AP Gov Supreme Court Cases (all 50)

Terms in this set (51)

Background: A New Jersey law authorized payment by local school boards of the costs of transportation to and from schools - including private schools. Of the private schools that benefited from this policy, 96% were parochial Catholic schools. Arch R. Everson, a taxpayer in Ewing Township, filed a lawsuit alleging that this indirect aid to religion through the mechanism of reimbursing parents and students for costs incurred as a result of attending religious schools violated both the New Jersey state constitution and the First Amendment.
Date: 1946
Constitutuional Issue: Whether the law violated the establishment clause (prohibits the government from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion.")
Issue: Did the New Jersey statute violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment? This case considers whether the parents of parochial school children can benefit from the same services afforded to the parents of public school children.
Decision: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is incorporated against the states. However, the Supreme Court found that the New Jersey law was not in violation of the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.
Why: The state bill was constitutionally permissible because the reimbursements were offered to all students regardless of religion and because the payments were made to parents and not any religious institution.
Background: 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. 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
Date: 1968
Constitutional Issue: Freedom of speech violation
Issue: Does a prohibition against the wearing of armbands in public school, as a form of symbolic protest, violate the students' freedom of speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment?
Decision: The policy did violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment, as applied through the Fourteenth, did not permit a public school to punish a student for wearing a black armband as an anti-war protest.
Why: No evidence showed that the rule was necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others
Background: At a school assembly of approximately 600 high school students, Matthew Fraser made a speech nominating a fellow student for elective office. In his speech, Fraser used what some observers believed was a graphic sexual metaphor to promote the candidacy of his friend. As part of its disciplinary code, Bethel High School enforced a rule prohibiting conduct which "substantially interferes with the educational process . . . including the use of obscene, profane language or gestures." Fraser was suspended from school for two days. With approval from his parents and help from ACLU cooperating attorney Jeff Haley, Matt Fraser filed a lawsuit against the school authorities claiming a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, and U.S. District Court judge Jack Tanner ruled in his favor.
Date: 1986
Constitutional Issue: Freedom of speech violation
Issue: Does the First Amendment prevent a school district from disciplining a high school student for giving a lewd speech at a high school assembly?
Decision: The Court found that it was appropriate for the school to prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive language.The First Amendment, as applied through the Fourteenth, permits a public school to punish a student for giving a lewd and indecent, even if not obscene, speech at a school assembly.
Why: The First Amendment did not prohibit schools from prohibiting vulgar and lewd speech since such discourse was inconsistent with the "fundamental values of public school education."
Background: 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
Date: 1988
Constitutional Issue: Violation of Freedom of Speech/Press
Issue: Did the principal's deletion of the articles violate the students' rights under the First Amendment?
Decision: The principal's action did not violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment did not require schools to affirmatively promote particular types of student speech. The Court held that schools must be able to set high standards for student speech disseminated under their auspices, and that schools retained the right to refuse to sponsor speech that was "inconsistent with 'the shared values of a civilized social order.'" The Court held that speech that can be reasonably viewed to have the school's imprimatur can be regulated by the school if the school has a legitimate pedagogical concern in regulating the speech.
Why: Educators did not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the content of student speech so long as their actions were "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns." The actions of principal Reynolds, the Court held, met this test.
Background: mosexual and a gay rights activist. In 1992, Dale filed suit against the Boy Scouts, alleging that the Boy Scouts had violated the New Jersey statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. The Boy Scouts, a private, not-for-profit organization, asserted that homosexual conduct was inconsistent with the values it was attempting to instill in young people. The New Jersey Superior Court held that New Jersey's public accommodations law was inapplicable because the Boy Scouts was not a place of public accommodation. The court also concluded that the Boy Scouts' First Amendment freedom of expressive association prevented the government from forcing the Boy Scouts to accept Dale as an adult leader. The court's Appellate Division held that New Jersey's public accommodations law applied to the Boy Scouts because of its broad-based membership solicitation and its connections with various public entities, and that the Boy Scouts violated it by revoking Dale's membership based on his homosexuality. The court rejected the Boy Scouts' federal constitutional claims. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed. The court held that application of New Jersey's public accommodations law did not violate the Boy Scouts' First Amendment right of expressive association because Dale's inclusion would not significantly affect members' abilities to carry out their purpose. Furthermore, the court concluded that reinstating Dale did not compel the Boy Scouts to express any message.
Date: 2000
Constitutional Issue: Freedom of Expression Violation
Issue:Does the application of New Jersey's public accommodations law violate the Boy Scouts' First Amendment right of expressive association to bar homosexuals from serving as troop leaders?
Decision: A private organization is allowed, under certain criteria, to exclude a person from membership through their First Amendment right to freedom of association in spite of state antidiscrimination laws.
Why: The Boy Scouts asserts that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to instill," and that a gay troop leader's presence "would, at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to the young members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior
Background: After the District of Columbia passed legislation barring the registration of handguns, requiring licenses for all pistols, and mandating that all legal firearms must be kept unloaded and disassembled or trigger locked, a group of private gun-owners brought suit claiming the laws violated their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The federal trial court in Washington D.C. refused to grant the plaintiffs relief, holding that the Second Amendment applies only to militias, such as the National Guard, and not to private gun ownership. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed, voting two to one that the Second Amendment does in fact protect private gun owners such as plaintiffs. Petitioners agree with the trial court's decision that the Second Amendment applies only to militias, and further argue that (a) the Second Amendment should not apply to D.C. because it is a federal enclave rather than a state, and (b) that the D.C. legislation merely regulates, rather than prohibits, gun ownership. Respondents, although disagreeing on the merits, have also urged the Court to review the case in order to clearly define the relationship between federal gun control laws and the Second Amendment.
Date: 2008
Constitutional Issue: Meaning and application of Second Amendment
Issue: Whether provisions of the D.C. Code generally barring the registration of handguns, prohibiting carrying a pistol without a license, and requiring all lawful firearms to be kept unloaded and either disassembled or trigger locked violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?
Decision: The Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
Why: The prefatory clause comports with the Court's interpretation of the operative clause. The "militia" comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens' militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens' militia would be preserved. he Court's interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment.
Background: 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 a needy 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.
Date: 1962
Constitutional Issue: the Rights of the Accused Sixth Amendment right to counsel
Issue: Does the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel in criminal cases extend to felony defendants in state courts?
Decision: The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a fundamental right applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution's due process clause, and requires that indigent criminal defendants be provided counsel at trial. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a fundamental right applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution's due process clause, and requires that indigent criminal defendants be provided counsel at trial.
Why: The Supreme Court held that the framers of the Constitution placed a high value on the right of the accused to have the means to put up a proper defense, and the state as well as federal courts must respect that right.
Background: On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested, by the Phoenix Police Department, based on circumstantial evidence linking him to the kidnapping and rape of a 18-year-old girl ten days earlier.[1] After two hours of interrogation by police officers, Miranda signed a confession to the rape charge on forms that included the typed statement "I do hereby swear that I make this statement voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion, or promises of immunity, and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me."However, at no time was Miranda told of his right to counsel. Prior to being presented with the form on which he was asked to write out the confession he had already given orally, he was not advised of his right to remain silent, nor was he informed that his statements during the interrogation would be used against him. At trial, when prosecutors offered Miranda's written confession as evidence, his court-appointed lawyer, Alvin Moore, objected that because of these facts, the confession was not truly voluntary and should be excluded. Moore's objection was overruled and based on this confession and other evidence, Miranda was convicted of rape and kidnapping and sentenced to 20 to 30 years imprisonment on each charge, with sentences to run concurrently. Moore filed Miranda's appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court claiming that Miranda's confession was not fully voluntary and should not have been admitted into the court proceedings.
Date: 1966
Constitutional Issue: Rights of the accused the right to counsel and protection against self-incrimination
Issue: 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?
Decision: The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination requires law enforcement officials to advise a suspect interrogated in custody of his rights to remain silent and to obtain an attorney. 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.
Why: Cited the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. The Court noted that "the modern practice of in-custody interrogation is psychologically rather than physically oriented" and that "the blood of the accused is not the only hallmark of an unconstitutional inquisition."
Background: 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
Date: 1976
Constitutional Issue: Violation of Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment
Issue: Is the imposition of the death sentence prohibited under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as "cruel and unusual" punishment?
Decision: The imposition of the death penalty does not, automatically, violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment. If the jury is furnished with standards to direct and limit the sentencing discretion, and the jury's decision is subjected to meaningful appellate review, the death sentence may be constitutional. If, however, the death penalty is mandatory, such that there is no provision for mercy based on the characteristics of the offender, then it is unconstitutional. The Court held that a punishment of death did not violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments under all circumstances. In extreme criminal cases, such as when a defendant has been convicted of deliberately killing another, the careful and judicious use of the death penalty may be appropriate if carefully employed.
Why:Georgia's death penalty statute assures the judicious and careful use of the death penalty by requiring a bifurcated proceeding where the trial and sentencing are conducted separately, specific jury findings as to the severity of the crime and the nature of the defendant, and a comparison of each capital sentence's circumstances with other similar cases.
Background: Two Piscataway Township High School freshmen were caught smoking cigarettes in the bathroom by a teacher. The teacher took the two girls to the principal's office, in which they met with the assistant vice principal, Theodore Choplick. Theodore Choplick questioned them about violating a school rule by smoking in the bathroom. The first girl admitted to smoking, but the other girl, referred to as "TLO" (Terry) denied smoking in the bathroom. Choplick then asked TLO into his private office and asked if she would hand over her purse. After TLO was forced to hand over the purse, he observed a pack of cigarettes. Choplick kept searching through the purse even though he found what he was looking for, but the rolling papers were in plain view, allowing him to continue the search. His search revealed a small amount of marijuana, rolling papers, a pipe, empty plastic bags, a large quantity of money in $1 bills, an index card that appeared to list students who owed TLO money, and two letters that implicated TLO in dealing marijuana. The principal then called the police and the girl's mother, who voluntarily drove her to the police station. She was convicted of dealing and use of illicit drugs. She was expelled from the school and fined $1,000.
Date: 1983
Constitutional Issue:The application of the exclusionary rule from the Fourth Amendment
Issue: Does the exclusionary rule apply to searches conducted by school officials in public schools?
Decision: Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures applies to searches conducted by public school officials (administrators), and the search of student's purse was reasonable.
Why: Plain view is an exception to the warrant requirement of the 4th Amendment. Thus, the reasonable search for cigarettes led to some of the drug related material being discovered, which justified a search (including the zippered compartments inside the bag) resulting in the discovery of the cigarettes and other evidence including a small bag of marijuana and cigarette rolling papers. The Court also stated that states have a duty to provide a safe school environment.
Background: Responding to a reported weapons disturbance in a private residence, Houston police entered John Lawrence's apartment and saw him and another adult man, Tyron Garner, engaging in a private, consensual sexual act. Lawrence and Garner were arrested and convicted of deviate sexual intercourse in violation of a Texas statute forbidding two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct. In affirming, the State Court of Appeals held that the statute was not unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Date: 2002
Constitutional Issue: 14th Amendment Equal Protection of the law
Issue: Do the criminal convictions of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner under the Texas "Homosexual Conduct" law, which criminalizes sexual intimacy by same-sex couples, but not identical behavior by different-sex couples, violate the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection of laws? Do their criminal convictions for adult consensual sexual intimacy in the home violate their vital interests in liberty and privacy protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Decision:The Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct violates the Due Process Clause. Found the "Homosexual Conduct" law unconstitutional and established, for the first time, that lesbians and gay men share the same fundamental liberty right to private sexual intimacy with another adult that heterosexuals have.
Why: The Court held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the 14th Amendment.
Background: When the University of Michigan Law School denied admission to Barbara Grutter, a female Michigan resident with a 3.8 GPA and 161 LSAT score,[1] she filed this suit, alleging that respondents had discriminated against her on the basis of race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as 42 U.S.C. § 1981; that she was rejected because the Law School uses race as a "predominant" factor, giving applicants belonging to certain minority groups a significantly greater chance of admission than students with similar credentials from disfavored racial groups; and that respondents had no compelling interest to justify that use of race. Lee Bollinger (then-President of the University of Michigan), was the named defendant of this case
Date: 2003
Constitutional Issue: Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Issue: Does the University of Michigan Law School's use of racial preferences in student admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Decision: University of Michigan Law School admissions program that gave special consideration for being a certain racial minority did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court held that the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit the Law School's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.
Why: he Court reasoned that, because the Law School conducts highly individualized review of each applicant, no acceptance or rejection is based automatically on a variable such as race and that this process ensures that all factors that may contribute to diversity are meaningfully considered alongside race.
Background: The University of Michigan used a 150-point scale to rank applicants, with 100 points needed to guarantee admission. The University gave underrepresented ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, an automatic 20-point bonus towards their score, while a perfect SAT score was worth 12 points. The petitioners, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, both white residents of Michigan, applied for admission to the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA). Gratz applied for admission in the fall of 1995 and Hamacher in the fall of 1997. Both were subsequently denied admission to the university. Gratz and Hamacher were contacted by the Center for Individual Rights, which filed a lawsuit on their behalf in October 1997.
Date: 2003
Constitutional Issue: Violation of Equal Protection of laws clause
Issue: Does the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Decision: The Court held that the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violates both the Equal Protection Clause and Title VI.
Why: the Court reasoned that the automatic distribution of 20 points, or one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission, to every single "underrepresented minority" applicant solely because of race was not narrowly tailored and did not provide the individualized consideration Justice Powell contemplated in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.
Background: In June 1969, Norma L. McCorvey discovered she was pregnant with her third child. She returned to Dallas, Texas, where friends advised her to assert falsely that she had been raped in order to obtain a legal abortion (with the understanding that Texas law allowed abortion in cases of rape and incest). However, this scheme failed because there was no police report documenting the alleged rape. She attempted to obtain an illegal abortion, but found the unauthorized site had been closed down by the police. Eventually, she was referred to attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington.[8] (McCorvey would give birth before the case was decided.) In 1970, Coffee and Weddington filed suit in a U.S. District Court in Texas on behalf of McCorvey (under the alias Jane Roe). The defendant in the case was Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade who represented the State of Texas. McCorvey was no longer claiming her pregnancy was the result of rape, and later acknowledged that she had lied about having been raped. "Rape" is not mentioned in the judicial opinions in this case.The district court ruled in McCorvey's favor on the legal merits of her case, but declined to grant an injunction against the enforcement of the laws barring abortion.The district court's decision was based upon the 9th Amendment, and the court relied upon a concurring opinion by Justice Arthur Goldberg in the 1965 Supreme Court case of Griswold v. Connecticut, finding in the decision for a right to privacy.
Date: 1973
Constituional Issue: Equal Protection of the laws
Issue: Does the Constitution embrace a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion?
Decision: 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. The decision gave a woman total autonomy over the pregnancy during the first trimester and defined different levels of state interest for the second and third trimesters.
Why: Texas law making it a crime to assist a woman to get an abortion violated her due process rights.
Background: The state of Missouri passed a law which, in its preamble, stated that "the life of each human being begins at conception" and "unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being."
The statute required that all Missouri state laws be interpreted to provide unborn children with rights equal to those enjoyed by other persons, subject to limits imposed by the federal constitution, and federal court rulings;
prohibited government-employed doctors from aborting a fetus they believed to be viable;
prohibited the use of state employees or facilities to perform or assist abortions, except where the mother's life was in danger; and prohibited the use of public funds, employees, or facilities to "encourage or counsel" a woman to have an abortion, except where her life was in danger.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri struck down the above provisions, and prohibited their enforcement. This decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which ruled that above provisions violated Roe v. Wade and later Supreme Court decisions. William L. Webster, then Missouri Attorney General, appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
Date: 1989
Constitutional Issue: 14th Amendment violation
Issue: Did the Missouri restrictions unconstitutionally infringe upon the right to privacy or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Decision: The Court held that none of the challenged provisions of the Missouri legislation were unconstitutional. The Court approved a Missouri law that imposed restrictions on the use of state funds, facilities and employees in performing, assisting with, or counseling on abortions. The Supreme Court thus allowed for states to legislate in an area that had previously been thought to be forbidden under Roe
Why: 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 provisions of 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.
Background: 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.
Date: 1992
Constitutional Issue: 14th Amendment Due Proccess/ Equal Protection of the laws
Issue: 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?
Decision: A Pennsylvania law that required spousal awareness prior to obtaining an abortion was invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment because it created an undue burden on married women seeking an abortion. Requirements for parental consent, informed consent, and 24-hour waiting period were constitutionally valid regulations. The justices imposed a new standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The new standard asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an "undue burden," which is defined as a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability." Under this standard, the only provision to fail the undue-burden test was the husband notification requirement.
Why: The notification to a husband may be a burden that truly gets in the way of a woman wanting an abortion.
Background: In 2003, Congress passed and the President signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The controversial concept of partial-birth abortion is defined in the Act as any abortion in which the death of the fetus occurs when "the entire fetal head [...] or [...] any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother." Dr. Leroy Carhart and other physicians who perform late-term abortions sued to stop the Act from going into effect. The plaintiffs argued that the Act could apply to a more common abortion procedure known as "D&E;" ("dilation and evacuation"), as well as to the less common "intact D&E;," sometimes called D&X; ("dilation and extraction"). With this application the Act would ban most late-term abortions and thus be an unconstitutional "undue burden" on the right to an abortion, as defined by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The plaintiffs also argued that the Act's lack of an exception for abortions necessary to protect the health of the mother rendered it unconstitutional under the Supreme Court's decision in Stenberg v. Carhart, regardless of Congress's finding in the Act that partial-birth abortions are never medically necessary.
Date: 2007
Constitutional Issue: Equal Protection of the Laws/ Fifth Amendment
Issue: Is the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 an unconstitutional violation of personal liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment because the Act lacks an exception for partial-birth abortions necessary to protect the health of the mother?
Decision: Congress's ban on partial-birth abortion was not unconstitutionally vague and did not impose an undue burden on the right to an abortion. Respondents have not demonstrated that the Act, as a facial matter, is void for vagueness, or that it imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to abortion based on its overbreadth or lack of a health exception.
Why: The Court held that, under the most reasonable interpretation, the Act applies only to the intact D&E; method (also known as "partial-birth abortion") and not to the more common D&E; procedure. The Act's application was limited by provisions that restrict enforcement to cases where the physician intends to perform an intact D&E; and delivers the still-living fetus past specific "anatomical landmarks." Because the majority found that the Act applies only to a specific method of abortion, it held that the ban was not unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, or an undue burden on the decision to obtain an abortion. The Court also held that Congress, after finding intact D&E; never to be medically necessary, could validly omit a health exception from the ban, even when "some part of the medical community" considers the procedure necessary.
Background: In the wake of these decisions, Citizens United sought to establish itself as a bona fide commercial film maker, producing several documentary films between 2005 and 2007. By early 2008, it sought to run television commercials to promote its latest political documentary Hillary: The Movie and to air the movie on DirecTV.[8] The movie was highly critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton, with the District Court describing the movie as an elongated version of a negative 30-second television spot. In January 2008, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the television advertisements for Hillary: The Movie violated the BCRA restrictions of "electioneering communications" within 30 days of a primary. Though the political action committee claimed that the film was fact-based and nonpartisan, the lower court found that the film had no purpose other than to discredit Clinton's candidacy for president.
Date: 2008
Constitutional Issue: Violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act/ First Amendment Freedom of Speech
Issue: 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: 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.
Why: A provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act prohibiting unions, corporations and not-for-profit organizations from broadcasting electioneering communications within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Background: The Seattle School District allowed students to apply to any high school in the District. Since certain schools often became oversubscribed when too many students chose them as their first choice, the District used a system of tiebreakers to decide which students would be admitted to the popular schools. The second most important tiebreaker was a racial factor intended to maintain racial diversity. If the racial demographics of any school's student body deviated by more than a predetermined number of percentage points from those of Seattle's total student population (approximately 40% white and 60% non- white), the racial tiebreaker went into effect. At a particular school either whites or non-whites could be favored for admission depending on which race would bring the racial balance closer to the goal. A non-profit group, Parents Involved in Community Schools (Parents), sued the District, arguing that the racial tiebreaker violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Washington state law.
Date: 2006
Constitutional Issue: Violation of 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause
Issue: Did the school district's selection process violate the 14th Amendment and did the previous rulings in Bollinger apply to public schools?
Decision: The Court applied a "strict scrutiny" framework and found the District's racial tiebreaker plan unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The student assignment plan of Seattle Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools does not meet the narrowly tailored and compelling interest requirements for a race-based assignment plan because it is used only to achieve "racial balance." Public schools may not use race as the sole determining factor for assigning students to schools. Race-conscious objectives to achieve diverse school environment may be acceptable.
Why: The District's goal of preventing racial imbalance did not meet the Court's standards for a constitutionally legitimate use of race.
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