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Constitutional Law I Cases

Terms in this set (54)


Facts: Land dispute. The state of Virginia enacted legislation during the Revolutionary War that gave the State the power to confiscate the property of British Loyalists. Hunter was given a grant of land by the State. Denny Martin held the land under devise from Lord Thomas Fairfax

Holding:The U.S. Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over state court decisions involving federal law.

The federal power was given directly by the people and not by the States. Article III, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that "in all other cases before mentioned the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction". This demonstrates a textual commitment to allow Supreme Court review of state decisions. If the Supreme Court could not review decisions from the highest State courts, the state courts necessarily would be excluded from hearing cases involving questions of federal law. It had already been established that state courts have the power to rule on issues of federal law, and therefore the Supreme Court must be able to review those decisions. The Court also held that the Supremacy Clause states that the federal interpretation trumps the states' interpretation. The Court rejected concerns regarding state judicial sovereignty. The Supreme Court could already review state executive and legislative decisions and this case was no different. Story then confronted the arguments that state judges were bound to uphold the Constitution just as federal judges were, and so denying state interpretations presumed that the state judges would less than faithfully interpret the Constitution. The Court stated that the issue did not concern bias; rather, it concerned the need for uniformity in federal law. The Supreme Court concluded that the decision by the Virginia court of appeals was in error.
President in Wartime (The President did not exceed his rights)

These cases concern Operation Pastorius, a failed attempt in June 1942 by Nazi agents to sabotage various U.S. targets. Following the declaration of war between the United States and Germany, eight German residents, Richard Quirin, Ernst Burger, George Dasch, Herbert Haupt, Heinrich Heinck, Edward Keiling, Herman Neubauer, and Werener Thiel, received training on sabotage at a school near Berlin. Shortly after the landings, Burger and Dasch backed out of the mission. Dasch turned himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. All eight conspirators were subsequently arrested and, on the orders of President Franklin Roosevelt, tried by military commission. The commission found all eight men guilty and sentenced them to death. Arguing that the President exceeded his power in ordering the commission and that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution protect their rights to a regular trial, seven of the eight conspirators, not including Dasch, filed petitions for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court. Their claims were denied, and they appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Before the court ruled, however, they filed for hearing before the Supreme Court and, separately, filed petitions for habeas corpus directly with the Court. The Court, sitting in a special term, agreed to hear the cases.

No. In a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Harlan Fisk Stone, the Court concluded that the conspirators, as spies without uniform whose purpose was sabotage, violated the law of war and were therefore unlawful enemy combatants. Noting that Congress had, under the Articles of War, authorized trial by military commission for unlawful enemy combatants, the Court therefore determined that the President had not exceeded his power. Furthermore, the Court asserted that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments "did not enlarge the right to jury trial" beyond those cases where it was understood by the framers to have been appropriate. Therefore, because the amendments cannot be read "as either abolishing all trials by military tribunals, save those of the personnel of our own armed forces, or, what in effect comes to the same thing, as imposing on all such tribunals the necessity of proceeding against unlawful enemy belligerents only on presentment and trial by jury," the rights of the conspirators were not violated.