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Politics of the United States
Terms in this set (57)
Civil liberties are legal and constitutional rights that protect individuals from arbitrary acts of government.
Civil liberties include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, as well as guarantees of a fair trial.
Civil rights are policies designed to protect people against arbitrary or discriminatory treatment by government officials or individuals.
Civil rights include laws against racial and gender discrimination.
Barron v. Baltimore (1833)
John Barron owned a wharf in Baltimore Harbor. When the city of Baltimore finished a construction project, he complained that the city had made the water too shallow for most vessels and damaged his business. He argued that the Fifth Amendment required the city to provide him with just compensation.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Bill of Rights "contains no expression indicating an intention to apply them to the state governments. This court cannot so apply them."
The Supreme Court thus established a precedent that the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights did not restrict the state governments.
14th Amendment (1868)
Ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment declared, "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
The Fourteenth Amendment contains two key clauses that have had a significant impact on Supreme Court decisions and U.S. politics:
The Due Process Clause
The Equal Protection Clause
Gitlow v. New York (1925)
Benjamin Gitlow wrote a pamphlet entitled "The Revolutionary Age" urging workers to strike and join a revolution to overthrow the government.
Gitlow was arrested and convicted for violating a New York law that made it a crime to advocate the violent overthrow of the government.
Gitlow argued that the New York law violated his rights to freedom of speech and the press.
The Supreme Court voted to uphold Gitlow's conviction. However, the Court also ruled that "freedom of speech and of the press...are among the fundamental and personal rights and liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from impairment by the states..."
In Barron v. Baltimore, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts could not stop the enforcement of state laws that restricted rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. in Gitlow v. New York began the incorporation process of using the Due Process Clause
The Supreme Court's decision of the Fourteenth Amendment to extend most of the requirements of the Bill of Rights to the states.
The incorporation process did not occur at once (nor is it complete). Instead, it has been a gradual process by which the Supreme Court has used a series of individual decisions to incorporate the Bill of Rights into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Incorporating only pieces of SCOTUS decisions in state law.
"A wall of separation between Church and State"
Jefferson contended that the 1st Amendment forbade the government from supporting any religion.
Although Americans have opposed the creation of a national church, school prayer and aid to church-related schools have caused controversial court cases that have resulted in landmark Supreme Court decisions.
Engel v. Vitale (1962)
In 1951, the NY State Board of Regents approved the following prayer for recital each morning in NY schools: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country."
The father of two students, Steven Engel, objected to the prayer and argued that it violated the Establishment Clause.
The Supreme Court ruled state-sponsored prayer unconstitutional.
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
Pennsylvania's 1968 Nonpublic Elementary & Secondary Education Act allowed the state to reimburse church-related schools for secular textbooks, instructional materials, and salaries of teachers who taught secular subjects.
The Supreme Court declared that aid to church-related schools must meet the following tests: a government's action must have a secular legislative purpose, it must neither advance nor inhibit religion, and must not foster 'excessive entanglement' between government and religion.
A test seeing whether or not a government's action serves a secular legislative purpose (doesn't involve religion).
Free exercise clause
The 1st Amendment's Free Exercise Clause guarantees each person the right to believe what they want.
However, a religion cannot make an act legal that would otherwise be illegal. The government can act when religious practices violate criminal laws, offend public morals, or threaten community safety.
Oregon v. Smith (1970)
SCOTUS banned the use of illegal drugs in religious ceremonies.
Reynolds v. United States (1879)
George Reynolds was a Mormon who married two women and argued that his conviction for polygamy should be overturned because it was his religious duty to marry multiple times.
The Supreme Court made a distinction between religious beliefs and religious practices. The government can't restrict beliefs but could legislate against activities that violate the law of the land.
The Court ruled against Reynolds, arguing that permitting polygamy would "make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself."
"Clear and present danger" test
The Espionage Act of 1917 prohibited forms of dissent deemed harmful to the war effort during WWI. Charles Schenck, the general secretary of the American Socialist party, opposed America's participation in the war and sent 15,000 leaflets to potential draftees comparing the draft to slavery and urging them to 'assert their rights' and resist the draft.
Schenck was arrested but he argued that the Espionage Act was unconstitutional because it violated the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court stated "The character of every act depends on the circumstances in which it is done. The most stringent protections of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre, and causing a panic...The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils the Congress has the Right to prevent."
This ruling created the precedent that 1st Amendment guarantees are not absolute.
Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)
The Supreme Court limited the clear and present danger test by ruling that the government could punish the advocacy of illegal action only if "such advocacy is directly inciting or producing imminent lawless action".
New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)
The Supreme Court ruled that statements about public figures are libelous only when they are both false and purposely malicious.
Roth v. United States (1957)
The Supreme Court ruled that "obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press."
Miller v. California (1973)
The Court listed a number of tests for obscenity. It is important to note that it is up to each community to implement these tests.
Tinker v. Des Moines ISD (1969)
In 1965, two H.S. students protested the Vietnam War by wearing armbands containing the peace symbol. They were sent home for violating school board policy. The Court ruled that the school violated the 1st & 14th Amendments, stating the students and teachers do not 'shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech at the school house gate".
Texas v. Johnson (1989)
In 1984, Greg Johnson burned an American flag outside of the RNC convention in Dallas. Texas prosecuted Johnson under a law forbidding the "desecration of a venerated object." The Supreme Court ruled that flag burning is a form of symbolic speech and is protected.
Prior restraint is the attempt to limit freedom of press by preventing material from being published. Prior restraint is thus a form of censorship.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that prior restraint is a violation of the First Amendment protection of freedom of the press. Important test cases have included Near v. Minnesota (1931) and New York Times Company v. United States (1971).
Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988)
It is important to note that public school officials do have a broad power to censor school newspapers. In Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988), the Supreme Court ruled that school administrators can exercise "editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns."
Expressly states, "The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."
It is a court order directing that a prisoner be brought before a court and that court officers show cause why the prisoner should not be released. It prevents unjust arrests and imprisonments.
Bill of attainder
The Constitution prohibits Congress and state legislatures from passing bills of attainder, which are legislative acts that provides for the punishment of a person without a court trial.
Ex post facto laws
The Constitution prohibits Congress and the state legislatures from enacting ex post facto laws, which are laws applied to an act committed before the law was enacted.
Weeks v. United States (1914)
Exclusionary rule prohibits evidence obtained by illegal searches or seizure from being admitted in court.
First established in Weeks v. United States (1914) although at the time the decision applied only to federal cases.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
The Supreme Court extended to the exclusionary rule to the states in Mapp v. Ohio (1961). This case illustrates the process of incorporation by which the Fourth Amendment was applied to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
Clarence Gideon was accused of breaking and entering a Florida poolroom and stealing a small amount of money. At the trial, the judge refused Gideon's request for a court-appointed free lawyer.
Gideon appealed his conviction, arguing that by refusing to appoint a lawyer to help him, the Florida court violated rights promised by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right-to-counsel provision applies to those accused of major crimes under state law. This case illustrates the process of incorporation, by which the Sixth Amendment was applied to the states by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
Ernesto Miranda was a mentally challenged drifter accused of kidnapping and raping an 18 year-old woman near Phoenix.
After two hours of police interrogation, Miranda signed a written confession. The police did not inform Miranda of his constitutional rights at any time during the questioning.
The Supreme Court overturned Miranda's conviction, declaring that the police must inform criminal suspects of their constitutional rights before questioning suspects after arrest.
The Miranda rules include informing a suspect that he or she has the right to remain silent, to stop answering questions at any time, and the right to have a lawyer present during questioning. Suspects also must be told that what they say can be used against them in court.
Right to privacy
Justice Brandeis defined privacy as "the right to be left alone."
The Bill of Rights does not specifically grant Americans a right to privacy. However the following constitutional provisions imply a right to privacy:
The 1st Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion.
The 3rd Amendment's prohibition against the government forcing citizens to quarter soldiers in their homes.
The 4th Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
The 5th Amendment's rule that private property cannot be seized without "due process of law".
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
Estelle Griswold, the executive directory of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, challenged the constitutionality of an 1879 Connecticut law that prohibited the use of "any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception."
The Supreme Court ruled that the Connecticut law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy.
The majority argument, written by Justice Douglas, argued that the right to privacy was found in the unstated liberties implied by the explicitly stated rights in the Bill of Rights.
Roe v. Wade (1973)
Jane Roe (a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey) challenged the constitutionality of a Texas law allowing abortions only to save the life of the mother.
Roe argued that the decision to obtain an abortion should be protected by the right to privacy implied by the Bill of Rights.
The Supreme Court struck down the Texas law by a vote of 7 to 2.
Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989)
The Supreme Court upheld a Missouri law prohibiting abortions (except those preserving the mother's life) in any publicly operated hospital or clinic in Missouri.
Planned Parenthood of SE Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)
The Court ruled that a state may place reasonable limits that do not place an "undue burden" on a woman's right to have an abortion. This allowed later rules for 24-hour waiting periods and requiring parental consent.
Declaration of Independence
Famously declared that "all men are created equal"
U.S. political culture has interpreted this to mean a belief in political equality, legal equality, and equality of opportunity.
Again, U.S. political culture does not support economic equality.
The Court has ruled that government must have the power to make reasonable classifications between persons and groups (ex. denying the right to vote to citizens under 18, or imposing taxes on smokers).
The Court has ruled that classification by race and ethnic background is inherently suspect and must meet a strict scrutiny test. Such classifications must be justified by "compelling public interest".
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
The Court ruled that Black people were not citizens of the United States and therefore could not petition the Court.
Established the principle that national legislation could not limit the spread of slavery into the territories. Repealed the Northwest Ordinance of 1789 and Missouri Compromise of 1820.
Abolished Slavery and involuntary servitude.
Made former slaves citizens, thus invalidating the Dred Scott decision. The Due Process and Equal Protection clauses were designed to protect the rights of newly freed African Americans.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
Dispute over the legality of a Louisiana law requiring "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races" on railroad coaches.
The Court upheld the law, ruling that segregated public facilities were constitutional so long as the accommodations were "separate but equal". This sanctioned segregation and strengthened the states vs. the federal government.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
The Court ruled that racial segregated schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Reversed the principle of "separate but equal" by declaring that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Finally passed when the Senate invoked cloture to end a filibuster that lasted 83 days. The act did the following:
Ended Jim Crow segregation by making racial discrimination illegal in hotels, motels, restaurants, and other public accommodations.
Prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, or gender.
Created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Authorized the Dept. of Justice to initiate lawsuits to desegregate public facilities and schools.
Supreme Court upheld the provision outlawing segregation in places of public accommodation by ruling that such segregation involved interstate commerce and thus fell under the authority of Congress.
Disenfranchising African American voters
Poll taxes required voters to pay a special tax in order to vote. Literacy tests required voters to pass difficult reading comprehension questions to vote. White primaries excluded African Americans from voting in primaries.
By 1960, only 29% of African Americans of voting age were registered to vote in the South. In contrast, 61% of whites were registered.
24th Amendment (1964)
Prohibited poll taxes in federal elections and in 1966, the Supreme Court voided poll taxes in state elections.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
Outlawed literacy test and other discriminatory practices and provided for federal oversight of voter registration in areas with a history of discrimination. Significantly improved black voter registration and office holders.
Following the 1990 census, several state legislatures created oddly shaped districts designed to give minorities a numerical majority. Subsequent Court decisions refined the Shaw ruling and held that using race as a "predominant factor' in drawing districts was unconstitutional.
Shaw v. Reno (1993)
The Court ruled that oddly shaped minority-majority districts would be held to a standard of strict scrutiny.
Seneca Falls Convention (1848)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Lucretia Mott organized and led the Convention. Adopted resolutions calling for the abolition of legal, economic, & social discrimination against women.
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
Congress passed the ERA in 1972 and it provided that "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or by any state on account of sex." Unfortunately it fell three states short of ratification.
Affirmative Action is a policy requiring federal agencies, universities, and most employers to take positive steps to remedy the effects of past discrimination.
Supporting affirmative action
Believe that affirmative action is needed to make up for past injustices. "Freedom is not enough," insisted President Johnson. "you do not take a person who for years has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him to the staring line of a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all the others' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair." Supporters also argue that increasing the number of women and minorities in desirable jobs is an important social goal.
Criticizing affirmative action
Argue that affirmative action programs create reverse discrimination that unfairly penalizes members of the majority group. They also contend that laws and policies should promote equal opportunity, not equal results.
Regents of the University of Calfornia v. Bakke (1978)
The medical school at UC Davis opened in 1968 with 50 students. The first class did not have an admissions program for minorities and did not have any African American, Mexican American, or Native American students.
In 1971, the school increased the size of the incoming class to 100 and to remedy the absence of minority students, the Regents reserved 16 of the 100 spaces for "disadvantaged or minority" applicants and did not have to meet the same academic standards as the other applicants.
Allan Bakke, a 37 year old white NASA engineer, applied for admission and was rejected even though his test scores were higher than those of all the minority candidates who were accepted.
The Supreme Court ruled that the school's strict quota system denied Bakke the equal protection of the 14th Amendment and ordered the school to admit him. The Court did also rule that race can be one factor among others in the competition for available places
Grutter v. Bollinder (2003)
The Court upheld the policies of University of Michigan Law School and upheld the Bakke ruling that race could be a factor but that quotas were illegal.
Gratz v. Bollinger (2003)
The Court struck down the U of M undergrad admissions policy that gave minorities an automatic 20 of the 100 points required for admission. The Court ruled that this was tantamount to creating a quota system.
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