We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 3
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Lesson 17 Court Cases

Barron v. Baltimore (1833)
Facts of the Case:
John Barron was co-owner of a profitable wharf in the harbor of Baltimore. As the city developed and expanded, large amounts of sand accumulated in the harbor, making the water too shallow for large boats to dock at the wharf. He sued the city to recover a portion of his financial losses.

Question:
Does the Fifth Amendment deny the states as well as the national government the right to take private property for public use without justly compensating the property's owner?

Conclusion:
No. The Court announced its decision in this case without even hearing the arguments of the City of Baltimore. Writing for the unanimous Court, Chief Justice Marshall found that the limitations on government articulated in the Fifth Amendment were specifically intended to limit the powers of the national government. Citing the intent of the framers and the development of the Bill of Rights as an exclusive check on the government in Washington D.C., Marshall argued that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction in this case since the Fifth Amendment was not applicable to the states.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Barron v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 32 U.S. 243 (1833) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1833/1833_0)


Boumediene v. Bush (2008)
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 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 agreed to hear the case after initially denying review three months earlier.

Question:
1. 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? 2. If so, is the Military Commissions Act of 2006 a violation of the Constitution's Suspension Clause? 3. Are the detainees at Guantanamo Bay entitled to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment and of the Geneva Convention?

Conclusion:
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.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. ___ (2008) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_1195)


Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)
Facts of the Case:
Brandenburg, a leader in the Ku Klux Klan, made a speech at a Klan rally and was later convicted under an Ohio criminal syndicalism law. The law made it illegal to advocate "crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform," as well as assembling "with any society, group, or assemblage of persons formed to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism."

Question:
Did Ohio's criminal syndicalism law, prohibiting public speech that advocates various illegal activities, violate Brandenburg's right to free speech as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Conclusion:
Yes. The Court issued a majority opinion by the Court itself (not a signed one) that held that the Ohio law violated Brandenburg's right to free speech. The Court used a two-pronged test to evaluate speech acts: Speech can be prohibited if it is (1) "directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action" and it is (2) "likely to incite or produce such action." The criminal syndicalism act made illegal the advocacy and teaching of doctrines while ignoring whether or not that advocacy and teaching would actually incite imminent lawless action. The failure to make this distinction rendered the law overly broad and in violation of the Constitution.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_492)


Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905)
Facts of the Case:
A Massachusetts law allowed cities to require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox. Cambridge adopted such an ordinance, with some exceptions. Jacobson refused to comply with the requirement and was fined five dollars.

Question:
Did the mandatory vaccination law violate Jacobson's Fourteenth Amendment right to liberty?

Conclusion:
No. The Court held that the law was a legitimate exercise of the state's police power to protect the public health and safety of its citizens. Local boards of health determined when mandatory vaccinations were needed, thus making the requirement neither unreasonable nor arbitrarily imposed.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1904/1904_70)


Minersville v. Gobitis (1940)
Facts of the Case:
Lillian and William Gobitis were expelled from the public schools of Minersville, Pennsylvania, for refusing to salute the flag as part of a daily school exercise. The Gobitis children were Jehovah's Witnesses; they believed that such a gesture of respect for the flag was forbidden by Biblical commands.

Question:
Did the mandatory flag salute infringe upon liberties protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Conclusion:
No. In an 8-to-1 decision, the Court declined to make itself "the school board for the country" and upheld the mandatory flag salute. The Court held that the state's interest in "national cohesion" was "inferior to none in the hierarchy of legal values" and that national unity was "the basis of national security." The flag, the Court found, was an important symbol of national unity and could be a part of legislative initiatives designed "to promote in the minds of children who attend the common schools an attachment to the institutions of their country." This decision was overturned in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943).

Citation
The Oyez Project, Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1939/1939_690)


NAACP v. Alabama (1964)
Facts of the Case:
As part of its strategy to prohibit the NAACP from operating, Alabama required it to reveal to the state's attorney general the names and addresses of all the NAACP's members and agents in the state.

Question:
Did Alabama's requirement violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion:
Yes. The unanimous Court held that a compelled disclosure of the NAACP's membership lists would have the effect of suppressing legal association among the group's members. Nothing short of an "overriding valid interest of the State," something not present in this case, was needed to justify Alabama's actions.

Citation
The Oyez Project, NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1957/1957_91)


Roe v. Wade (1973)
Facts of the Case:
Roe, the anonymous alias for a Texas resident, sought to terminate her pregnancy by abortion. Texas law prohibited abortions except to save the pregnant woman's life. 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.

Question:
Does the Constitution embrace a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion?

Conclusion:
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. As a result, the laws of 46 states were affected by the Court's ruling.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1971/1971_70_18)


Runyon v. McCrary (1976)
Facts of the Case:
Michael McCrary and Colin Gonzales were black children who were denied admission to Bobbe's School. Gonzales was also denied admission to Fairfax-Brewster School. McCrary and Gonzales's parents filed a class action against the schools, suspecting the denials were due to their children's race. A federal district court ruled for McCrary and Gonzales, finding that the school's admission policies were racially discriminatory. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision.

Question:
(1) Were the schools' admission policies in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981? (2) Did 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 violate the Constitutional right to privacy and free association?

Conclusion:
Yes. No. In a 6-2 opinion, the Court held that Section 1981 prohibited the racially discriminatory policies of the schools. While the schools were private, Jones v. Alfred Meyer Co. held that Section 1981 applied to "purely private acts of racial discrimination." Writing for the majority, Justice Potter Stewart described the school's admission policies as "classical violation[s] of Section 1981." While the Court acknowledged the right to free association of parents to send their children to schools that "promote the belief that racial segregation is desirable," it was not entitled the constitutional protection. Additionally, the Court cited Pierce v. Society of Sisters and the right of the State "reasonably to regulate all schools."

Citation
The Oyez Project, Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160 (1976) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1975/1975_75_62)


Saenz v. Roe (1999)
Facts of the Case:
Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), states receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) can pay the benefit amount of another State's TANF program to residents who have lived in the State for less than 12 months. When California announced it would enforce this option, Brenda Roe brought this class action, on behalf of other first year residents, challenging the constitutionality of the durational residency requirement. On appeal from successive adverse rulings in the lower courts, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case brought by Rita Saenz, the Director of California's Department of Social Services.

Question:
Does a state statute, authorizing states receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to pay the benefit amount of another State's TANF to its first year residents, violate the Fourteenth Amendment's right-to-travel protections?

Conclusion:
Yes. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right to travel in three ways, by allowing citizens to move freely between states, securing the right to be treated equally in all states when visiting, and securing the rights of new citizens to be treated like long-time citizens of a state. The Court explained that by paying first-year residents the same TNF benefits they received in their state of origin, states treated new residents differently than others who have lived in their borders for over one year. As such, enforcement of the PRWORA power unconstitutionally discriminated among residents.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489 (1999) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_98_97)


The Slaughterhouse Cases (1873)
Facts of the Case:
Louisiana had created a partial monopoly of the slaughtering business and gave it to one company. Competitors argued that this created "involuntary servitude," abridged "privileges and immunities," denied "equal protection of the laws," and deprived them of "liberty and property without due process of law."

Question:
Did the creation of the monopoly violate the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Conclusion:
No. The involuntary servitude claim did not forbid limits on the right to use one's property. The equal protection claim was misplaced since it was established to void laws discriminating against blacks. The due process claim simply imposes the identical requirements on the states as the fifth amendment imposes on the national government. The Court devoted most of its opinion to a narrow construction of the privileges and immunities clause, which was interpreted to apply to national citizenship, not state citizenship.

Citation
The Oyez Project, The Slaughterhouse Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1872/1872_2)


West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)
Facts of the Case:
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.

Question:
Did the compulsory flag salute for public schoolchildren violate the First Amendment?

Conclusion:
Yes. 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. The Court found that such a salute was a form of utterance and was a means of communicating ideas. "Compulsory unification of opinion," the Court held, was doomed to failure and was antithetical to First Amendment values. Writing for the majority, Justice Jackson argued that "if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."

Citation
The Oyez Project, West Virginia State Board of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1942/1942_591)

Lesson 17      How Did the Civil War Test and Transform the American Constitutional System?
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