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Schenck v. U.S. (1919)
During World War I, Schenck mailed circulars to draftees. The circulars suggested that the draft was a monstrous wrong motivated by the capitalist system. The circulars urged "Do not submit to intimidation" but advised only peaceful action such as petitioning to repeal the Conscription Act. Schenck was charged with conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act by attempting to cause insubordination in the military and to obstruct recruitment
Gitlow v. New York (1925)
Gitlow, a socialist, was arrested for distributing copies of a "left-wing manifesto" that called for the establishment of socialism through strikes and class action of any form. Gitlow was convicted under a state criminal anarchy law, which punished advocating the overthrow of the government by force. At his trial, Gitlow argued that since there was no resulting action flowing from the manifesto's publication, the statute penalized utterences without propensity to incitement of concrete action. The New York courts had decided that anyone who advocated the doctrine of violent revolution violated the law.
Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969)
In December 1965, a group of students in Des Moines held a meeting in the home of 16-year-old Christopher Eckhardt to plan a public showing of their support for a truce in the Vietnam war. They decided to wear black armbands throughout the holiday season and to fast on December 16 and New Year's Eve. The principals of the Des Moines school learned of the plan and met on December 14 to create a policy that stated that any student wearing an armband would be asked to remove it, with refusal to do so resulting in suspension. On December 16, Mary Beth Tinker and Christopher Eckhardt wore their armbands to school and were sent home. The following day, John Tinker did the same with the same result. The students did not return to school until after New Year's Day, the planned end of the protest.
Through their parents, the students sued the school district for violating the students' right of expression and sought an injunction to prevent the school district from disciplining the students. The district court dismissed the case and held that the school district's actions were reasonable to uphold school discipline. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the decision without opinion.
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988)
The Spectrum, the school-sponsored newspaper of Hazelwood East High School, was written and edited by students. In May 1983, Robert E. Reynolds, the school principal, received the pages proofs for the May 13 issue. Reynolds found two of the articles in the issue to be inappropriate, and ordered that the pages on which the articles appeared be withheld from publication. Cathy Kuhlmeier and two other former Hazelwood East students brought the case to court. In a 5-to-3 decision, the Court held that the First Amendment did not require schools to affirmatively promote particular types of student speech.
Texas v. Johnson (1989)
In 1984, in front of the Dallas City Hall, Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag as a means of protest against Reagan administration policies. Johnson was tried and convicted under a Texas law outlawing flag desecration. He was sentenced to one year in jail and assessed a $2,000 fine. After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction, the case went to the Supreme Court. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that Johnson's burning of a flag was protected expression under the First Amendment. The Court found that Johnson's actions fell into the category of expressive conduct and had a distinctively political nature. The fact that an audience takes offense to certain ideas or expression, the Court found, does not justify prohibitions of speech.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
Dollree Mapp was convicted of possessing obscene materials after an admittedly illegal police search of her home for a fugitive. She appealed her conviction on the basis of freedom of expression. The Court brushed aside the First Amendment issue and declared that "all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by [the Fourth Amendment], inadmissible in a state court." Mapp had been convicted on the basis of illegally obtained evidence. This was an historic -- and controversial -- decision. It placed the requirement of excluding illegally obtained evidence from court at all levels of the government. The decision launched the Court on a troubled course of determining how and when to apply the exclusionary rule.
Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in Florida state court with a felony: having broken into and entered a poolroom with the intent to commit a misdemeanor offense. When he appeared in court without a lawyer, Gideon requested that the court appoint one for him. According to Florida state law, however, an attorney may only be appointed to an indigent defendant in capital cases, so the trial court did not appoint one. Gideon represented himself in trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Gideon filed a habeas corpus petition in the Florida Supreme Court and argued that the trial court's decision violated his constitutional right to be represented by counsel. The Florida Supreme Court denied habeas corpus relief. The Court held that it was consistent with the Constitution to require state courts to appoint attorneys for defendants who could not afford to retain counsel on their own.
New Jersey v. TLO (1985)
T.L.O. was a fourteen-year-old; she was accused of smoking in the girls' bathroom of her high school. A principal at the school questioned her and searched her purse, yielding a bag of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia. Did the search violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments? No. Citing the peculiarities associated with searches on school grounds, the Court abandoned its requirement that searches be conducted only when a "probable cause" exists that an individual has violated the law. The Court used a less strict standard of "reasonableness" to conclude that the search did not violate the Constitution
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
The Court was called upon to consider the constitutionality of a number of instances, ruled on jointly, in which defendants were questioned "while in custody or otherwise deprived of [their] freedom in any significant way." In Vignera v. New York, the petitioner was questioned by police, made oral admissions, and signed an inculpatory statement all without being notified of his right to counsel. Similarly, in Westover v. United States, the petitioner was arrested by the FBI, interrogated, and made to sign statements without being notified of his right to counsel. Lastly, in California v. Stewart, local police held and interrogated the defendant for five days without notification of his right to counsel. In all these cases, suspects were questioned by police officers, detectives, or prosecuting attorneys in rooms that cut them off from the outside world. In none of the cases were suspects given warnings of their rights at the outset of their interrogation. Does the police practice of interrogating individuals without notifiying them of their right to counsel and their protection against self-incrimination violate the Fifth Amendment? The Court held that prosecutors could not use statements stemming from custodial interrogation of defendants unless they demonstrated the use of procedural safeguards "effective to secure the privilege against self- incrimination."
Escobedo v. Illinois (1964)
Danny Escobedo was arrested and taken to a police station for questioning. Over several hours, the police refused his repeated requests to see his lawyer. Escobedo's lawyer sought unsuccessfully to consult with his client. Escobedo subsequently confessed to murder. Was Escobedo denied the right to counsel as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment? Yes. Justice Goldberg, in his majority opinion, spoke for the first time of "an absolute right to remain silent." Escobedo had not been adequately informed of his consitutitonal right to remain silent rather than to be forced to incriminate himself.
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
This case was heard concurrently with two others, Earley v. DiCenso (1971) and Robinson v. DiCenso (1971). The cases involved controversies over laws in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. In Pennsylvania, a statute provided financial support for teacher salaries, textbooks, and instructional materials for secular subjects to non-public schools. The Rhode Island statute provided direct supplemental salary payments to teachers in non-public elementary schools. Each statute made aid available to "church-related educational institutions." Did the Rhode Island and Pennsylvania statutes violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause by making state financial aid available to "church- related educational institutions"? Yes. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Burger articulated a three-part test for laws dealing with religious establishment.
Abington School District v. Schempp (1963)
The Abington case concerns Bible-reading in Pennsylvania public schools. At the beginning of the school day, students who attended public schools in the state of Pennsylvania were required to read at least ten verses from the Bible. After completing these readings, school authorities required all Abington Township students to recite the Lord's Prayer. Students could be excluded from these exercises by a written note from their parents to the school. In a related case -- Murray v. Curlett -- a Baltimore statute required Bible-reading or the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at open exercises in public schools. Murray and his mother, professed atheists -- challenged the prayer requirement. Did the Pennsylvania law and Abington's policy, requiring public school students to participate in classroom religious exercises, violate the religious freedom of students as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments? The Court found such a violation. The required activities encroached on both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment since the readings and recitations were essentially religious ceremonies and were "intended by the State to be so." Furthermore, argued Justice Clark, the ability of a parent to excuse a child from these ceremonies by a written note was irrelevant since it did not prevent the school's actions from violating the Establishment Clause.
Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)
An Alabama law authorized teachers to conduct regular religious prayer services and activities in school classrooms during the school day. Three of Jaffree's children attended public schools in Mobile. Did Alabama law violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause? Yes. The Court determined the constitutionality of Alabama's prayer and meditation statute by applying the secular purpose test, which asked if the state's actual purpose was to endorse or disapprove of religion.
Engel v. Vitale (1962)
The Board of Regents for the State of New York authorized a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the start of each school day. This was an attempt to defuse the politically potent issue by taking it out of the hands of local communities. The blandest of invocations read as follows: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country." Does the reading of a nondenominational prayer at the start of the school day violate the "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment? Yes. Neither the prayer's nondenominational character nor its voluntary character saves it from unconstitutionality.
West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnett (1943)
The West Virginia Board of Education required that the flag salute be part of the program of activities in all public schools. All teachers and pupils were required to honor the Flag; refusal to salute was treated as "insubordination" and was punishable by expulsion and charges of delinquency. Did the compulsory flag-salute for public schoolchildren violate the First Amendment? In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court overruled its decision in Minersville School District v. Gobitis and held that compelling public schoolchildren to salute the flag was unconstitutional.
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
Griswold was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Both she and the Medical Director for the League gave information, instruction, and other medical advice to married couples concerning birth control. Griswold and her colleague were convicted under a Connecticut law which criminalized the provision of counselling, and other medical treatment, to married persons for purposes of preventing conception. Does the Constitution protect the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on a couple's ability to be counseled in the use of contraceptives? Though the Constitution does not explicitly protect a general right to privacy, the various guarantees within the Bill of Rights create penumbras, or zones, that establish a right to privacy. Together, the First, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments, create a new constitutional right, the right to privacy in marital relations. The Connecticut statute conflicts with the exercise of this right and is therefore null and void.
Roe v. Wade (1973)
Roe, a Texas resident, sought to terminate her pregnancy by abortion. Texas law prohibited abortions except to save the pregnant woman's life. After granting certiorari, the Court heard arguments twice. The first time, Roe's attorney -- Sarah Weddington -- could not locate the constitutional hook of her argument for Justice Potter Stewart. Her opponent -- Jay Floyd -- misfired from the start. Weddington sharpened her constitutional argument in the second round. Her new opponent -- Robert Flowers -- came under strong questioning from Justices Potter Stewart and Thurgood Marshall. Does the Constitution embrace a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion? The Court held that a woman's right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment
Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)
The Pennsylvania legislature amended its abortion control law in 1988 and 1989. Among the new provisions, the law required informed consent and a 24 hour waiting period prior to the procedure. A minor seeking an abortion required the consent of one parent (the law allows for a judicial bypass procedure). A married woman seeking an abortion had to indicate that she notified her husband of her intention to abort the fetus. These provisions were challenged by several abortion clinics and physicians. A federal appeals court upheld all the provisions except for the husband notification requirement. Can a state require women who want an abortion to obtain informed consent, wait 24 hours, and, if minors, obtain parental consent, without violating their right to abortions as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade? In a bitter, 5-to-4 decision, the Court again reaffirmed Roe, but it upheld most of the Pennsylvania provisions
McDonald v. Chicago (2010)
Several suits were filed against Chicago and Oak Park in Illinois challenging their gun bans after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. In that case, the Supreme Court held that a District of Columbia handgun ban violated the Second Amendment. There, the Court reasoned that the law in question was enacted under the authority of the federal government and, thus, the Second Amendment was applicable. Here, plaintiffs argued that the Second Amendment should also apply to the states. The district court dismissed the suits. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Does the Second Amendment apply to the states because it is incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges and Immunities or Due Process clauses and thereby made applicable to the states? The Supreme Court reversed the Seventh Circuit, holding that the Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense applicable to the states.
Reno v. ACLU (1997)
Several litigants challenged the constitutionality of two provisions in the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Intended to protect minors from unsuitable internet material, the Act criminalized the intentional transmission of "obscene or indecent" messages as well as the transmission of information which depicts or describes "sexual or excretory activities or organs" in a manner deemed "offensive" by community standards. After being enjoined by a District Court from enforcing the above provisions, except for the one concerning obscenity and its inherent protection against child pornography, Attorney General Janet Reno appealed directly to the Supreme Court as provided for by the Act's special review provisions. Did certain provisions of the 1996 Communications Decency Act violate the First and Fifth Amendments by being overly broad and vague in their definitions of the types of internet communications which they criminalized? Yes. The Court held that the Act violated the First Amendment because its regulations amounted to a content-based blanket restriction of free speech.
Rasul v. Bush (2004)
Four British and Australian citizens were captured by the American military in Pakistan or Afghanistan during the United States' War on Terror. The four men were transported to the American military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. When their families learned of the arrests, they filed suit in federal district court seeking a writ of habeas corpus that would declare the detention unconstitutional. They claimed that the government's decision to deny the men access to attorneys and to hold them indefinitely without access to a court violated the Fifth Amendment's Due Process clause. The government countered that the federal courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case because the prisoners were not American citizens and were being held in territory over which the United States did not have sovereignty (the Guantanamo Bay base was leased from Cuba indefinitely in 1903, and Cuba retains "ultimate sovereignty").
The district court agreed with the government, dismissing the case because it found that it did not have jurisdiction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the district court's decision. Do United States courts have jurisdiction to consider legal appeals filed on behalf of foreign citizens held by the United States military in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba? Yes. In a 6-to-3 opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court found that the degree of control exercised by the United States over the Guantanamo Bay base was sufficient to trigger the application of habeas corpus rights.
Gregg v. Georgia (1976)
A jury found Gregg guilty of armed robbery and murder and sentenced him to death. On appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence except as to its imposition for the robbery conviction. Gregg challenged his remaining death sentence for murder, claiming that his capital sentence was a "cruel and unusual" punishment that violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Is the imposition of the death sentence prohibited under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as "cruel and unusual" punishment? No. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Court held that a punishment of death did not violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments under all circumstances.
Oregon Employment Division v. Smith (1990)
Two Native Americans who worked as counselors for a private drug rehabilitation organization, ingested peyote -- a powerful hallucinogen -- as part of their religious ceremonies as members of the Native American Church. As a result of this conduct, the rehabilitation organization fired the counselors. The counselors filed a claim for unemployment compensation. The government denied them benefits because the reason for their dismissal was considered work-related "misconduct." The counselors lost their battle in state court. But the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Oregon Supreme Court's judgment against the disgruntled employees, and returned the case to the Oregon courts to determine whether or not sacramental use of illegal drugs violated Oregon's state drug laws (485 U.S. 660 (1988)). On remand, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that while Oregon drug law prohibited the consumption of illegal drugs for sacramental religious uses, this prohibition violated the free exercise clause. The case returned to the U.S. Supreme Court in this new posture.Can a state deny unemployment benefits to a worker fired for using illegal drugs for religious purposes? Yes. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, observed that the Court has never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that government is free to regulate.
Reynolds v. Smith (1878)
George Reynolds, secretary to Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, challenged the federal anti-bigamy statute. Reynolds was convicted in a Utah territorial district court. His conviction was affirmed by the Utah territorial supreme court. Does the federal anti-bigamy statute violate the First Amendment's free exercise clause because plural marriage is part of religious practice? No. Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite, writing for a unanimous court, held that the statute can punish criminal activity without regard to religious belief.
Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah (1993)
The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye practiced the Afro-Caribbean-based religion of Santeria. Santeria used animal sacrifice as a form of worship in which an animal's carotid arteries would be cut and, except during healing and death rights, the animal would be eaten. Shortly after the announcement of the establishment of a Santeria church in Hialeah, Florida, the city council adopted several ordinances addressing religious sacrifice. The ordinances prohibited possession of animals for sacrifice or slaughter, with specific exemptions for state-licensed activities. Did the city of Hialeah's ordinance, prohibiting ritual animal sacrifices, violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause? Yes. The Court held that the ordinances were neither neutral nor generally applicable. The ordinances had to be justified by a compelling governmental interest and they had to be narrowly tailored to that interest.
State of Wisconsin v. Jonas Yoder, et al. (1972)
Jonas Yoder and Wallace Miller, both members of the Old Order Amish religion, and Adin Yutzy, a member of the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church, were prosecuted under a Wisconsin law that required all children to attend public schools until age 16. The three parents refused to send their children to such schools after the eighth grade, arguing that high school attendance was contrary to their religious beliefs. Did Wisconsin's requirement that all parents send their children to school at least until age 16 violate the First Amendment by criminalizing the conduct of parents who refused to send their children to school for religious reasons? In a unamimous decision, the Court held that individual's interests in the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment outweighed the State's interests in compelling school attendance beyond the eighth grade.
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