arguably the most important case in Supreme Court history, was the first U.S. Supreme Court case to apply the principle of "judicial review" -- the power of federal courts to void acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution. Written in 1803 by Chief Justice John Marshall, the decision played a key role in making the Supreme Court a separate branch of government on par with Congress and the executive. In resolving the case, Chief Justice Marshall answered three questions. First, did Marbury have a right to the writ for which he petitioned? Second, did the laws of the United States allow the courts to grant Marbury such a writ? Third, if they did, could the Supreme Court issue such a writ? With regard to the first question, Marshall ruled that Marbury had been properly appointed in accordance with procedures established by law, and that he therefore had a right to the writ. Secondly, because Marbury had a legal right to his commission, the law must afford him a remedy. The Chief Justice went on to say that it was the particular responsibility of the courts to protect the rights of individuals -- even against the president of the United States. At the time, Marshall's thinly disguised lecture to President Jefferson about the rule of law was much more controversial than his statement about judicial review (which doctrine was widely accepted).
It was in answering the third question -- whether a writ of mandamus issuing from the Supreme Court was the proper remedy -- that Marshall addressed the question of judicial review. The Chief Justice ruled that the Court could not grant the writ because Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which granted it the right to do so, was unconstitutional insofar as it extended to cases of original jurisdiction. Original jurisdiction -- the power to bring cases directly to the Supreme Court -- was the only jurisdictional matter dealt with by the Constitution itself. According to Article III, it applied only to cases "affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls" and to cases "in which the state shall be party." By extending the Court's original jurisdiction to include cases like Marbury's, Congress had exceeded it authority. And when an act of Congress is in conflict with the Constitution, it is, Marshall said, the obligation of the Court to uphold the Constitution because, by Article VI, it is the "supreme law of the land." As a result of Marshall's decision Marbury was denied his commission -- which presumably pleased President Jefferson. Jefferson was not pleased with the lecture given him by the Chief Justice, however, nor with Marshall's affirmation of the Court's power to review acts of Congress. For practical strategic reasons, Marshall did not say that the Court was the only interpreter of the Constitution (though he hoped it would be) and he did not say how the Court would enforce its decisions if Congress or the Executive opposed them. But, by his timely assertion of judicial review, the Court began its ascent as an equal branch of government -- an equal in power to the Congress and the president. Throughout its long history, when the Court needed to affirm its legitimacy, it has cited Marshall's opinion in Marbury v. Madison
was a landmark decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the power to regulate interstate commerce was granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The case was argued by some of America's most admired and capable attorneys at the time. Exiled Irish patriot Thomas Addis Emmet and Thomas J. Oakley argued for Ogden, while William Wirt and Daniel Webster argued for Gibbons.
In 1808 the Legislature of the State of New York granted to Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton exclusive navigation privileges of all the waters within the jurisdiction of that State, with boats moved by fire or steam, for a term of years. They subsequently also petitioned other states and territorial legislatures for similar monopolies, hoping to develop a national network of steamboat lines, but only Orleans Territory accepted their petition and awarded them a monopoly on the lower Mississippi. Aware of the potential of the new steamboat navigation, competitors challenged Livingston and Fulton by arguing that the commerce power of the federal government was exclusive and superseded state laws. Legal challenges followed, and in response the monopoly attempted to undercut its rivals by selling them franchises or buying their boats. Former New Jersey Gov. Aaron Ogden had tried to defy the monopoly, but ultimately purchased a license from the Livingston and Fulton assignees in 1815, and entered business with Thomas Gibbons (politician) from Georgia. The partnership collapsed three years later, however, when Gibbons operated another steamboat on Ogden's route between Elizabethtown, New Jersey and New York City, that had been licensed by the United States Congress under a 1793 law regulating the coasting trade. The former partners ended up in the New York Court of Errors, which granted a permanent injunction against Gibbons in 1820. In the interim Gibbons also had taken on Cornelius Vanderbilt as his ferry captain, and later, his business manager.
was a United States Supreme Court case. The Cherokee Nation sought a federal injunction against laws passed by the state of Georgia depriving them of rights within its boundaries, but the Supreme Court did not hear the case on its merits. It ruled that it had no original jurisdiction in the matter, as the Cherokee was a dependent nation, with a relationship to the United States like that of a ward to its guardian.The Cherokee people had lived in Georgia and what is now the southeastern United States for hundreds of years. In 1542, Hernando de Soto conducted an expedition through the southeastern United States and came into contact with at least three Cherokee villages. The English immigrants to the Carolinas began to trade with the tribe beginning in 1673. By 1711, the English were providing guns to the Cherokees in exchange for their help in fighting the Tuscarora tribe in the Tuscarora War. Cherokee trade with the English colonists of South Carolina and Georgia increased, and in the 1740s the Cherokee began to transition to a commercial hunting and farming lifestyle. In 1775, one Cherokee village was described as having 100 houses, each with a garden, orchard, hothouse, and hog pens. After a war with the colonists, the Cherokee signed a peace treaty in 1785. In 1791 the Treaty of Holston was signed by Cherokee leaders and William Blount for the United States.In June 1830, a delegation of Cherokee led by Chief John Ross, selected (at the urging of Senators Daniel Webster and Theodore Frelinghuysen), William Wirt, attorney general in the Monroe and Adams administrations, to defend Cherokee rights before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Cherokee Nation asked for an injunction, claiming that Georgia's state legislation had created laws that "go directly to annihilate the Cherokees as a political society." In court the Cherokee Nation wasn't quite sure how the state of Georgia should treat them. They weren't sure if that nation was either sovereign or a tribe. Georgia pushed hard to bring evidence that the Cherokee Nation couldn't sue as a "foreign" due to that they did not have a constitution or a strong central government. Wirt argued that "the Cherokee Nation [was] a foreign nation in the sense of our constitution and law" and was not subject to Georgia's jurisdiction. Wirt asked the Supreme Court to void all Georgia laws extended over Cherokee lands on the grounds that they violated the U.S. Constitution, United States-Cherokee treaties, and United States intercourse laws. The Court did hear the case but declined to rule on the merits. The Court determined that the framers of the Constitution did not really consider the Indian Tribes as foreign nations but more as "domestic dependent nation[s]" and consequently the Cherokee Nation lacked the standing to sue as a "foreign" nation. Chief Justice Marshall said; "The court has bestowed its best attention on this question, and, after mature deliberation, the majority is of the opinion that an Indian tribe or nation within the United States is not a foreign state in the sense of the constitution, and cannot maintain an action in the courts of the United States. " The Court held open the possibility that it yet might rule in favor of the Cherokee "in a proper case with proper parties". Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that "the relationship of the tribes to the United States resembles that of a 'ward to its guardian'." The court ruling resulted in the expulsion of the Cherokee nation. Their relocation and route is called the "The Trail of Tears." Of the 15,000 who left, 4000 died on the journey to "Indian Territory" in the present-day state of Oklahoma. was a United States Supreme Court case that ruled that the application of military tribunals to citizens when civilian courts are still operating is unconstitutional. It was also controversial because it was one of the first cases after the end of the American Civil War. Lambdin P. Milligan and four others were accused of planning to steal Union weapons and invade Union prisoner-of-war camps. Once the first prisoner of war camp was liberated, they planned to use the liberated soldiers to help fight against the Government of Indiana and free other camps of Confederate soldiers. They also planned to take over the state governments of Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. When the plan leaked, they were charged, found guilty, and sentenced to hang by a military court in 1864. However, their execution was not set until May 1865, so they were able to argue the case after the Civil War ended.The Supreme Court decided that the suspension of habeas corpus was lawful, but military tribunals did not apply to citizens in states that had upheld the authority of the Constitution and where civilian courts were still operating. In essence, the Court ruled that military tribunals could not try civilians in areas where civil courts were open, even when the military had been authorized to detain individuals without trial. It observed further that during the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, citizens may be only held without charges, not tried, and certainly not executed by military tribunals; the writ of habeas corpus is not the right itself but merely the ability to issue orders demanding the right's enforcement. It is important to note the political environment of the decision. Post-Civil War, under a Republican Congress, the Court was reluctant to hand down any decision that questioned the legitimacy of military courts, especially in the occupied South. The President's ability to suspend habeas corpus independently of Congress, a central issue, was not addressed, probably because it was moot with respect to the case at hand. Though President Lincoln suspended the writ nationwide on September 24, 1862, Congress ratified this action almost six months later, on March 3, 1863, with the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act. Milligan was detained in 1864, well after Congress formally suspended the writ. That notwithstanding, military jurisdiction had been limited. also known as the "Sugar Trust Case," was a United States Supreme Court case that limited the government's power to control monopolies. The case, which was the first heard by the Supreme Court concerning the Sherman Antitrust Act, was argued on October 24, 1894 and the decision was issued on January 21, 1895.In 1892, the American Sugar Refining Company gained control of the E. C. Knight Company and several others which resulted in a 98% monopoly of the American sugar refining industry. President Grover Cleveland, in his second term of office (1893-1897), directed the national government to sue the Knight Company under the provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act to prevent the acquisition. The question the court had to answer was, "could the Sherman Antitrust Act suppress a monopoly in the manufacture of a good, as well as its distribution?" was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that held that "liberty of contract" was implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case involved a New York law that limited the number of hours that a baker could work each day to ten, and limited the number of hours that a baker could work each week to 60. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the law was necessary to protect the health of bakers, deciding it was a labor law attempting to regulate the terms of employment, and calling it an "unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract." Lochner is one of the most controversial decisions in the Supreme Court's history, giving its name to what is known as the Lochner era. In the Lochner era, the Supreme Court issued several controversial decisions invalidating federal and state statutes that sought to regulate working conditions during the Progressive Era and the Great Depression. During the quarter-century that followed Lochner, the Supreme Court also began to use the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to protect personal (as opposed to purely property) rights, including freedom of speech and the right to send one's child to private school (which was the beginning of the line of cases that found a right to privacy in the Constitution). The Lochner era ended with West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937), in which the Supreme Court took an expansive view of the government's power to regulate economic activities. was a landmark United States Supreme Court case concerning the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II regardless of citizenship. In a 6-3 decision, the Court sided with the government, ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional. Six of eight Roosevelt nominees sided with Roosevelt. The lone Republican nominee, Owen Roberts, dissented. The opinion, written by Supreme Court justice Hugo Black, held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Fred Korematsu's individual rights, and the rights of Americans of Japanese descent. (The Court limited its decision to the validity of the exclusion orders, adding, "The provisions of other orders requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to report to assembly centers and providing for the detention of such persons in assembly and relocation centers were separate, and their validity is not in issue in this proceeding.") During the case, Solicitor General Charles Fahy is alleged to have suppressed evidence by keeping from the Court a report from the Office of Naval Intelligence indicating that there was no evidence that Japanese Americans were acting as spies or sending signals to enemy submarines. The decision in Korematsu v. United States has been very controversial. Korematsu's conviction for evading internment was overturned on November 10, 1983, after Korematsu challenged the earlier decision by filing for a writ of coram nobis. In a ruling by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted the writ (that is, it voided Korematsu's original conviction) because in Korematsu's original case, the government had knowingly submitted false information to the Supreme Court that had a material effect on the Supreme Court's decision. The Korematsu decision has not been explicitly overturned, although in 2011 the Department of Justice filed official notice, conceding that it was in error, thus erasing the case's value as precedent for interning citizens. However, the Court's opinion remains significant both for being the first instance of the Supreme Court applying the strict scrutiny standard to racial discrimination by the government and for being one of only a handful of cases in which the Court held that the government met that standard. was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court which passed 5-4. The Court held that both inculpatory and exculpatory statements made in response to interrogation by a defendant in police custody will be admissible at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against self-incrimination prior to questioning by police, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them. This had a significant impact on law enforcement in the United States, by making what became known as the Miranda rights part of routine police procedure to ensure that suspects were informed of their rights [[You have the right to be silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you]]. The Supreme Court decided Miranda with three other consolidated cases: Westover v. United States, Vignera v. New York, and California v. Stewart. The Miranda warning (often abbreviated to "Miranda," or "Mirandizing" a suspect) is the name of the formal warning that is required to be given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial situation) before they are interrogated, in accordance with the Miranda ruling. Its purpose is to ensure the accused are aware of, and reminded of, these rights under the U.S. Constitution, and that they know they can invoke them at any time during the interview.
As of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Berghuis v. Thompkins (June 1, 2010), criminal suspects who are aware of their right to silence and to an attorney, but choose not to "unambiguously" invoke them, may find any subsequent voluntary statements treated as an implied waiver of their rights, and which may be used in evidence.
is a landmark case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Constitution protected a right to privacy. The case involved a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of contraceptives. By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court invalidated the law on the grounds that it violated the "right to marital privacy". Although the Bill of Rights does not explicitly mention "privacy", Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the majority that the right was to be found in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of other constitutional protections. Justice Arthur Goldberg wrote a concurring opinion in which he used the Ninth Amendment to defend the Supreme Court's ruling. Justice Arthur Goldberg and Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote concurring opinions in which they argued that privacy is protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Byron White also wrote a concurrence based on the due process clause. Two Justices, Hugo Black and Potter Stewart, filed dissents. Justice Black argued that the right to privacy is to be found nowhere in the Constitution. Furthermore, he criticized the interpretations of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to which his fellow Justices adhered. Justice Stewart called the Connecticut statute "an uncommonly silly law" but argued that it was nevertheless constitutional. Since Griswold, the Supreme Court has cited the right to privacy in several rulings, most notably in Roe v. Wade, (1973), where the Court ruled that a woman's choice to have an abortion was protected as a private decision between her and her doctor. For the most part, the Court has made these later rulings on the basis of Justice Harlan's substantive due process rationale. is a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. Decided simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the Court ruled 7-2 that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced against the state's two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting women's health. Arguing that these state interests became stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the trimester of pregnancy. The Court later rejected Roe's trimester framework, while affirming Roe's central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability. The Roe decision defined "viable" as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid", adding that viability "is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks." In disallowing many state and federal restrictions on abortion in the United States, Roe v. Wade prompted a national debate that continues today, about issues including whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, what methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication, and what the role should be of religious and moral views in the political sphere. Roe v. Wade reshaped national politics, dividing much of the United States into pro-choice and pro-life camps, while activating grassroots movements on both sides. was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that ruled unconstitutional the admission process of the Medical School at the University of California at Davis, which set aside 16 of the 100 seats for student who were African-American, Chicano, Asian, Native American, or members of other ethnic minorities (and established a separate admissions process for these 16 spaces).
The "diversity in the classroom" justification for the policy of considering race as a factor in the admission process was different from the original purpose stated by U.C. Davis Medical School, whose special admissions program under review was designed to ensure admissions of traditionally discriminated-against minorities. U.C. Davis Medical School originally developed the program to (1) reduce the historic deficit of traditionally disfavored minorities in medical schools and the medical profession, (2) counter the effects of societal discrimination, (3) increase the number of physicians who will practice in communities currently underserved, and (4) obtain the educational benefits that flow from an ethnically diverse student body. Justice Powell wrote the opinion for the Court, which was joined by Chief Justice Burger, Justice Rehnquist, Justice Stewart, and Justice Stevens, ordering U.C. Davis Medical School to admit Allan Bakke. Justice Powell's rationale, however, did not carry a majority of justices. Justice Powell, writing for himself save Part I and V-C joined by Justice Blackmun, Justice Brennan, Justice Marshall, and Justice White, and Part III-A joined only by Justice White, concluded that while the school had a compelling interest in a diverse student body and therefore could consider race as a "plus" factor in its admissions program (Part IV-D), it could not ex ante set aside seats specifically for a certain race, resulting in the automatic exclusion of others based only on race (Part IV-B).
Chief Justice Burger, Justice Rehnquist, Justice Stewart, and Justice Stevens, while concurring in result, would have not relied on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, but instead, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
is the United States Supreme Court decision that effectively resolved the dispute surrounding the 2000 presidential election. Only eight days earlier, the United States Supreme Court had unanimously decided the closely related case of Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, (2000), and only three days earlier, had preliminarily halted a recount that was occurring. In a per curiam decision, the Court, by a 5-4 vote, ruled that no alternative method could be established within the time limits set by Title 3 of the United States Code (3 U.S.C.), § 5 (Determination of controversy as to appointment of electors), which is December 12. However, seven of the justices agreed that there was an Equal Protection Clause violation in using different standards of counting in different counties. Three concurring justices also asserted that the Florida Supreme Court had violated Article II, § 1, cl. 2 of the Constitution, by misinterpreting Florida election law that had been enacted by the Florida Legislature.
The decision allowed Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris's previous certification of George W. Bush as the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes to stand. Florida's votes gave Bush, the Republican candidate, 271 electoral votes, one more than the required 270 electoral votes to win the Electoral College and defeat Democratic candidate Al Gore, who received 266 electoral votes (a District of Columbia elector abstained). Media organizations subsequently analyzed the ballots, and under the strategy that Al Gore pursued at the beginning of the Florida recount — filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties — Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted by the consortium.
Brief Fact Summary. Certain parties sought to overturn the Line Item Veto Act as unconstitutional. Synopsis of Rule of Law. "If there is to be a new procedure in which the President will play a different role in determining the final text of what may "become a law," such change must come not by legislation but through the amendment procedures set forth in Article V of the Constitution." Facts. The Line Item Veto Act gave the president the power to cancel certain spending provisions of congressionally enacted bills. The President had to adhere to specific procedures in exercising the veto, which he did so in this case: one section from of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and one section of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, leaving the remainder of each acts to be enacted. Issue. Whether the Line Item Veto Act's cancellation procedures violate the Presentment Clause of the Constitution. Held. Yes. The Supreme Court noted the key differences between the Veto Act and standard constitutional procedure. "The constitutional return takes place before the bill becomes law; the statutory cancellation occurs after the bill becomes law. The constitutional return is of the entire bill; the statutory cancellation is of only a part." While the Court acknowledged that the Constitution didn't specifically ban a line-item veto, it argued that it should construe "constitutional silence on this profoundly important issue as equivalent to an express prohibition." While the Court acknowledged that the President acted within the statute, as Congress intended, "Congress cannot alter the procedures set out in Article I, Section:7, without amending the Constitution." Dissent. The dissenting justices argued that the executive and the legislative branch were simply readjusting their powers with respect to each other, and neither was gaining or losing their powers appreciably. Concurrence. Justice Kennedy wrote his concurrence in response to the dissent, specifically that the separation of powers is all important. Discussion. "If this Act were valid, it would authorize the President to create a law whose text was not voted on by either House or presented to the President for signature." CHAPTER III. Procedural Frameworks for Administrative Action Brief Fact Summary. Prior to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Act), the Appellant, Heart Atlanta Motel, Inc. (Appellant) operated a motel which refused accommodations to blacks. Appellant intended to continue this behavior to challenge Congress' authority to pass the Act. Synopsis of Rule of Law. Congress may regulate the ability of commercial institutions to deny service on the basis of race under its power to regulate interstate commerce. Facts. Heart of Atlanta Motel had 216 rooms available to transient guests and had historically rented rooms only to white guests. Appellant solicits business from outside the State of Georgia through advertising in national travel magazines and other media. Approximately 70% of its guests are from outside the state. Appellant contends that Congress has overreached its authority under the Commerce Clause in enacting the Act. Issue. May Congress prohibit racial discrimination in hotel lodging under the Commerce Clause? Held. Yes. Appeals court ruling affirmed. Congress heard testimony from many sources describing the hardships blacks face in securing transient accommodations throughout the United States. With an increasingly mobile populace, this brought increasing difficulties to many United States citizens. It does not matter that Congress was addressing a moral issue (see the dissent in Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918) and the Supreme Court of the United States' (Supreme Court) opinion in Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941). What the Supreme Court is examining is Congress' power to enact the legislation, not the impetus behind the Act. Concurrence. Justice William Douglas (J. Douglas) concurs in the judgment, but he is uneasy resting the decision on the Commerce Clause, rather than Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution). He feels that it is more appropriate to rest civil rights legislation on the constitutional status of the individual, than the impact on commerce. Discussion. The first of the modern civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, Heart of Atlanta Motel, illustrates the plenary nature with which the Supreme Court had vested the commerce power. The view expressed by J. Douglas was eschewed by the majority, largely because in The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), the Supreme Court had ruled that Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution could not regulate private behavior. was a landmark case in criminal procedure, in which the United States Supreme Court decided that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures," may not be used in state law criminal prosecutions in state courts, as well, as had previously been the law, as in federal criminal law prosecutions in federal courts. The Supreme Court accomplished this by use of a principle known as selective incorporation; in this case this involved the incorporation of the provisions, as construed by the Court, of the Fourth Amendment which are literally applicable only to actions of the federal government into the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause which is literally applicable to actions of the states. Brief Fact Summary. Police officers sought a bombing suspect and evidence of the bombing at the petitioner, Miss Mapp's (the "petitioner") house. After failing to gain entry on an initial visit, the officers returned with what purported to be a search warrant, forcibly entered the residence, and conducted a search in which obscene materials were discovered. The petitioner was tried and convicted for these materials. Synopsis of Rule of Law. All evidence discovered as a result of a search and seizure conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution ("Constitution") shall be inadmissible in State court proceedings. Facts. Three Cleveland police officers arrived at the petitioner's residence pursuant to information that a bombing suspect was hiding out there and that paraphernalia regarding the bombing was hidden there. The officers knocked and asked to enter, but the petitioner refused to admit them without a search warrant after speaking with her attorney. The officers left and returned approximately three hours later with what purported to be a search warrant. When the petitioner failed to answer the door, the officers forcibly entered the residence. The petitioner's attorney arrived and was not permitted to see the petitioner or to enter the residence. The petitioner demanded to see the search warrant and when presented, she grabbed it and placed it in her shirt. Police struggled with the petitioner and eventually recovered the warrant. The petitioner was then placed under arrest for being belligerent and taken to her bedroom on the second floor of the residence. The officers then conducted a widespread search of the residence wherein obscene materials were found in a trunk in the basement. The petitioner was ultimately convicted of possessing these materials. Issue. Whether evidence discovered during a search and seizure conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution shall be admissible in a State court? Held. Justice Tom Clark ("J. Clark") filed the majority opinion. No, the exclusionary rule applies to evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure clause in all State prosecutions. Since the Fourth Amendment's right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the same sanction of exclusion is also enforceable against them. The purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter illegally obtaining evidence and to compel respect for the constitutional guarantee in the only effective manner. Otherwise, a State, by admitting illegally obtained evidence, disobeys the Constitution that it has sworn to uphold. A federal prosecutor may make no use of illegally obtained evidence, but a State prosecutor across the street may, although he supposedly is operating under the enforceable prohibitions of the same Amendment. If the criminal is to go free, then it must be the law that sets him fr
ee. Our government is the potent, omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law. Dissent. Justice John Harlan ("J. Harlan") filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Felix Frankfurter ("J. Frankfurter") and Justice Charles Whittaker ("J. Whittaker"). A recent study shows that one half of the States still adhere to the common-law non-exclusionary rule. The main concern is not the desirability of the rule, but whether the States should be forced to follow it. This Court should continue to forbear from fettering the States with an adamant rule which may embarrass them in coping with their own peculiar problems in criminal law enforcement. Concurrence.
was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision wherein the court redefined its definition of obscenity from that of "utterly without socially redeeming value" to that that lacks "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." It is now referred to as the Three-prong standard or Miller test. Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Miller's (Defendant) conviction for mailing advertisements for "adult" books to unwilling recipients was vacated and remanded in an effort to shift the burden of obscenity determinations to the state and local courts. Synopsis of Rule of Law. In determining whether speech is obscene, the basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of sex, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literacy, artistic, political, or scientific value. Facts. The Defendant was convicted under the California Penal Code for mailing advertisements for "adult" material to non-soliciting recipients. Issue. Whether state statutes may regulate obscene material without limits? Held. No. Judgment of the lower court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. In determining whether speech is obscene, the basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of sex, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literacy, artistic, political, or scientific value. The Supreme Court of the Untied States (Supreme Court) does not adopt as a constitutional standard the "utterly without redeeming social value" test. If a state law that regulates obscene material is thus limited, as written or construed, First Amendment constitutional values are adequately protected by the ultimate power of appellate courts to conduct an independent review of constitutional claims when necessary. Dissent. To send men to jail for violating standards that they cannot understand due to vagueness, denies them of due process. The statute in question is overbroad and thus, unconstitutional. Discussion. This case attempts a new definition and clarification of obscenity while also trying to shift the burden of obscenity determinations to the state and local courts. Brief Fact Summary. The federal Brady Act interim provisions required state and local law enforcement officials to temporarily do background checks. Two local law enforcement officials challenged the constitutionality of the interim provisions.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Congress may not compel a state or local government to implement federal regulatory programs, even if they are temporary functions.
Facts. Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act (the Act). The Act required the Attorney General to establish a national background check system. Until the national system became computerized, interim provisions for background checks were established. Those provisions provided that state and local law enforcement officers must do background checks before issuing permits to buy firearms. Two local law enforcement officers challenged the constitutionality of the Act's interim provisions.
Issue. May Congress compel a state or local government to even temporarily implement and administer a federal regulatory program?
Held. No. Judgment reversed.
In New York v. United States, the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) held the federal government could not compel the states to enact or administer a federal regulatory program. Thus, the background check provisions of the Act violated this prohibition.
Even if there is no policy-making involved, Congress cannot take away a state's sovereignty. Federalism mandates states remain independent from the federal government.
Dissent. (Stevens, J) The federal commerce power gives Congress the right to regulate handguns. The Necessary and Proper Clause gives Congress the right to implement its regulations by using local officials. Further, since private citizens could be compelled by Congress to assist in identifying people who could not be trusted with handguns, there is no reason why states could not be compelled to perform the same function.
(Souter, J) States have an obligation to support federal law, so state officials may be employed to perform national functions.
(Breyer, J) There is no reason to interpret the United States Constitution (Constitution) as forbidding state officials from carrying out federal duties. Other countries have successfully had states implement and administer federal laws.
Concurrence. (O'Connor, J) The majority correctly held that directly compelling state officials to administer a federal regulatory program is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court correctly refrained from deciding whether other easy to perform duties imposed by Congress on states would also be invalid.
(Thomas, J) Since Congress does not have the authority to regulate intrastate transfer of firearms they also do not have the authority to require state officials to administer and enforce such regulations.
Discussion. The Supreme Court restrains Congress by not allowing them to force a state to legislate or regulate in a particular way, even if the legislation or regulation deals with ministerial funct
is a United States Supreme Court case in which all nine Justices of the Court voted to strike down anti-indecency provisions of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), because they violated the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. Two Justices concurred in part and dissented in part to the decision. This was the first major Supreme Court ruling on the regulation of materials distributed via the Internet.
Brief Fact Summary. Two provisions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) that criminalized providing obscene materials to minors by on the internet were held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Where a content-based blanket restriction on speech is overly broad by prohibiting protected speech as well as unprotected speech, such restriction is unconstitutional.
Facts. At issue is the constitutionality of two statutory provisions enacted to protect minors from "indecent" and "patently offensive" communications on the Internet. The District Court made extensive findings of fact about the Internet and the CDA. It held that the statute abridges the "freedom of speech" protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
Issue. Whether the two CDA statutory provisions at issue are constitutional?
Held. No. Judgment of the District Court affirmed. Under the CDA, neither parents' consent nor their participation would avoid application of the statute. The CDA fails to provide any definition of "indecent" and omits any requirement that the "patently offensive material" lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Further, the CDA's broad categorical prohibitions are not limited to particular times and are not dependent on any evaluation by an agency familiar with the unique characteristics of the Internet. CDA applies to the entire universe of the cyberspace. Thus, the CDA is a content-based blanket restriction on speech, as such, cannot be properly analyzed as a form of time, place and manner restriction. The CDA lacks the precision that the First Amendment of the Constitution requires when a statute regulates the content of speech. In order to deny minors access to potentially harmful speech, the statute suppresses a large amount of speech that adults have a
constitutional right to receive. The CDA places an unacceptable burden on protected speech, thus, the statute is invalid as unconstitutional.
Concurrence. The constitutionality of the CDA as a zoning law hinges on the extent to which it substantially interferes with the First Amendment rights of adults. Because the rights of adults are infringed only by the "display" provision and by the "indecency transmission" provision, the judge would invalidate the CDA only to that extent.
Discussion. This case brings the First Amendment of the Constitution into the Internet age while prohibiting speech regulations that are overbroad despite their seemingly benevolent goals.
was a United States Supreme Court case deciding on the issue of silent school prayer.
An Alabama law authorized teachers to set aside one minute at the start of each day for a moment of "meditation or voluntary prayer."
Ishmael Jaffree, an American citizen, was a resident of Mobile County, Alabama and a parent of three students who attended school in the Mobile County public school system; two of the three children were in the second grade and the third was in kindergarten. On May 28, 1982, Jaffree brought suit naming the Mobile County School Board, various school officials, and the minor plaintiffs' three teachers as defendants. Jaffree sought a declaratory judgment and an injunction restraining the defendants from "maintaining or allowing the maintenance of regular religious prayer services or other forms of religious observances in the Mobile County Public Schools in violation of the First Amendment as made applicable to states by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Jaffree's complaint further alleged that two of his children had been subjected to various acts of religious indoctrination and that the defendant teachers had led their classes in saying certain prayers in unison on a daily basis; that as a result of not participating in the prayers his minor children had been exposed to ostracism from their peer group classmates; and that Jaffree had repeatedly but unsuccessfully requested that the prayers be stopped.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama allowed the practice and found in favor of the defendants. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding the law unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that the Alabama law violated constitutional principle. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, and Lewis Powell. In his original opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens referred to "Mohammedism" when referencing the Islamic faith but amended this to Islam after receiving a letter from Omar Kader, then president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Justice Powell wrote a separate concurring opinion, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Associate Justices William H. Rehnquist (later Chief Justice) and Byron White issued dissenting opinions. Rehnquist asserted that the Court's Establishment Clause reasoning was flawed in as much as it was based on the writings of Thomas Jefferson, who was not the author of the Clause.
From the court opinion:
Section 16-1-20.1 is a law respecting the establishment of religion and thus violates the First Amendment.
(a) The proposition that the several States have no greater power to restrain the individual freedoms protected by the First Amendment than does Congress is firmly embedded in constitutional jurisprudence. The First Amendment was adopted to curtail Congress' power to interfere with the individual's freedom to believe, to worship, and to express himself in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience......
(b) One of the well-established criteria for determining the constitutionality of a statute under the Establishment Clause is that the statute must have a secular legislative purpose. The First Amendment requires that a statute must be invalidated if it is entirely motivated by a purpose to advance religion.
(c) The record here not only establishes that 16-1-20.1's purpose was to endorse religion, it also reveals that the enactment of the statute was not motivated by any clearly secular purpose." "...The State's endorsement, by enactment of 16-1-20.1, of prayer activities at the beginning of each schoolday is not consistent with the established principle that the government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.
Facts of the Case
In 1986, the state of Missouri enacted legislation that placed a number of restrictions on abortions. The statute's preamble indicated that "[t]he life of each human being begins at conception," and the law codified the following restrictions: public employees and public facilities were not to be used in performing or assisting abortions unnecessary to save the mother's life; encouragement and counseling to have abortions was prohibited; and physicians were to perform viability tests upon women in their twentieth (or more) week of pregnancy. Lower courts struck down the restrictions.
Did the Missouri restrictions unconstitutionally infringe upon the right to privacy or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Decision: 5 votes for Webster, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process
In a controversial and highly fractured decision, the Court held that none of the challenged provisions of the Missouri legislation were unconstitutional. First, the Court held that the preamble had not been applied in any concrete manner for the purposes of restricting abortions, and thus did not present a constitutional question. Second, the Court held that the Due Process Clause did not require states to enter into the business of abortion, and did not create an affirmative right to governmental aid in the pursuit of constitutional rights. Third, the Court found that no case or controversy existed in relation to the counseling provisionsof the law. Finally, the Court upheld the viability testing requirements, arguing that the State's interest in protecting potential life could come into existence before the point of viability. The Court emphasized that it was not revisiting the essential portions of the holding in Roe v. Wade.
Facts of the Case
Between 1980 and 1990, only one of Georgia's ten congressional districts was majority-black. According to the 1990 decennial census, Georgia's black population of 27% entitled blacks to an additional eleventh congressional seat, prompting Georgia's General Assembly to re-draw the state's congressional districts. After the Justice Department refused pre-clearance of several of the Assembly's proposed new districts, the Assembly was finally successful in creating an additional majority-black district through the forming of an eleventh district. This district, however, was called a "geographic monstrosity" because it extended 6,784.2 square miles from Atlanta to the Atlantic Ocean. In short, "the social, political, and economic makeup of the Eleventh District tells a tale of disparity, not community."
Is racial gerrymandering of the congressional redistricting process a violation of the Equal Protection Clause?
Decision: 5 votes for Johnson, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection
Yes. In some instances, a reapportionment plan may be so highly irregular and bizarre in shape that it rationally cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to segregate voters based on race. Applying the rule laid down in Shaw v. Reno requires strict scrutiny whenever race is the "overriding, predominant force" in the redistricting process.
Facts of the Case
New London, a city in Connecticut, used its eminent domain authority to seize private property to sell to private developers. The city said developing the land would create jobs and increase tax revenues. Kelo Susette and others whose property was seized sued New London in state court. The property owners argued the city violated the Fifth Amendment's takings clause, which guaranteed the government will not take private property for public use without just compensation. Specifically the property owners argued taking private property to sell to private developers was not public use. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled for New London.
Does a city violate the Fifth Amendment's takings clause if the city takes private property and sells it for private development, with the hopes the development will help the city's bad economy?
Decision: 5 votes for City of New London, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Takings Clause
No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the majority held that the city's taking of private property to sell for private development qualified as a "public use" within the meaning of the takings clause. The city was not taking the land simply to benefit a certain group of private individuals, but was following an economic development plan. Such justifications for land takings, the majority argued, should be given deference. The takings here qualified as "public use" despite the fact that the land was not going to be used by the public. The Fifth Amendment did not require "literal" public use, the majority said, but the "broader and more natural interpretation of public use as 'public purpose.'"
was a writ of habeas corpus submission made in a civilian court of the United States on behalf of Lakhdar Boumediene, a naturalized citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, held in military detention by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in Cuba. Guantanamo Bay is not formally part of the United States, and under the terms of the 1903 lease between the United States and Cuba, Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty over the territory, while the United States exercises complete jurisdiction and control. The case was consolidated with habeas petition Al Odah v. United States. It challenged the legality of Boumediene's detention at the United States Naval Station military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as well as the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Oral arguments on the combined cases were heard by the Supreme Court on December 5, 2007.
On June 12, 2008, Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion for the 5-4 majority, holding that the prisoners had a right to the habeas corpus under the United States Constitution and that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was an unconstitutional suspension of that right. The Court applied the Insular Cases, by the fact that the United States, by virtue of its complete jurisdiction and control, maintains "de facto" sovereignty over this territory, while Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty over the territory, to hold that the aliens detained as enemy combatants on that territory were entitled to the writ of habeas corpus protected in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. The lower court had expressly indicated that no constitutional rights (not merely the right to habeas) extend to the Guantanamo detainees, rejecting petitioners' arguments, but the Supreme Court held that fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution extend to the Guantanamo detainees as well.
Along with Rasul v. Bush (2004), Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), this is a landmark case in the Court's detainee jurisprudence.
Facts of the Case
In 2002 Lakhdar Boumediene and five other Algerian natives were seized by Bosnian police when U.S. intelligence officers suspected their involvement in a plot to attack the U.S. embassy there. The U.S. government classified the men as enemy combatants in the war on terror and detained them at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which is located on land that the U.S. leases from Cuba. Boumediene filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging violations of the Constitution's Due Process Clause, various statutes and treaties, the common law, and international law. The District Court judge granted the government's motion to have all of the claims dismissed on the ground that Boumediene, as an alien detained at an overseas military base, had no right to a habeas petition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal but the Supreme Court reversed in Rasul v. Bush, which held that the habeas statute extends to non-citizen detainees at Guantanamo.
In 2006, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). The Act eliminates federal courts' jurisdiction to hear habeas applications from detainees who have been designated (according to procedures established in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005) as enemy combatants. When the case was appealed to the D.C. Circuit for the second time, the detainees argued that the MCA did not apply to their petitions, and that if it did, it was unconstitutional under the Suspension Clause. The Suspension Clause reads: "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."
The D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the government on both points. It cited language in the MCA applying the law to "all cases, without exception" that pertain to aspects of detention. One of the purposes of the MCA, according to the Circuit Court, was to overrule the Supreme Court's opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which had allowed petitions like Boumediene's to go forward. The D.C. Circuit held that the Suspension Clause only protects the writ of habeas corpus as it existed in 1789, and that the writ would not have been understood in 1789 to apply to an overseas military base leased from a foreign government. Constitutional rights do not apply to aliens outside of the United States, the court held, and the leased military base in Cuba does not qualify as inside the geographic borders of the U.S. In a rare reversal, the Supreme Court granted certiorari after initially denying review three months earlier.
Read the Briefs for this Case
Should the Military Commissions Act of 2006 be interpreted to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by foreign citizens detained at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?
If so, is the Military Commissions Act of 2006 a violation of the Suspension Clause of the Constitution?
Are the detainees at Guantanamo Bay entitled to the protection of the Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law and of the Geneva Conventions?
Can the detainees challenge the adequacy of judicial review provisions of the MCA before they have sought to invoke that review?
Decision: 5 votes for Boumediene, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 2: Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus
A five-justice majority answered yes to each of these questions. The opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, stated that if the MCA is considered valid its legislative history requires that the detainees' cases be dismissed. However, the Court went on to state that because the procedures laid out in the Detainee Treatment Act are not adequate substitutes for the habeas writ, the MCA operates as an unconstitutional suspension of that writ. The detainees were not barred from seeking habeas or invoking the Suspension Clause merely because they had been designated as enemy combatants or held at Guantanamo Bay. The Court reversed the D.C. Circuit's ruling and found in favor of the detainees. Justice David H. Souter concurred in the judgment. Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia filed separate dissenting opinions.
is a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that Sections 319(a) and (b) of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (popularly known as the McCain-Feingold Act) unconstitutionally infringed on a candidate's First Amendment rights.
Facts of the Case
Jack Davis, a wealthy Democratic candidate for Congress from New York's 26th Congressional District, brought this claim challenging the constitutionality of the so-called 'Millionaire's Amendment' to the 2002 campaign finance law. Davis argued in the district court that the law, which basically raises the contribution cap for individuals running against self-financed candidates, violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection principle implicit in the Fifth Amendment. The district court rejected both of these claims, stating first that the law did not implicate the First Amendment because it did not impede Davis' ability to spend money in support of his message, noting that it actually led to a higher level of speech in the race overall. The district court similarly rejected Davis' Fifth Amendment claim, reasoning that although Davis may have been held to higher reporting standards than his opponent, his disproportionate wealth meant that the two candidates were not similarly situated and, therefore, the Equal Protection Clause did not apply. The campaign finance law allows direct appeal to the Court, which will consider whether Davis has standing to bring the First Amendment claim before deciding the case on the merits.
Does the Millionaire's Amendment to the 2002 campaign finance law, which raises the contribution limit for those running against a self-financed candidate, violate free speech clause of the First Amendment and the equal protection principle of the Fifth Amendment?
Decision: 5 votes for Davis, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 2 U.S.C. 441
Yes. Although all nine Justices agreed that Davis had standing to argue his case before the Court, only a 5-4 majority held that the contribution limits violated the First Amendment. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito noted that the Court had never upheld the constitutionality of a law imposing different contribution limits for candidates competing against one another. Because the Court found the laws in violation of the First Amendment, it did not reach the question of whether the Fifth Amendment was also violated. Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer, filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, agreeing with the majority that Davis had standing but citing the reasoning of the district court to argue that the contribution cap did not violate the First or Fifth Amendment. Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Breyer, wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, agreeing with Justice Stevens's argument but basing it on slightly different grounds.
is a case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of most of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), often referred to as the McCain-Feingold Act.
The case takes its name from Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and the Federal Election Commission, the federal agency that oversees U.S. campaign finance laws.
It was partially overruled by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 50 (2010).
Facts of the Case
In early 2002, a many years-long effort by Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold to reform the way that money is raised for--and spent during-- political campaigns culminated in the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (the so-called McCain-Feingold bill). Its key provisions were a) a ban on unrestricted ("soft money") donations made directly to political parties (often by corporations, unions, or well-healed individuals) and on the solicitation of those donations by elected officials; b) limits on the advertising that unions, corporations, and non-profit organizations can engage in up to 60 days prior to an election; and c) restrictions on political parties' use of their funds for advertising on behalf of candidates (in the form of "issue ads" or "coordinated expenditures").
The campaign finance reform bill contained an unusual provision providing for an early federal trial and a direct appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, by-passing the typical federal judicial process. In May a special three-judge panel struck down portions of the Campaign Finance Reform Act's ban on soft-money donations but upheld some of the Act's restrictions on the kind of advertising that parties can engage in. The ruling was stayed until the Supreme Court could hear and decide the resulting appeals.
Does the "soft money" ban of the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 exceed Congress's authority to regulate elections under Article 1, Section 4 of the United States Constitution and/or violate the First Amendment's protection of the freedom to speak?
Do regulations of the source, content, or timing of political advertising in the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 violate the First Amendment's free speech clause?
Decision: 5 votes for McConnell, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly
With a few exceptions, the Court answered "no" to both questions in a 5-to-4 decision written by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens. Because the regulations dealt mostly with soft-money contributions that were used to register voters and increase attendance at the polls, not with campaign expenditures (which are more explicitly a statement of political values and therefore deserve more protection), the Court held that the restriction on free speech was minimal. It then found that the restriction was justified by the government's legitimate interest in preventing "both the actual corruption threatened by large financial contributions and... the appearance of corruption" that might result from those contributions.
In response to challenges that the law was too broad and unnecessarily regulated conduct that had not been shown to cause corruption (such as advertisements paid for by corporations or unions), the Court found that such regulation was necessary to prevent the groups from circumventing the law. Justices O'Connor and Stevens wrote that "money, like water, will always find an outlet" and that the government was therefore justified in taking steps to prevent schemes developed to get around the contribution limits.
The Court also rejected the argument that Congress had exceeded its authority to regulate elections under Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution. The Court found that the law only affected state elections in which federal candidates were involved and also that it did not prevent states from creating separate election laws for state and local elections.
is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that issue ads may not be banned from the months preceding a primary or general election.
Facts of the Case
Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL), a nonprofit political advocacy corporation, ran three advertisements encouraging viewers to contact two U.S. Senators and tell them to oppose filibusters of judicial nominees. WRTL intended to keep running the ads through the 2004 election, but the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) prohibits corporate funds from being used for certain political advertisements in the 60-day period prior to an election. WRTL sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC), claiming that the BCRA was unconstitutional as applied to the advertisements. In 2006, the Supreme Court let the "as applied" challenge proceed (see Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission, 04-1581). In McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, the Court had upheld Congress's power to regulate "express advocacy" ads that support or oppose political candidates, but WRTL claimed that its ads were "issue ads" rather than express advocacy. WRTL also argued that the government lacked a compelling interest sufficient to override the corporation's First Amendment free speech interest. The FEC countered that WRTL's ads were "sham issue ads," which refrain from explicitly endorsing or opposing a candidate but are intended to affect an election.
A three-judge District Court agreed with WRTL's arguments and ruled the BCRA unconstitutional as applied to the ads. The court refused the FEC's request that it inquire into the intent and likely effect of the ads, because those determinations would be impractical and would have a chilling effect on protected speech. Analyzing only the explicit content of the ads, the court found them to be legitimate issue ads and not express advocacy or sham issue ads. The court also held that the government's justification for banning express advocacy ads by corporations - the need to reduce political corruption and public cynicism - did not apply to ads that do not endorse or oppose a candidate. Therefore, the court ruled that the government lacked a compelling interest to justify the burden on WRTL's First Amendment rights.
Is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act's ban on the use of corporate treasury funds for political advertisements in the 60 days before an election unconstitutional as applied to advertisements that do not explicitly endorse or oppose a candidate?
Decision: 5 votes for Wisconsin Right to Life, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Federal Election Campaign
Yes. By a 5-4 vote the Court ruled that BCRA's limitations on political advertising were unconstitutional as they applied to issue ads like WRTL's. Chief Justice John Roberts's majority opinion held that the ads were genuine issue ads, not express political advocacy or its functional equivalent (which Congress can concededly regulate). The Court held that McConnell v. FEC did not establish the test that any ad intended to influence an election and having that effect is express advocacy. Such a test would be open-ended and burdensome, would lead to bizarre results, and would "unquestionably chill a substantial amount of political speech." Instead, the Court adopted the test that "an ad is the functional equivalent of express advocacy only if the ad is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate." The Court further held that the compelling state interests invoked by the government to regulate advocacy did not apply with equal force to genuine issue ads. Neither the interest in preventing corruption nor the goal of limiting the distorting effects of corporate wealth was sufficient to override the right of a corporation to speak through ads on public issues. This conclusion, the Court held, was necessary in order to "give the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship." The dissent by Justice Souter called WRTL's ads indistinguishable from political advocacy ads and accused the majority of implicitly overruling McConnell v. FEC.
Facts of the Case
Citizens United sought an injunction against the Federal Election Commission in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to prevent the application of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) to its film Hillary: The Movie. The Movie expressed opinions about whether Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president.
In an attempt to regulate "big money" campaign contributions, the BCRA applies a variety of restrictions to "electioneering communications." Section 203 of the BCRA prevents corporations or labor unions from funding such communication from their general treasuries. Sections 201 and 311 require the disclosure of donors to such communication and a disclaimer when the communication is not authorized by the candidate it intends to support.
Citizens United argued that: 1) Section 203 violates the First Amendment on its face and when applied to The Movie and its related advertisements, and that 2) Sections 201 and 203 are also unconstitutional as applied to the circumstances.
The United States District Court denied the injunction. Section 203 on its face was not unconstitutional because the Supreme Court in McConnell v. FEC had already reached that determination. The District Court also held that The Movie was the functional equivalent of express advocacy, as it attempted to inform voters that Senator Clinton was unfit for office, and thus Section 203 was not unconstitutionally applied. Lastly, it held that Sections 201 and 203 were not unconstitutional as applied to the The Movie or its advertisements. The court reasoned that the McConnell decision recognized that disclosure of donors "might be unconstitutional if it imposed an unconstitutional burden on the freedom to associate in support of a particular cause," but those circumstances did not exist in Citizen United's claim.
1) Did the Supreme Court's decision in McConnell resolve all constitutional as-applied challenges to the BCRA when it upheld the disclosure requirements of the statute as constitutional?
2) Do the BCRA's disclosure requirements impose an unconstitutional burden when applied to electioneering requirements because they are protected "political speech" and not subject to regulation as "campaign speech"?
3) If a communication lacks a clear plea to vote for or against a particular candidate, is it subject to regulation under the BCRA?
4) Should a feature length documentary about a candidate for political office be treated like the advertisements at issue in McConnell and therefore be subject to regulation under the BCRA?
Decision: 5 votes for Citizens United, 4 vote(s) against
No. No. Yes. Yes. The Supreme Court overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and portions of McConnell v. FEC. (In the prior cases, the Court had held that political speech may be banned based on the speaker's corporate identity.) By a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines, the majority held that under the First Amendment corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin G. Scalia, Samuel A. Alito, and Clarence Thomas. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Sonia Sotamayor. The majority maintained that political speech is indispensable to a democracy, which is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation. The majority also held that the BCRA's disclosure requirements as applied to The Movie were constitutional, reasoning that disclosure is justified by a "governmental interest" in providing the "electorate with information" about election-related spending resources. The Court also upheld the disclosure requirements for political advertising sponsors and it upheld the ban on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.
In a separate concurring opinion, Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justice Alito, emphasized the care with which the Court handles constitutional issues and its attempts to avoid constitutional issues when at all possible. Here, the Court had no narrower grounds upon which to rule, except to handle the First Amendment issues embodied within the case. Justice Scalia also wrote a separate concurring opinion, joined by Justices Alito and Thomas in part, criticizing Justice Stevens' understanding of the Framer's view towards corporations. Justice Stevens argued that corporations are not members of society and that there are compelling governmental interests to curb corporations' ability to spend money during local and national elections.