Events through the history of the Supreme Court.
Created by C-SPAN on Jul 18, 2011
Last updated: 08/20/13 at 04:37 PM
The question before the court was whether the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines the term “marriage” under federal law as a “legal union between one man and one woman” deprive same-sex couples who are legally married under state laws of their Fifth Amendment rights to equal protection under federal law? In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that DOMA denies same-sex couples the rights that come from federal recognition of marriage, which are available to other couples with legal marriages under state law. The Court held that the purpose and effect of DOMA is to impose a “disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma” on same-sex couples in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. Source: Oyez.org Questions: 1) Describe Justice Kennedy’s reasoning that the Defense of Marriage Act violated the principle of Federalism. 2) Explain Justice Kennedy’s belief that the Defense of Marriage Act was discriminatory. What section(s) of the US Constitution would this violate? 3) Explain Justice Scalia’s dissent of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. 4) What did the end of Justice Kennedy’s opinion NOT decide about Same-sex marriage?
The decision before the court was whether renewal of the Voter Rights Act exceeded Congress’ authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and therefore violates the Tenth Amendment? In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act imposes current burdens that are no longer responsive to the current conditions in the voting districts in question. Although the constraints this section places on specific states made sense in the 1960s and 1970s, they do not any longer and now represent an unconstitutional violation of the power to regulate elections that the Constitution reserves for the states. The Court also held that the formula for determining whether changes to a state’s voting procedure should be federally reviewed is now outdated and does not reflect the changes that have occurred in the last 50 years in narrowing the voting turnout gap in the states in question. (Source: Oyez.org) Questions: 1) What is the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act? How did the Supreme Court rule on its constitutionality? 2) What does the decision mean for the US Congress? 3) Explain Justice Ginsburg’s dissent of the majority opinion. 4) What is judicial activism? Why did critics accuse the court of it in this decision? 5) What was the court’s decision immediate effect on the state of Texas’ Voter ID law?
Fisher filed suit against the university and other related defendants, claiming that the University of Texas' use of race as a consideration in admission decisions was in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The university argued that its use of race was a narrowly tailored means of pursuing greater diversity. The court ruled in a 7-1 decision that race can be considered, but only under a standard of strict judicial scrutiny. In affirming the lower court’s decision, the Court of Appeals did not hold the University’s admission policies to a standard of strict scrutiny, so the judgment was incorrect. (Source: Oyez.org) Questions: 1) What did Abigail Fisher challenge at the Supreme Court? What was her constitutional basis? 2) Explain the majority opinion of the Supreme Court. 3) Describe the process of this case reaching the Supreme Court. 4) Does this case have broad implications for all University admissions policy? Explain. 5) What was the main point of Justice Ginsburg’s dissent? Do you agree or disagree?
In March of 2010, the President signed legislation, passed by Congress, mandating most Americans have minimal health care coverage. Twenty-six states filed lawsuits against the federal government contending that the law was unconstitutional. At the heart of their argument was the concern that if the federal government could compel an individual into a market they did not actively engage in and financially penalize the individual if they refused, then the government could potentially force the purchase of any product or service they wanted. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that the mandate was constitutional under the commerce clause of the Constitution. The Court upheld the federal mandate in 5-4 vote. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, states that imposing the penalty was constitutional under Congress’ powers to tax. Full audio of oral arguments can be found at: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/305077-1 Source: Oyez.org 1. What does Article I, Section 8, Clause I to the Constitution say? 2. Explain the role each of the three branches of government played in the Affordable Care Act legislation. 3. What was the constitutional basis for the Supreme Court decision?
The United States government challenged an Arizona law that gave the state additional authority to regulate undocumented immigrants. Two of the three provisions in the law made it a felony for undocumented immigrants to be unlawfully present in the United States and for them to seek work or work. A third provision authorized warrantless arrests of aliens believed to be removed from the United States. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down those three provisions. However, the Court upheld a fourth provision allowing Arizona police to verify the immigration status of an individual lawfully arrested. Source: Oyez.org 1. Define federalism. 2. What does the constitution say about immigration? 3. Explain how Arizona was trying to use their states’ sovereignty powers to address the issue of immigration. 4. How is U.S. vs. Arizona an example of Federalism? Explain your answer. 5. Describe preemption and how it relates to the Arizona immigration laws.
Attorneys for Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson, both 14 years old, asked the Court to reconsider state sentencing practices that put them into prison for life, with no chance for parole. Attorney Bryan Stevenson argued life in prison with no chance for parole was excessive and unusual punishment, a violation of the minors’ 8th and 14th amendment rights. Recent decisions including Atkins vs. Virginia (2002), Roper vs. Simmons (2005), and Graham vs. Florida (2010), demonstrated a pattern of leniency in sentencing minors. Once again the Court ruled in favor of juveniles. In a 5-4 decision, Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court that sentencing minors to life without parole is excessive and unconstitutionally disproportionate compared to life without parole for adults. Source: Oyez.org 1. Describe the pattern the Supreme Court has established regarding the sentencing of juveniles convicted of major felonies. 2. Why is sentencing an adult different from sentencing a juvenile? Explain. 3. What provision of the 14th amendment is challenged in this case?
Albert Florence filed suit against two jails on the grounds that his arrest and detention for a minor offense lead to suspicion-less strip searches that violated his 4th Amendment right. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court found that the need to maintain the safety and security of jails by strip-searching all inmates placed in the general population is greater than preserving individual privacy. Contraband hidden on or in the body pose a potential threat to inmates and employees of the jail. In concurring opinions, Justices were careful to say there may be exceptions when inmates who will not come in contact with the general population would not require a strip search. 1. Why do jails routinely perform strip searches? 2. What are the constitutional requirements for a search? 3. What individual rights are limited in detention facilities and jails?
Did police violate Antoine Jones’ 4th amendment right protecting him from unwarranted searches when they placed a GPS tracking device on his car? Yes, according to a 9-0 decision by the Supreme Court in 2012. Jones was arrested for drug possession after police tracked his vehicular movements using a global positioning (GPS) device. The government reasoned that because the vehicle traveled on roads accessible by the public Jones had no expectation of privacy. Jones’ attorneys countered that the government trespassed onto his private property to install the tracking device without a warrant, violating his 4th amendment right. Police continued to monitor Jones’ movement over the course of several weeks during which no warrant was ever requested or obtained by a judge. Source: Oyez.org 1. Where does the greatest expectation of privacy exist for citizens? 2. In what way(s) did 21st century technology challenge the Supreme Court in this case? Explain. 3. If an act constitutes a search, does it always require a warrant and probable cause? Explain.
The family of Matthew Snyder, a Marine killed in Iraq, learned of a protest near their son’s funeral in March of 2006. The protest was held by the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a religious group who stage protests about God’s anger with the United States for its tolerance of homosexuals, at the funerals of fallen soldiers. The Snyder family filed a civil suit against the Phelps family, the leaders of the WBC, for $5 million dollars for invading their privacy, defaming their son, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. The Phelps family appeared with signs that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Fagtroops.” Fred Phelps countered that they were compliant with local protest policies regarding permits, their distance from the funeral, the time of the protest, and that the 1st Amendment protects their right to voice their opinions. In an 8-1 decision the Supreme Court wrote that the 1st Amendment shields citizens from financial liability for words spoken that are repugnant and offensive. Link to Oral Arguments: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/295901-1 Source: Oyez.org 1. Describe the difference between criminal and civil offenses. Which type of case was this? 2. Explain how you would compare the precedent in Snyder vs. Phelps to the precedent set in Hustler Magazine, Inc. vs. Falwell (1988)? 3. Was Matthew Snyder defamed by the Westboro Baptist Church protestors? Explain why or why not using a definition derived from the video and your own research. 4. Justice Alito, in his lone dissent, wrote “our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.” How does the government restrict repugnant and offensive speech
Two years after D.C. vs. Heller, in which the Court overturned the District of Columbia’s ban on hand guns, 2nd amendment advocates moved to challenge the constitutionality of hand gun restrictions throughout the states. Petitioners, including the National Rifle Association, defended their 2nd amendment right to bear arms and filed a lawsuit against the cities of Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois. The petitioners requested that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Heller case be extended to the states. In their decision, the Supreme Court ruled the 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms for self-defense was extended to the states and local governments based on the due process clause of the 14th amendment. The ban on hand guns in Chicago and Oak Park was struck down. Source: Oyez.org 1. Describe selective incorporation. 2. What is another name for a “friend of the court” brief? 3. What is the primary difference between the rulings in D.C. vs. Heller and McDonald vs. Chicago?
The case arose from a political documentary called Hillary: The Movie. The film's producers lost a Federal Election Commission and lower court decision that prohibited them from distributing it on a video-on-demand service on grounds that it violated a McCain-Feingold ban on corporate money being used for electioneering. The Supreme Court’s decided 5–4 in favor of Citizens United. It upheld that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment.
In 2003, legal challenges arose contesting a District of Columbia law that barred the registration of handguns, required licenses for all pistols, and mandated that all legal firearms must be kept unloaded and disassembled or trigger locked. The questions the Court faced were whether the Second Amendment’s right “to keep and bear arms” should apply to D.C. because it is a federal district rather than a state, and whether that the D.C. legislation merely regulates, rather than prohibits, gun ownership. The court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self- defense within the home. The court based its holding on the text of the Second Amendment, as well as applicable language in state constitutions adopted soon after the Second Amendment. Source: Oyez.org 1. Justice Scalia preserves what type of gun restrictions in his decision? 2. Explain the Supreme Court’s decision and its importance in the interpretation of the Second Amendment.
At a school-supervised event, in which students went outside the school to view the passing of the Olympic torch, student Joseph Frederick held up a banner with the message "Bong Hits 4 Jesus”. Principal Deborah Morse took away the banner and suspended Frederick for ten days. She justified her actions by citing the school's policy against the display of material that promotes the use of illegal drugs. Frederick sued alleging a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Frederick’s case rested on the U.S. Supreme Court viewing his case as an affirmation standard laid down in Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), which extended First Amendment protection to student speech except where the speech would cause a disturbance. The main question in the case was whether the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause allowed public schools to prohibit students from displaying messages promoting the use of illegal drugs at school-supervised events. The Court agreed with Principal Morse and ruled that school officials can prohibit students from displaying messages that promote illegal drug use. Chief Justice John Roberts's majority opinion held that although students do have some right to political speech even while in school, this right does not extend to pro-drug messages that may undermine the school's important mission to discourage drug use. Source: Oyez.org 1. What is the constitutional issue in the case? 2. What precedent was established in the U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines (1969). 3. Explain the difference in the application of the First Amendment in Morse v. Frederick.
Prior to serving as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts held many distinguished positions in the legal arena. He served as a law clerk under Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals, as well as for then-Justice William Rehnquist of the Supreme Court. He was a Special Assistant to the Attorney General, served as an Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan, and also practiced law in Washington D.C. Roberts was nominated as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court under George W. Bush in 2005.
Both McCreary County v. ACLU and Van Orden v. Perry arose out of challenges relating to the posting of the Ten Commandments monuments in public places. In McCreary, the issue related to the posting of the commandments in courthouses and public schools in Kentucky. The Van Orden case dealt with the posting of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol building in Austin, Texas. The question in both cases for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide was whether Ten Commandments displays violate the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits government from passing laws "respecting an establishment of religion.” The decisions for both cases were handed down the same day. In the McCreary case, the Court ruled 5-4 that the displays violated the establishment clause because their purpose in this instance had been to advance religion. In the Van Orden case, a 5-4 majority held that the establishment clause did not bar the monument on the grounds of Texas' state capitol building because it was included as one amongst a series of documents of civic importance. Source: Oyez.org 1. Distinguish the differences between the two cases. 2. Explain the application of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause as it relates to each case.
In the fall of 2001, Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen, was arrested by the United States military in Afghanistan. He was accused of fighting for the Taliban against the U.S., declared an "enemy combatant," and transferred to a military prison in Virginia. The case worked its way through the courts. The questions the Court faced were whether Hamdi’s Fifth Amendment right to Due Process was being violated by holding him indefinitely as an “enemy combatant” and whether the separation of powers doctrine requires the federal courts to defer to the executive branch in determining whether an American Citizen is an “enemy combatant.” Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that although Congress authorized Hamdi's detention, Fifth Amendment due process guarantees give a citizen held in the United States as an “enemy combatant” the right to contest that detention before a neutral decision make. The Court also rejected the government's argument that the separation of powers prevents the judiciary from hearing Hamdi's challenge. Source: Oyez.org 1. Where was Yaser Hamdi captured? 2. What designation did Yaser Hamdi receive from President Bush that allowed him to be held without charges or a trial for such a long period? 3. What balance should be drawn between protecting the U.S. against terrorism and the rights of American citizens who may have committed treason?
The cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger (2003) each dealt with legal challenges by individual students to admission policies based on affirmative action principles used by the University of Michigan’s Law School and University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Admission program respectively. In Grutter, The Law School admitted that it used race as a factor in making admissions decisions because it serves a "compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body" as established in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). In Gratz, the school’s Undergraduate Admission used the same reasoning and acknowledged that its policy was to admit virtually all qualified applicants who are members of one of three select racial minority groups that were considered to be "underrepresented" on the campus. In both cases, the question the U.S. Supreme Court faced was whether the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in admissions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both decisions were handed down the same day. In Grutter, the Court found that the process the Law School had used was constitutional because it was highly individualized and only considered race as one component out of many. In Gratz, the Court ruled the Undergraduate Admissions process, which awarded automatic points towards admission, based on race to be unconstitutional because it was not as “narrowly tailored.” 1. Distinguish the difference between the two cases. 2. Explain the Supreme Court’s application of the 14th amendment as it relates to each case.
Daryl Renard Atkins was convicted of abduction, armed robbery, and capital murder. In the penalty phase of Atkins' trial, the defense relied on one witness, a forensic psychologist, who testified that Atkins was mildly mentally retarded. The jury sentenced Atkins to death, but the Virginia Supreme Court ordered a second sentencing hearing because the trial court had used a misleading verdict form. During resentencing the same forensic psychologist testified, but this time the State rebutted Atkins' intelligence. The question that reached the U.S. Supreme Court was whether the execution of a person who is mentally retarded is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” The Court held that executions of mentally retarded criminals are "cruel and unusual punishments" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment and noted that a significant number of states have concluded that death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal. Source: Oyez.org 1. Identify and explain the amendment referred to in this case. 2. Explain the argument over the interpretation of the amendment. 3. What types of criteria does the court use to determine if a punishment is “cruel and unusual”?
The Supreme Court intervened in the highly contentious 2000 presidential election, ordering the state of Florida to halt its ballot recount. This decision enabled the Florida Secretary of State to certify that George W. Bush was the winner of Florida’s twenty-five electoral votes. Bush was formally named the President of the United States.
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. The question in the case was whether Congress exceeded its legislative authority under the Commerce Clause by forbidding individuals from knowingly carrying a gun in a school zone. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that Congress had exceeded its powers under the Commerce Clause and that the possession of a gun in a local school zone is not an economic activity that might have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. 1. What clause in the U.S. Constitution did Congress use to justify the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990? 2. Explain the Supreme Court’s ruling as it applies to the Constitution.
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), and 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. The question in this case is whether the new provisions Pennsylvania enacted violated their right to privacy and thus the ability to obtain an abortion as laid out in Roe v. Wade (1973). 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. Source: Oyez.org 1. Which part of Roe v Wade (1973) did the Casey case re-affirm? 2. What role did precedent play in the Casey case? 3. What happened to the compelling interest standard in this case? 4. What impact has the undue burden standard played in abortion rights?
Two Native Americans, who worked as counselors for a private drug rehabilitation organization, ingested peyote, a powerful hallucinogen, as part of their religious ceremonies as members of the Native American Church. As a result of this conduct, the rehabilitation organization fired the counselors. The counselors filed a claim for unemployment compensation. The government denied them benefits because the reason for their dismissal was considered work-related "misconduct." The counselors lost their battle in state court. But the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Oregon Supreme Court's judgment against the employees, and returned the case to the Oregon courts to determine whether or not sacramental use of illegal drugs violated Oregon's state drug laws. On remand, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that while Oregon drug law prohibited the consumption of illegal drugs for sacramental religious uses, this prohibition violated the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. The case returned to the U.S. Supreme Court. The question before the high court was whether the denial of unemployment benefits to a worker fired for using illegal drugs for religious purposes was a violation of their rights under the free exercise clause. The court held that the denial was constitutional. It stressed that it has never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that government is free to regulate. Source: Oyez.org 1. What action did Oregon take against state workers who had been found to have been using peyote as part of a religious ritual? 2. Which amendment and clause of the U.S. Constitution was applied in this case? 3. What precedent did the court establish for the states’ ability to restrict the free exercise of religion?
In 1989 the Supreme Court found that the burning of a United States flag is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. This 5-4 decision upheld the appeals court decision and affirmed that freedom of speech is a “bedrock principle” that cannot be prohibited.
In a case involving withheld articles from a school’s newspaper at Hazelwood East High School, the Supreme Court found that the First Amendment of the Constitution does not require schools to affirmatively promote specific types of student speech. In this case, the principal was justified in prohibiting the articles from publication because language in the articles was not consistent with “the shared values of a civilized social order.”
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. The question before the court was whether Congress exceeded its spending authority found in Article One and violated the Twenty-First amendment. The court held that Congress, acting indirectly to encourage uniformity in states' drinking ages, acted constitutionally. It decided that Congress was not in violation of the Twenty-First Amendment as long the conditions it laid out were unambiguous, promoted “the general welfare,” and related to “national projects or programs.” The Court also held that loss of five percent of highway funds was not the same as mandating that the states change their drinking age. Source: Oyez.org 1. How did Congress use the “power of the purse” in order to move states to adopt the national drinking age? 2. What do you think Samuel Alito means when he says the decision in South Dakota v. Dole (1987) says Congress can place conditions on the distribution of federal funds to the states as long as those conditions are “germane” to the reason for the funding?
William H. Rehnquist served as an Associate Justice and was later named Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986 during the Reagan administration. Under Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Supreme Court dealt with a number of First Amendment cases including Texas v. Johnson, the flag burning case, and Bush v. Gore. Under Chief Justice Rehnquist’s leadership, the relationship between the federal government and the state was highly examined. He died in 2005 and was later replaced by Chief Justice John G. Roberts.
Fourteen-year-old T.L.O. was accused of smoking pot and her high school principal questioned and searched her bag, yielding marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The claim was that this violated the fourth and fourteenth amendments, which the Court found it did not. The presence of rolling papers used for smoking marijuana in the purse gave rise to reasonable suspicion on behalf of the principal and was therefore not violating the Constitution.
When President Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to be the first female justice, he did so to keep a campaign promise. She was confirmed by the Senate unanimously, and developed for herself the role of a centrist coalition-builder, which enhanced her influence on the Court. Upon graduating from Stanford Law School, no law firm would hire her as an attorney (only as a legal assistant), and so began her career in public service. She worked as a deputy attorney in California, a civilian lawyer while overseas in Germany, and was the first female majority leader for the Arizona state senate, the first female to do so in the U.S.
In this controversial case, Allan Bakke, a 35-year-old white man, applied to the University of California at Davis medical school and was rejected twice. The school reserved sixteen spaces in their medical program for “qualified” minorities as part of their affirmative action program, however Bakke’s test scores and qualifications exceeded those of the minorities accepted. He claimed that he was rejected from the school solely on the basis of his race. The court was split 5-4 in favor of Bakke.
Following the aftermath of the Watergate affair, Congress attempted to prevent corruption in political campaigns by restricting financial contributions to candidates. It amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 by setting limits on the amount of money an individual could contribute to a single campaign and it required reporting of contributions above a certain threshold amount. The Federal Election Commission was created to enforce this newly amended law. The question before the nation’s highest court was whether the limits placed on electoral expenditures violated the First Amendment's freedom of speech and association clauses. The court found that restrictions on individual contributions to a campaign did not violate the First Amendment. However, limiting the amount of money a candidate could spend on their own campaign, or restricting the total amount of money that could be spent on a campaign did violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that this did not serve a government interest great enough to warrant a curtailment on free speech and association. Source: Oyez.org 1. What is the relationship between campaign donations and free speech? 2. What was the Supreme Court’s decision and explain the constitutional reasoning.
In this case involving President Richard Nixon, the Court found that the President's right to safeguard certain information by using his executive privilege was not entirely immune from judicial review. The Court recognized certain executive powers associated with military or diplomatic affairs, but required that Nixon produce tapes and documents demanded by the subpoena issued in the Watergate scandal. As a result, Nixon resigned from office and gave up his presidential duties.
In this landmark case, the Supreme Court held that a woman’s right to choose falls under the right to privacy protected under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This ruling gave women the right to full autonomy in the first trimester of their pregnancy and also defined different levels of involvement in the second and third trimester. In total, forty-six states were affected by this decision of the Supreme Court.
After the death of their adopted son, both Sally and Cecil Reed, who were separated, sought to be named the administrator of their son's estate. Idaho State law specified that "males must be preferred to females" in the appointment of administrators of estates. According to state law, Cecil was appointed administrator and Sally challenged the law in court. The question that came before the high court in this case was whether Idaho’s law, which automatically preferred males over females as the administrator of an estate, was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. In a unanimous decision, the justices wrote that the determination of an estate’s administrator can’t be made only based solely on the basis of gender. Source: Oyez.org 1. Which parent did the Idaho state law automatically favor to be the administrator of an estate? 2. What part of the 14th Amendment did the case concern? 3. Explain the Supreme Court’s decision concerning the Idaho law?
This case was heard concurrently with two others, Earley v. DiCenso (1971) and Robinson v. DiCenso (1971). The cases involved controversies over a law in Pennsylvania that provided financial support for teacher salaries, textbooks, and instructional materials for secular subjects to non-public schools. It also involved a Rhode Island law that provided direct supplemental salary payments to teachers in non-public elementary schools. Each state law made aid available to "church-related educational institutions." The question in the case was whether the financial support of "church-related educational institutions" was a violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that both states’ laws did violate the Establishment and in their opinion laid down a three-part test for laws dealing with religious establishment. To be constitutional, a law must have "a secular legislative purpose," it must have principal effects which neither advance nor inhibit religion, and it must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion." Under this test the court found that providing governmental financial support for religious schools both helped to advance religion and entangled the state in the affairs of the church. Source: Oyez.org 1. What amendment and clause of the U.S. Constitution was applied in this case? 2. What was the three part test the justices laid down in the case? 3. Should religious schools be able to receive government funding in any form? Why or why not?
New York Times v. U.S., or the "Pentagon Papers Case," originated out of an attempt by the Nixon Administration to prevent the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing materials belonging to a classified Defense Department study regarding the history of United States activities in Vietnam. The study had been leaked to the press by former military analyst and Vietnam War opponent, Daniel Ellsberg. The Nixon Administration argued that prior restraint, prevention by the government of the information’s publication, was necessary to protect national security. The question before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether the government’s attempt to prevent publication of the study violated the right of freedom of the press found in the First Amendment. The court ruled against the government writing that it did not overcome the "heavy presumption against" prior restraint of the press in this case. Justice Brennan reasoned that since publication would not cause an inevitable, direct, and immediate event imperiling the safety of American forces, prior restraint was unjustified. Source: Oyez.org 1. What amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies to prior restraint? 2. How did the Supreme Court rule and did it strengthen or weaken the concept of prior restraint? 3. Is there a situation where the government should be able to stop the media from publishing information? Explain.
Warren E. Burger replaced Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1969 during the Nixon Administration. He advocated strict adherence to the United States Constitution and identified with the Court’s conservative wing. Chief Justice Burger also spoke for a unanimous Court upholding a subpoena for the Watergate tapes, which resulted in President Nixon's resignation. Burger retired from the Supreme Court in 1986 and was replaced by William H. Rehnquist.
Under Lyndon B. Johnson, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American Justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Prior to joining the Court, he worked for the NAACP and coordinated their efforts to end segregation for over twenty years. As a liberal Justice, his dedication to equality increased as he served on the Court. He served as an Associate Justice for twenty-four years and retired in 1991.
In this controversial case, the Court outlined the necessary aspects of policy warnings to suspects. These warnings include the right to remain silent and the right to have counsel present during interrogations. The Supreme Court held that the interrogation of defendants must provide procedural safeguards to secure against self-incrimination. 1. What is the Miranda warning that resulted from the Supreme Court’s decision? 2. What two things did Miranda argue he needed but did not get at his interrogation? 3. Why did the ACLU want to see this test case go all the way to the Supreme Court?
The Tinker family decided to protest the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to their Des Moines schools. The schools administrators feared the armbands would provoke a disturbance and when the Tinkers refused to remove the armbands they were suspended from school. The Court found that wearing armbands is “closely akin to ‘pure speech’” and protected by the First Amendment. Although school environments imply limitations of free expression, the principals here lacked the justification in doing so. 1. Explain the Constitutional controversy of this case. 2. What was the decision of the Supreme Court? 3. What effect did the decision have on student free speech rights?
Estelle Griswold, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, a physician and professor at the Yale School of Medicine, opened a clinic which provided contraceptives to women. Griswold and Buxton were convicted under a Connecticut law which criminalized the provision of counseling, and other medical treatment, to married persons for purposes of preventing conception. The issue the U.S. Supreme Court confronted was whether the Constitution protected the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on a couple's ability to be counseled in the use of contraceptives. The court ruled that Connecticut state law was a violation of its citizens’ right to privacy. While the right to privacy is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, the justices in the majority wrote that it was embodied in the First, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments and applied to the states through Fourteenth Amendment . Source: Oyez.org 1. What did the Connecticut statute ban? 2. What was the Supreme Court’s decision and explain its Constitutional reasoning. 3. What famous abortion case relied on the precedent set by Griswold v. Connecticut?
This case involved a challenge by Jefferson County, Alabama to the apportionment of Alabama’s state legislative districts in both houses of the Alabama state legislature. The districts had not been redrawn since 1901, despite massive shifts in population from rural to urban areas. Alabama, like many states, had legislative districts that varied dramatically in size, with its smallest containing 6,700 people and its largest 104,000. The U.S. Supreme Court had to determine whether the unequal size of legislative districts at the state level was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The court ruled that Alabama’s apportionment did violate the equal protection clause and that states must apportion legislative seats based on population as closely as realistically possible. Chief Justice Earl Warren famously wrote in the case’s majority opinion, “Legislators represent people not trees or acres…” 1. What circumstances led up to the Supreme Court hearing the Reynolds case? 2. What does “One person, one vote” mean? Explain how the Supreme Court’s decision related to this principle.
In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court held that the defendant in this case, Clarence Gideon, had a right to be represented by a court-appointed attorney and in so doing overturned the decision made in 1942 with the Betts v. Brady case. Gideon lacked the funds to hire an attorney, and the court refused to provide one on the grounds that it was only obligated to do so to indigent defendants in capital cases. The Court found that the lack of attorney provided to Gideon violated his right to a fair trial and due process of the law, guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. 1. Prior to the Gideon case, what were the state courts’ parameters for providing counsel? 2. Which amendment(s) were cited by the Supreme Court as requiring the states to provide counsel? 3. Why is the Gideon decision important to the American justice system? What might justice look like without it?
In this case, the Supreme Court found that all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is inadmissible in a state court due to the Fourth Amendment. This was a controversial and historic decision because Dollree Mapp had been convicted on the basis of evidence that had been obtained illegally. This decision excluded illegally obtained evidence from court at all levels of the government.
Brown v. Board of education was a landmark case in the history of the Court. With a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court found that the segregation of children in public school based solely on the issue of race violated the equal protection rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court found that “separate but equal” is inherently unequal in public schools, and that the separation of minorities leads to an inferiority complex associated with race. This case was fundamental in changing state-maintained racial separation. 1. What did you think President Bush meant when he said that as a result of the Supreme Court decision, “The system of racial oppression in our country had lost its claim to legitimacy”? 2. Did all segregation and racism end after this decision? Explain. 3. What was needed to put the Brown decision into effect?
Earl Warren was appointed to the Supreme Court under President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. Warren joined the Court in the midst of cases regarding racial segregation in public schools. Eisenhower hoped Warren would be a moderate conservative, but he proved to be an unabashed liberal Justice. He favored equal opportunities for all and united the Court on issues of racial equality, showcasing his leadership ability and dedication to furthering equality standards in America. Warren retired from the Supreme Court in 1969 and was replaced by Warren E. Burger.
Fred M. Vinson served in all three branches of government during his legal career. He was a U.S. Representative from his native state of Kentucky, a trusted advisor to President Truman and his Secretary of the Treasury, and a Chief Justice of the Court. He was the leader of an extremely divided court, and decisions made during his tenure helped to pave the way for desegregation. He died suddenly of a heart attack before the rearguing of the controversial Brown vs. Board of Education case, and was replaced by Earl Warren in 1953.
In this case, the Court upheld that the President and Congress did not go beyond their war powers when Executive Order 9066 was issued, banishing civilians of Japanese ancestry from the west coast. This excluded and restricted the rights of Americans of Japanese descent during WWII. The Supreme Court sided with the United State government and held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed the rights of Fred Korematsu. In this video, Mr. Korematsu receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 1. What government order did Fred Korematsu claim was unconstitutional? 2. What was the Supreme Court’s decision? 3. What prestigious recognition did he receive from President Clinton years later and why?
Harlan F. Stone served on the Supreme Court as an associate Justice prior to his appointment as Chief Justice in 1941 under the Roosevelt administration. Stone was an academic and practiced the philosophy of judicial self-restraint. The Court was deeply divided under his leadership, and the majority was forced to continually strike down national legislation during the chaos of the New Deal. Stone died in 1946 and was replaced by Fred Vinson.
In 1937, President Roosevelt petitioned Congress to add one new Justice to the United States Supreme Court for every Justice seventy years or older (there were six). The proposal came during New Deal legislation, and although the court-packing proposal was never adopted, Roosevelt subsequently appointed all nine members of the Supreme Court during his Presidency.
After four years of construction, the Supreme Court moved out of the Senate Chamber in the Capitol and into the completed building across the street. The grand structure is made of marble and its splendor and majesty initially deterred the Justices. They refrained from moving into their new chambers and instead continued to work from home, as was the custom. Associate Justice Huge Black joined the Court in 1937, and he became the first Justice to use his personal chambers in the new Supreme Court building.