking a declaration that the statute violates the U.S. Constitution, claiming the law was unconstitutionally vague and placed an undue burden on himself and female patients seeking abortions. The District Court held the statute unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Does the Nebraska statute, which makes the performance of a "partial birth abortions" a crime, violate the liberty protected by due process of the Fourteenth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution?
Decision: 5 votes for Carhart, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process
Yes. In a complicated 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that "Nebraska's statute criminalizing the performance of "partial birth abortion[s]" violates the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted in Casey and Roe." The sharply divided Court struck down the statute because it placed an undue burden on a woman's right to have an abortion and did not allow for exception in cases of threatened health. "All those who perform abortion procedures using that method must fear prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment," that results in "an undue burden upon a woman's right to make an abortion decision," wrote Justice Breyer for the Court. Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent concluded that "[t]he notion that the Constitution of the United States... prohibits the States from simply banning this visibly brutal means of eliminating our half-born posterity is quite simply absurd."
Whitman v. Am.
Section 109(a) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator to promulgate national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for each air pollutant for which "air quality criteria" have been issued under section 108. In 1997, Carol Browner, the Administrator of the EPA, revised the ozone and particulate matter NAAQS. Afterwards, her revised NAAQS were challenged in court. The District of Columbia Circuit found that section 109(b)(1), which instructs the EPA to set standards, delegated legislative power to the Administrator in contravention of the Federal Constitution because the court found that the EPA had interpreted the statute to provide no "intelligible principle" to guide the agency's exercise of authority. The court remanded the NAAQS to the EPA. The courts also held to its rule that the EPA could not consider implementation costs in setting the NAAQS. Additionally, the court rejected the EPA's position that the implementation provisions for ozone found in Part D, Subpart 2, of Title I of the CAA, were so tied to the existing ozone standard that the EPA lacked the power to revise the standard.
Does section 109(b)(1) of the Clean Air Act unconstitutionally delegate legislative power to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency? May the Administrator of the EPA consider the costs of implementation in setting national ambient air quality standards under section 109(b)(1)? Does the Court of Appeals have the jurisdiction to review the EPA's interpretation of Part D of Title I of the CAA, with respect to implementing the revised ozone NAAQS?
Decision: 9 votes for Whitman, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Clean Air
No, no, and yes. In an opinion delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court held that the CAA properly delegated legislative power to the EPA, but that the EPA could not consider implementation costs in setting primary and secondary NAAQS. Moreover, the Court held that the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to review the EPA's interpretation of Part D of Title I of the CAA related to the implementation of the revised ozone NAAQS; however, the EPA's interpretation of Part D was unreasonable.
Responding to a reported weapons disturbance in a private residence, Houston police entered John Lawrence's apartment and saw him and another adult man, Tyron Garner, engaging in a private, consensual sexual act. Lawrence and Garner were arrested and convicted of deviate sexual intercourse in violation of a Texas statute forbidding two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct. In affirming, the State Court of Appeals held that the statute was not unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, with Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), controlling.
Do the criminal convictions of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner under the Texas "Homosexual Conduct" law, which criminalizes sexual intimacy by same-sex couples, but not identical behavior by different-sex couples, violate the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection of laws? Do their criminal convictions for adult consensual sexual intimacy in the home violate their vital interests in liberty and privacy protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? Should Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), be overruled?
Decision: 6 votes for Lawrence and Garner, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process
No, yes, and yes. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court held that the Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct violates the Due Process Clause. After explaining what it deemed the doubtful and overstated premises of Bowers, the Court reasoned that the case turned on whether Lawrence and Garner were free as adults to engage in the private conduct in the exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause. "Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government," wrote Justice Kennedy. "The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual," continued Justice Kennedy. Accordingly, the Court overruled Bowers. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, with whom Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Thomas joined, filed dissent.
Michael Hardwick was observed by a Georgia police officer while engaging in the act of consensual homosexual sodomy with another adult in the bedroom of his home. After being charged with violating a Georgia statute that criminalized sodomy, Hardwick challenged the statute's constitutionality in Federal District Court. Following a ruling that Hardwick failed to state a claim, the court dismissed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Georgia's statute was unconstitutional. Georgia's Attorney General, Michael J. Bowers, appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted certiorari.
Does the Constitution confer a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in consensual sodomy, thereby invalidating the laws of many states which make such conduct illegal?
Decision: 5 votes for Bowers, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process
No. The divided Court found that there was no constitutional protection for acts of sodomy, and that states could outlaw those practices. Justice Byron White argued that the Court has acted to protect rights not easily identifiable in the Constitution only when those rights are "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" (Palko v. Connecticut, 1937) or when they are "deeply rooted in the Nation's history and tradition" (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). The Court held that the right to commit sodomy did not meet either of these standards. White feared that guaranteeing a right to sodomy would be the product of "judge-made constitutional law" and send the Court down the road of illegitimacy.
Lochner v. NY
The state of New York enacted a statute forbidding bakers to work more than 60 hours a week or 10 hours a day.
Does the New York law violate the liberty protected by due process of the Fourteenth
Decision: 5 votes for Lochner, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: NY Bakeshop Act
The Court invalidated the New York law. The majority (through Peckham) maintained that the statute interfered with the freedom of contract, and thus the Fourteenth Amendment's right to liberty afforded to employer and employee. The Court viewed the statute as a labor law; the state had no reasonable ground for interfering with liberty by determining the hours of labor.
Nebbia v. NY
To combat the effects of the Great Depression, New York adopted a Milk Control Law in 1933 which established a board empowered to set a minimum retail price for milk. Nebbia was a store owner who violated the law.
Did the regulation violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
No. In a case which included a lengthy discussion of the Due Process Clause, the Court held that since the price controls were not "arbitrary, discriminatory, or demonstrably irrelevant" to the policy adopted by the legislature to promote the general welfare, it was consistent with the Constitution. There was nothing "peculiarly sacrosanct" about prices which insulates them from government regulation, argued Justice Roberts.
Saenz v. Roe
Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), states receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) can pay the benefit amount of another State's TANF program to residents who have lived in the State for less than 12 months. When California announced it would enforce this option, Brenda Roe brought this class action, on behalf of other first year residents, challenging the constitutionality of the durational residency requirement. On appeal from successive adverse rulings in the lower courts, the Supreme Court granted Rita Saenz, the Director of California's Department of Social Services, certiorari.
Does a state statute, authorizing states receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to pay the benefit amount of another State's TANF to its first year residents, violate the Fourteenth Amendment's right-to-travel protections?
Decision: 7 votes for Roe, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Privileges and Immunities Clause
Yes. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to travel in three ways by: allowing citizens to move freely between states, securing the right to be treated equally in all states when visiting, and securing the rights of new citizens to be treated like long-time citizens of a state. The Court explained that by paying first-year residents the same TNF benefits they received in their state of origin, states treated new residents differently than others who have lived in their borders for over one year. As such, enforcement of the PRWORA power unconstitutionally discriminated among residents.
Calder v. Bull
Clinton v. Jones
Paula Corbin Jones sued President Bill Clinton. She alleged that while she was an Arkansas state employee, she suffered several "abhorrent" sexual advances from then Arkansas Governor Clinton. Jones claimed that her continued rejection of Clinton's advances ultimately resulted in punishment by her state supervisors. Following a District Court's grant of Clinton's request that all matters relating to the suit be suspended, pending a ruling on his prior request to have the suit dismissed on grounds of presidential immunity, Clinton sought to invoke his immunity to completely dismiss the Jones suit against him. While the District Judge denied Clinton's immunity request, the judge ordered the stay of any trial in the matter until after Clinton's Presidency. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal denial but reversed the trial deferment ruling since it would be a "functional equivalent" to an unlawful grant of temporary presidential immunity.
Is a serving President, for separation of powers reasons, entitled to absolute immunity from civil litigation arising out of events which transpired prior to his taking office?
Clinton v. Jones - Oral ArgumentClinton v. Jones - Opinion Announcement
Decision: 9 votes for Jones, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 2: Separation of Powers
No. In a unanimous opinion, the Court held that the Constitution does not grant a sitting President immunity from civil litigation except under highly unusual circumstances. After noting the great respect and dignity owed to the Executive office, the Court held that neither separation of powers nor the need for confidentiality of high-level information can justify an unqualified Presidential immunity from judicial process. While the independence of our government's branches must be protected under the doctrine of separation of powers, the Constitution does not prohibit these branches from exercising any control over one another. This, the Court added, is true despite the procedural burdens which Article III jurisdiction may impose on the time, attention, and resources of the Chief Executive.
New Orleans v. Dukes
A 192 New Orleans ordinance banned all pushcart food vendors in the French Quarter ("Viewux Carre") except those who had continuously operated there for eight or more years. Appellee, who had operated a pushcart for only two years, attacked the ordinance.
Decision: 8 votes for New Orleans; 0 against (Stevens took no part)
Legal Provision: Equal Protection
Per Curiam: "Unless a classification trammels fundamental personal rights or is drawn upon inherently suspect distinctions such as race, religion, or alienage, our decisions presume the constitutionality of the statutory discriminations and require only that the classification challenged be rationally related to a legitimate state interest...the judiciary may not sit as a superlegislature to judge the wisdom or desirability of legislative policy determinations made in areas that neither affect fundamental rights nor proceed along suspect lines; in the local economic sphere, it is only the invidious discrimination, the wholly arbitrary act, which cannot stand consistently with the Fourteenth Amendment."
Regents of U.C.
Allan Bakke, a thirty-five-year-old white man, had twice applied for admission to the University of California Medical School at Davis. He was rejected both times. The school reserved sixteen places in each entering class of one hundred for "qualified" minorities, as part of the university's affirmative action program, in an effort to redress longstanding, unfair minority exclusions from the medical profession. Bakke's qualifications (college GPA and test scores) exceeded those of any of the minority students admitted in the two years Bakke's applications were rejected. Bakke contended, first in the California courts, then in the Supreme Court, that he was excluded from admission solely on the basis of race.
Did the University of California violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by practicing an affirmative action policy that resulted in the repeated rejection of Bakke's application for admission to its medical school?
Decision: 5 votes for Bakke, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection
No and yes. There was no single majority opinion. Four of the justices contended that any racial quota system supported by government violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., agreed, casting the deciding vote ordering the medical school to admit Bakke. However, in his opinion, Powell argued that the rigid use of racial quotas as employed at the school violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The remaining four justices held that the use of race as a criterion in admissions decisions in higher education was constitutionally permissible. Powell joined that opinion as well, contending that the use of race was permissible as one of several admission criteria. So, the Court managed to minimize white opposition to the goal of equality (by finding for Bakke) while extending gains for racial minorities through affirmative action.
Grutter v. Bollinger
In 1997, Barbara Grutter, a white resident of Michigan, applied for admission to the University of Michigan Law School. Grutter applied with a 3.8 undergraduate GPA and an LSAT score of 161. She was denied admission. The Law School admits that it uses race as a factor in making admissions decisions because it serves a "compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body." The District Court concluded that the Law School's stated interest in achieving diversity in the student body was not a compelling one and enjoined its use of race in the admissions process. In reversing, the Court of Appeals held that Justice Powell's opinion in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978), constituted a binding precedent establishing diversity as a compelling governmental interest sufficient under strict scrutiny review to justify the use of racial preferences in admissions. The appellate court also rejected the district court's finding that the Law School's "critical mass" was the functional equivalent of a quota.
Does the University of Michigan Law School's use of racial preferences in student admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Decision: 5 votes for Bollinger, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection
No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court held that the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit the Law School's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body. The Court reasoned that, because the Law School conducts highly individualized review of each applicant, no acceptance or rejection is based automatically on a variable such as race and that this process ensures that all factors that may contribute to diversity are meaningfully considered alongside race. Justice O'Connor wrote, "in the context of its individualized inquiry into the possible diversity contributions of all applicants, the Law School's race- conscious admissions program does not unduly harm nonminority applicants."
Gratz v. Bollinger
In 1995, Jennifer Gratz applied to the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts with an adjusted GPA of 3.8 and ACT score of 25. In 1997, Patrick Hamacher applied to the University with an adjusted GPA of 3.0, and an ACT score of 28. Both were denied admission and attended other schools. The University admits that it uses race as a factor in making admissions decisions because it serves a "compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body." In addition, the University has a policy to admit virtually all qualified applicants who are members of one of three select racial minority groups - African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans - that are considered to be "underrepresented" on the campus. Concluding that diversity was a compelling interest, the District Court held that the admissions policies for years 1995-1998 were not narrowly tailored, but that the policies in effect in 1999 and 2000 were narrowly tailored. After the decision in Grutter, Gratz and Hamacher petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court pursuant to Rule 11 for a writ of certiorari before judgment, which was granted.
Does the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Decision: 6 votes for Gratz, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection
Yes. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violates both the Equal Protection Clause and Title VI. While rejecting the argument that diversity cannot constitute a compelling state interest, the Court reasoned that the automatic distribution of 20 points, or one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission, to every single "underrepresented minority" applicant solely because of race was not narrowly tailored and did not provide the individualized consideration Justice Powell contemplated in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978). Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote, "because the University's use of race in its current freshman admissions policy is not narrowly tailored to achieve respondents' asserted compelling interest in diversity, the admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause."
v. Seattle Sch. Dist.
The Seattle School District allowed students to apply to any high school in the District. Since certain schools often became oversubscribed when too many students chose them as their first choice, the District used a system of tiebreakers to decide which students would be admitted to the popular schools. The second most important tiebreaker was a racial factor intended to maintain racial diversity. If the racial demographics of any school's student body deviated by more than a predetermined number of percentage points from those of Seattle's total student population (approximately 40% white and 60% non- white), the racial tiebreaker went into effect. At a particular school either whites or non-whites could be favored for admission depending on which race would bring the racial balance closer to the goal.
A non-profit group, Parents Involved in Community Schools (Parents), sued the District, arguing that the racial tiebreaker violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Washington state law. A federal District Court dismissed the suit, upholding the tiebreaker. On appeal, a three-judge panel the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.
Under the Supreme Court's precedents on racial classification in higher education, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, race-based classifications must be directed toward a "compelling government interest" and must be "narrowly tailored" to that interest. Applying these precedents to K-12 education, the Circuit Court found that the tiebreaker scheme was not narrowly tailored. The District then petitioned for an "en banc" ruling by a panel of 11 Ninth Circuit judges. The en banc panel came to the opposite conclusion and upheld the tiebreaker. The majority ruled that the District had a compelling interest in maintaining racial diversity. Applying a test from Grutter, the Circuit Court also ruled that the tiebreaker plan was narrowly tailored, because 1) the District did not employ quotas, 2) the District had considered race-neutral alternatives, 3) the plan caused no undue harm to races, and 4) the plan had an ending point.
1) Do the decisions in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger apply to public high school students?
2) Is racial diversity a compelling interest that can justify the use of race in selecting students for admission to public high schools?
3) Does a school district that normally permits a student to attend the high school of her choice violate the Equal Protection Clause by denying the student admission to her chosen school because of her race in an effort to achieve a desired racial balance?
Decision: 5 votes for Parents Involved in Community Schools, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection
No, no, and yes. By a 5-4 vote, the Court applied a "strict scrutiny" framework and found the District's racial tiebreaker plan unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the plurality opinion that "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." The Court acknowledged that it had previously held that racial diversity can be a compelling government interest in university admissions, but it ruled that "[t]he present cases are not governed by Grutter." Unlike the cases pertaining to higher education, the District's plan involved no individualized consideration of students, and it employed a very limited notion of diversity ("white" and "non-white"). The District's goal of preventing racial imbalance did not meet the Court's standards for a constitutionally legitimate use of race: "Racial balancing is not transformed from 'patently unconstitutional' to a compelling state interest simply by relabeling it 'racial diversity.'" The plans also lacked the narrow tailoring that is necessary for race-conscious programs. The Court held that the District's tiebreaker plan was actually targeted toward demographic goals and not toward any demonstrable educational benefit from racial diversity. The District also failed to show that its objectives could not have been met with non-race-conscious means. In a separate opinion concurring in the judgment, Justice Kennedy agreed that the District's use of race was unconstitutional but stressed that public schools may sometimes consider race to ensure equal educational opportunity.
Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Bull, the stated beneficiaries of the will of Norman Morrison, were denied an inheritance by a Connecticut probate court. When the Bulls attempted to appeal the decision more than a year and a half later, they found that a state law prohibited appeals not made within 18 months of the original ruling. The Bulls persuaded the Connecticut legislature to change the restriction, which enabled them to successfully appeal the case. Calder, the initial inheritor of Morrison's estate, took the case to the Supreme Court.
Was the Connecticut legislation a violation of Article 1, Section 10, of the Constitution, which prohibits ex post facto laws?
In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the legislation was not an ex post facto law. The Court drew a distinction between criminal rights and "private rights," arguing that restrictions against ex post facto laws were not designed to protect citizens' contract rights. Justice Chase noted that while all ex post facto laws are retrospective, all retrospective laws are not necessarily ex post facto. Even "vested" property rights are subject to retroactive laws.
Curtiss-Wright was charged with conspiring to sell fifteen machine guns to Bolivia, which was engaged in an armed conflict in the Chaco. This violated a Joint Resolution of Congress and a proclamation issued by President Roosevelt.
Did Congress in its Joint Resolution unconstitutionally delegate legislative power to the President?
Decision: 7 votes for United States, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Art. II
The Court agreed that the President was allowed much room to operate in executing the Joint Resolution; it found no constitutional violation. Making important distinctions between internal and foreign affairs, Justice Sutherland argued because "the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation," Congress may provide the President with a special degree of discretion in external matters which would not be afforded domestically.
United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp.
Early Development of Congressional Commerce Power
Expansion & Contraction of Congressional Commerce Power
Crisis over Congressional Power during New Deal
Ultimate Expansion of Congressional Power
A New Revolution?