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

Baker v. Carr (1962)
Facts of the Case:
Charles W. Baker and other Tennessee citizens alleged that a 1901 law designed to apportion the seats for the state's general assembly was virtually ignored. Baker's suit detailed how Tennessee's reapportionment efforts ignored significant economic growth and population shifts within the state.

Question:
Did the Supreme Court have jurisdiction over questions of legislative apportionment?

Conclusion:
Yes. In an opinion which explored the nature of "political questions" and the appropriateness of Court action in them, the Court held that there were no such questions to be answered in this case and that legislative apportionment was a justiciable issue. In his opinion, Justice Brennan provided past examples in which the Court had intervened to correct constitutional violations in matters pertaining to state administration and the officers through whom state affairs are conducted. Brennan concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection issues which Baker and others raised in this case merited judicial evaluation.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1960/1960_6)


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)


Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
Facts of the Case:
In the wake of the Watergate affair, Congress attempted to ferret out corruption in political campaigns by restricting financial contributions to candidates. Among other things, the law set limits on the amount of money an individual could contribute to a single campaign and it required reporting of contributions above a certain threshold amount. The Federal Election Commission was created to enforce the statute.

Question:
Did the limits placed on electoral expenditures by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, and related provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, violate the First Amendment's freedom of speech and association clauses?

Conclusion:
In this complicated case, the Court arrived at two important conclusions. First, it held that restrictions on individual contributions to political campaigns and candidates did not violate the First Amendment since the limitations of the FECA enhance the "integrity of our system of representative democracy" by guarding against unscrupulous practices. Second, the Court found that governmental restriction of independent expenditures in campaigns, the limitation on expenditures by candidates from their own personal or family resources, and the limitation on total campaign expenditures did violate the First Amendment. Since these practices do not necessarily enhance the potential for corruption that individual contributions to candidates do, the Court found that restricting them did not serve a government interest great enough to warrant a curtailment on free speech and association.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1975/1975_75_436)


Bush v. Vera (1996)
Facts of the Case:
Following the 1990 census, Texas planned the creation of three additional congressional districts. Following the redistricting, registered voters challenged the plans as racial gerrymandering. A three-judge federal district court found the plans unconstitutional. The case moved to the Supreme Court on appeal.

Question:
Do the Texas redistricting plans violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion:
Yes. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the Texas redistricting plans were unconstitutional. Supporting its "strict scrutiny" approach, the Court noted that the proposed districts were highly irregular in shape, that their computerized design was significantly more sensitive to racial data, and that they lacked any semblance to pre-existing race-neutral districts. The Court also held that the totality of the circumstances surrounding the proposed districts would deprive minority groups of equal participation in the electoral political processes. Thus, the proposed districts violated the Voting Rights Act's "results" test, prohibiting activity that "results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race or color." Finally, with respect to proposed District 18, the Court held that Texas deliberately designed it to hamper the local African-American minority's ability to elect representatives of their choice. This violated the Voting Rights Act's "nonretrogression" principle, prohibiting state action from obstructing a minority's ability to elect representatives of their choice.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952 (1996) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_805)


Calder v. Bull (1798)
Facts of the Case:
Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Bull, the stated beneficiaries of the will of Norman Morrison, were denied an inheritance by a Connecticut probate court. When the Bulls attempted to appeal the decision more than a year and a half later, they found that a state law prohibited appeals not made within 18 months of the original ruling. The Bulls persuaded the Connecticut legislature to change the restriction, which enabled them to successfully appeal the case. Calder, the initial inheritor of Morrison's estate, took the case to the Supreme Court.

Question:
Was the Connecticut legislation a violation of Article I, Section 10, of the Constitution, which prohibits ex post facto laws?

Conclusion:
No. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the legislation was not an ex post facto law. The Court drew a distinction between criminal rights and "private rights," arguing that restrictions against ex post facto laws were not designed to protect citizens' contract rights. Justice Chase noted that while all ex post facto laws are retrospective, all retrospective laws are not necessarily ex post facto. Even "vested" property rights are subject to retroactive laws.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. 386 (1798) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1798/1798_0)


Chisholm v. Georgia (1793)
Facts of the Case:
In 1777, the Executive Council of Georgia authorized the purchase of supplies from South Carolina businessman Robert Farquhar. After receiving the supplies, Georgia did not deliver payments as promised. After the Farquhar's death, the executor of his estate, Alexander Chisholm, took the case to federal court in an attempt to collect from the state. Georgia maintained that it was a sovereign state not subject to the authority of the federal courts.

Question:
Was the state of Georgia subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the federal government?

Conclusion:
Yes. In a 4-to-1 decision, the justices held that "the people of the United States" intended to bind the states by the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the national government. The Court held that supreme or sovereign power was retained by citizens themselves, not by the "artificial person" of the State of Georgia. The Constitution made clear that controversies between individual states and citizens of other states were under the jurisdiction of federal courts. State conduct was subject to judicial review.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1793/1793_0)


Dred Scott v. Sandford (1856)
Facts of the Case:
Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri. From 1833 to 1843, he resided in Illinois (a free state) and in an area of the Louisiana Territory, where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After returning to Missouri, Scott sued unsuccessfully in the Missouri courts for his freedom, claiming that his residence in free territory made him a free man. Scott then brought a new suit in federal court. Scott's master maintained that no pure-blooded Negro of African descent and the descendant of slaves could be a citizen in the sense of Article III of the Constitution.

Question:
Was Dred Scott free or slave?

Conclusion:
Dred Scott was a slave. Chief Justice Taney argued that, under Articles III and IV, no one but a citizen of the United States could be a citizen of a state, and that only Congress could confer national citizenship. Taney reached the conclusion that no person descended from an American slave had ever been a citizen for Article III purposes. The Court then held the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, hoping to end the slavery question once and for all.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1856/1856_0)


Ex Parte Milligan (1866)
Facts of the Case:
Lambden P. Milligan was sentenced to death by a military commission in Indiana during the Civil War; he had engaged in acts of disloyalty. Milligan sought release through habeas corpus from a federal court.

Question:
Does a civil court have jurisdiction over a military tribunal?

Conclusion:
Yes. Davis, speaking for the Court, held that trials of civilians by presidentially created military commissions are unconstitutional. Martial law cannot exist where the civil courts are operating.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1865/1865_0)


Ex Parte Quirin (1942)
Facts of the Case:
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. The men traveled to the United States via submarine. On the night of June 13, 1942, Burger, Heinrich, Quirin, and Dasch landed near Long Island, New York wearing German uniforms and carrying explosives. On the night of June 17, 1942, the remaining four came ashore in similar fashion at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Shortly after the landings, Burger and Dasch backed out of the mission. Dasch turned himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 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. Because of their confessions and cooperation, President Roosevelt later commuted Burger and Dasch's sentences to life in prison. 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.

Question:
Did the President exceed his authority in ordering a trial by military commission for the German saboteurs, thereby violating their rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments?

Conclusion:
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.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1941/1941_1 ORIG)


Gratz v. Bollinger (2003)
Facts of the Case:
In 1995, Jennifer Gratz applied to the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts with an adjusted GPA of 3.8 and ACT score of 25. In 1997, Patrick Hamacher applied to the University with an adjusted GPA of 3.0, and an ACT score of 28. Both were denied admission and attended other schools. The University admits that it uses race as a factor in making admissions decisions because it serves a "compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body." In addition, the University has a policy to admit virtually all qualified applicants who are members of one of three select racial minority groups--African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans--that are considered to be "underrepresented" on the campus. Concluding that diversity was a compelling interest, the district court held that the admissions policies for years 1995-1998 were not narrowly tailored, but that the policies in effect in 1999 and 2000 were narrowly tailored. After the decision in Grutter, Gratz and Hamacher petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court.

Question:
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?

Conclusion:
Yes. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 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. While rejecting the argument that diversity cannot constitute a compelling state interest, 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, 438 U.S. 265 (1978). Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote, "because the University's use of race in its current freshman admissions policy is not narrowly tailored to achieve respondents' asserted compelling interest in diversity, the admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause."

Citation
The Oyez Project, Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2002/2002_02_516)


Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
Facts of the Case:
In 1997, Barbara Grutter, a white resident of Michigan, applied for admission to the University of Michigan Law School. Grutter applied with a 3.8 undergraduate GPA and an LSAT score of 161. She was denied admission. The law school admits that it uses race as a factor in making admissions decisions because it serves a "compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body." The district court concluded that the law school's stated interest in achieving diversity in the student body was not a compelling one and enjoined its use of race in the admissions process. In reversing, the court of appeals held that Justice Powell's opinion in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978), constituted a binding precedent establishing diversity as a compelling governmental interest sufficient under strict scrutiny review to justify the use of racial preferences in admissions. The appellate court also rejected the district court's finding that the Law School's "critical mass" was the functional equivalent of a quota.

Question:
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?

Conclusion:
No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, 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. The 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. Justice O'Connor wrote, "in the context of its individualized inquiry into the possible diversity contributions of all applicants, the Law School's race-conscious admissions program does not unduly harm nonminority applicants."

Citation
The Oyez Project, Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2002/2002_02_516)


Guinn v. United States (1915)
Facts of the Case:
The Oklahoma Constitution, while appearing to treat all voters equally, allowed an exemption to the literacy requirement for those voters whose grandfathers had either been eligible to vote prior to January 1, 1866 or were then a resident of "some foreign nation," or were soldiers. It was an exemption that favored white voters while it disfranchised black voters, most of whose grandfathers had been slaves and therefore unable to vote before 1866.

Question:
Are these kinds of exemptions to the literacy requirements a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment?

Conclusion:
Yes. Justice Edward White went on to strike down the grandfather clause. He saw the Oklahoma law for what it was--a bald-faced attempt to disenfranchise blacks. Justice White wrote that the act "inherently brings" discrimination based on race "into existence since it is based purely on a period of time before the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment and makes that period the controlling and dominant test of the right of suffrage.

Citation
238 U.S. 347 (1915)


Guinn v. United States (1915)
Facts of the Case:
The Oklahoma Constitution, while appearing to treat all voters equally, allowed an exemption to the literacy requirement for those voters whose grandfathers had either been eligible to vote prior to January 1, 1866 or were then a resident of "some foreign nation," or were soldiers. It was an exemption that favored white voters while it disfranchised black voters, most of whose grandfathers had been slaves and therefore unable to vote before 1866.

Question:
Are these kinds of exemptions to the literacy requirements a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment?

Conclusion:
Yes. Justice Edward White went on to strike down the grandfather clause. He saw the Oklahoma law for what it was--a bald-faced attempt to disenfranchise blacks. Justice White wrote that the act "inherently brings" discrimination based on race "into existence since it is based purely on a period of time before the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment and makes that period the controlling and dominant test of the right of suffrage.

Citation
238 U.S. 347 (1915)


Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006)
Facts of the Case:
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former chauffeur, was captured by Afghani forces and imprisoned by the U.S. military in Guantanamo Bay. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court to challenge his detention. Before the district court ruled on the petition, he received a hearing from a military tribunal, which designated him an enemy combatant. A few months later, the district court granted Hamdan's habeas petition, ruling that he must first be given a hearing to determine whether he was a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention before he could be tried by a military commission. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed the decision, however, finding that the Geneva Convention could not be enforced in federal court and that the establishment of military tribunals had been authorized by Congress and was therefore not unconstitutional.

Question:
May the rights protected by the Geneva Convention be enforced in federal court through habeas corpus petitions? Was the military commission established to try Hamdan and others for alleged war crimes in the War on Terror authorized by the Congress or the inherent powers of the president?

Conclusion:
Yes. No. The Supreme Court, in a 5-to-3 decision authored by Justice John Paul Stevens, held that neither an act of Congress nor the inherent powers of the executive laid out in the Constitution expressly authorized the sort of military commission at issue in this case. Absent that express authorization, the commission had to comply with the ordinary laws of the United States and the laws of war. The Geneva Convention, as a part of the ordinary laws of war, could therefore be enforced by the Supreme Court, along with the statutory Uniform Code of Military Justice. Hamdan's exclusion from certain parts of his trial deemed classified by the military commission violated both of these, and the trial was therefore illegal. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented. Chief Justice John Roberts, who participated in the case while serving on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, did not take part in the decision.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. ___ (2006) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_05_184)


Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004)
Facts of the Case:
In the fall of 2001, Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen, was arrested by the United States military in Afghanistan. He was accused of fighting for the Taliban against the U.S., declared an "enemy combatant," and transfered to a military prison in Virginia. Frank Dunham, Jr., a defense attorney in Virginia, filed a petition to have Hamdi's case heard in federal district court there, first on his own and then for Hamdi's father, in an attempt to have Hamdi's detention declared unconstitutional. He argued that the government had violated Hamdi's Fifth Amendment right to due process by holding him indefinitely and not giving him access to an attorney or a trial. The government countered that the executive branch had the right, during wartime, to declare people who fight against the United States "enemy combatants" and thus restrict their access to the court system. The district court ruled for Hamdi, telling the government to release him. On appeal, a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed, finding that the separation of powers required federal courts to practice restraint during wartime because "the executive and legislative branches are organized to supervise the conduct of overseas conflict in a way that the judiciary simply is not." The panel therefore found that it should defer to the Executive Branch's "enemy combatant" determination.

Question:
Did the government violate Hamdi's Fifth Amendment right to due process by holding him indefinitely, without access to an attorney, based solely on an executive branch declaration that he was an "enemy combatant" who fought against the United States? Does the separation of powers doctrine require federal courts to defer to executive branch determinations that an American citizen is an "enemy combatant?"

Conclusion:
Yes and no. In an opinion backed by a four-justice plurality and partly joined by two additional justices, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that although Congress authorized Hamdi's detention, Fifth Amendment due process guarantees a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant the right to contest that detention before a neutral decisionmaker. The plurality rejected the government's argument that the separation-of-powers prevents the judiciary from hearing Hamdi's challenge. Justice David Souter, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, concurred with the plurality that Hamdi had the right to challenge in court his status as an enemy combatant. Souter and Ginsburg, however, disagreed with the plurality's view that Congress authorized Hamdi's detention. Justice Antonin Scalia issued a dissent joined by Justice John Paul Stevens. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented separately.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2003/2003_03_6696)


Harper v. Virginia (1966)
Facts of the Case:
Annie E. Harper, a resident of Virginia, filed suit alleging that the state's poll tax was unconstitutional. After a three-judge district court dismissed the complaint, the case went to the Supreme Court. This case was decided together with Butts v. Harrison.

Question:
Did the Virginia poll tax violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion:
In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that making voter affluence an electoral standard violated the Equal Protection Clause. The Court found that wealth or fee-paying had no relation to voting qualifications. The Court also noted that the Equal Protection Clause was not "shackled to the political theory of a particular era" and that notions of what constituted equal treatment under the clause were subject to change.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1965/1965_48)


Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (1964)
Facts of the Case:
Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade racial discrimination by places of public accommodation if their operations affected commerce. The Heart of Atlanta Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, refused to accept black Americans and was charged with violating Title II.

Question:
Did Congress, in passing Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, exceed its Commerce Clause powers by depriving motels, such as the Heart of Atlanta, of the right to choose their own customers?

Conclusion:
No. The Court held that the Commerce Clause allowed Congress to regulate local incidents of commerce, and that the Civil Right Act of 1964 passed constitutional muster. The Court noted that the applicability of Title II was "carefully limited to enterprises having a direct and substantial relation to the interstate flow of goods and people..." The Court thus concluded that places of public accommodation had no "right" to select guests as they saw fit, free from governmental regulation.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S., 379 U.S. 241 (1964) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1964/1964_515)


Hylton v. United States (1796)
Facts of the Case:
In 1794, Congress enacted a law entitled "An act to lay duties upon carriages for the conveyance of persons." The law assessed a tax of sixteen dollars on each carriage owned by an individual or business. Hylton viewed the law as a direct tax in violation of the constitutional requirement that taxes passed by Congress must be apportioned, that is, laid according to the population and the number of representatives from each state.

Question:
Did Congress violate the Constitution and go beyond its taxing and spending powers in implementing the tax on carriages?

Conclusion:
No. The Court held that the tax was legitimate. In one of the opinions, Justice Chase argued that an apportioned tax on carriages would lead to inequalities in the tax burden between states. Furthermore, he interpreted the terms "tax" and "duty" in Article I, Section 8 broadly, and concluded that the carriage tax was an indirect tax. Justice Iredell argued that to administer an apportioned tax on carriages would be "absurd," for if a state had no carriages it would be impossible to implement the tax. He concluded that if a tax could not be apportioned, then it was not a direct tax "in the sense of the constitution."

Citation
The Oyez Project, Hylton v. United States, 3 U.S. 171 (1796) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1796/1796_2)


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)


Marbury v. Madison (1803)
Facts of the Case:
The case began on March 2, 1801, when an obscure Federalist, William Marbury, was designated as a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. Marbury and several others were appointed to government posts created by Congress in the last days of John Adams's presidency, but these last-minute appointments were never fully finalized. The disgruntled appointees invoked an act of Congress and sued for their jobs in the Supreme Court.

Question:
Is Marbury entitled to his appointment? Is his lawsuit the correct way to get it? And, is the Supreme Court the place for Marbury to get the relief he requests?

Conclusion:
Yes. Yes. It depends. The justices held, through Marshall's forceful argument, that on the last issue the Constitution was "the fundamental and paramount law of the nation" and that "an act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution is void." In other words, when the Constitution--the nation's highest law--conflicts with an act of the legislature, that act is invalid. This case establishes the Supreme Court's power of judicial review.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1803/1803_0)


McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003)
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-heeled 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, bypassing the typical federal judicial process. In May of that year, a special three-judge panel struck down portions of the act's ban on soft-money donations but upheld some of the its 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.

Question:
1. Does the "soft money" ban of the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 exceed Congress's authority to regulate elections under Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution and/or violate the First Amendment's protection of the freedom to speak? 2. 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?

Conclusion:
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.

Citation
The Oyez Project, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, 540 U.S. 93 (2003) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2003/2003_02_1674)


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)


Minor v. Happersett (1874)
Facts of the Case:
On October 15, 1872, Virginia Minor applied to register to vote in Missouri. The registrar, Reese Happersett, turned down the application, because the Missouri state constitution read: "Every male citizen of the United States shall be entitled to vote." Mrs. Minor sued in Missouri state court, claiming her rights were violated on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Question:
Does the Fourteenth Amendment protect the voting rights of women?

Conclusion:
No. In a unanimous opinion the court held that while women were citizens of the United States, and were, even prior to the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, voting rights were not a "necessary privilege and immunity" to which all citizens are entitled.

Citation
88 U.S. 162 (Wall.)


Minor v. Happersett (1874)
Facts of the Case:
On October 15, 1872, Virginia Minor applied to register to vote in Missouri. The registrar, Reese Happersett, turned down the application, because the Missouri state constitution read: "Every male citizen of the United States shall be entitled to vote." Mrs. Minor sued in Missouri state court, claiming her rights were violated on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Question:
Does the Fourteenth Amendment protect the voting rights of women?

Conclusion:
No. In a unanimous opinion the court held that while women were citizens of the United States, and were, even prior to the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, voting rights were not a "necessary privilege and immunity" to which all citizens are entitled.

Citation
88 U.S. 162 (Wall.)


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)


Oregon v. Mitchell (1970)
Facts of the Case:
The Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970 made changes to voter eligibility. Oregon, Texas, and Idaho brought suit in the Supreme Court against the United States and attorney general John Mitchell to challenge the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970. They claimed that only the states, and not Congress, have the authority to establish qualification rules for voters in state and local elections.

Question:
Can the Federal Government make laws respecting local and state elections?

Conclusion:
For the most part, no. The Supreme Court held, with considerable disagreement, that the federal 18-year-old voting age requirement is valid for national elections, but not for state or local elections. Justice Hugo Black announced the Court's judgment in an opinion that expressed his own views. Four justices agreed with Justice Black that the Constitution gives Congress broad powers to regulate federal elections. These four justices, but not Justice Black, thought Congress also could do so in State elections. They argued that the states have no legitimate interest in excluding 18 to 21-year-old voters, and that the Equal Protection Clause supports the right of people in this age group to vote. Four other justices agreed with Justice Black that Congress could not regulate the minimum age in State and local elections. These justices thought Congress also lacked the power to set the voting age for federal elections. They argued that under the Constitution, only the states have the right to set voter qualifications. All justices agreed that Congress can prohibit the use of literacy tests or other requirements that discriminate against voters based on their race in all elections. In upholding the ban on literacy tests, the Court accepted Congress's findings that the tests tended to disqualify a disproportionate number of minority voters.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1970/1970_43_orig)


PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin (2001)
Facts of the Case:
Casey Martin is afflicted with a degenerative circulatory disorder that prevents him from walking golf courses. His disorder constitutes a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). When Casey made a request to use a golf cart for the duration of the qualification tournament onto the professional tours sponsored by PGA Tour, Inc., PGA refused. Martin then filed suit under Title III of the ADA, which requires an entity operating "public accommodations" to make "reasonable modifications" in its policies "when...necessary to afford such...accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless the entity can demonstrate that making such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of such...accommodations." Ultimately, the district court entered a permanent injunction against PGA, requiring it to allow Martin to use a cart. The court found that the purpose of the PGA's walking rule was to insert fatigue into the skill of shot-making, and that Martin suffered significant fatigue due to his disability, even with the use of a cart. In affirming, the court of appeals concluded that golf courses are places of public accommodation during professional tournaments and that permitting Martin to use a cart would not fundamentally alter the nature of those tournaments.

Question:
Does the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provide access to professional golf tournaments by a qualified entrant with a disability? May a disabled contestant be denied the use of a golf cart because it would "fundamentally alter the nature" of the tournaments to allow him to ride when all other contestants must walk?

Conclusion:
Yes; no. In a 7-2 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that Title III of the ADA, by its plain terms, prohibits the PGA from denying Martin equal access to its tours on the basis of his disability and that allowing Martin to use a cart, despite the walking rule, is not a modification that would "fundamentally alter the nature" of the game. "The purpose of the walking rule is...not compromised in the slightest by allowing Martin to use a cart," wrote Justice Stevens, noting Martin's fatiguing disability. Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented.

Citation
The Oyez Project, PGA Tour v. Martin, 532 U.S. 661 (2001) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_00_24)


Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
Facts of the Case:
The state of Louisiana enacted a law that required separate railway cars for blacks and whites. In 1892, Homer Adolph Plessy--who was seven-eighths Caucasian--took a seat in a "whites only" car of a Louisiana train. He refused to move to the car reserved for blacks and was arrested.

Question:
Is Louisiana's law mandating racial segregation on its trains an unconstitutional infringement on both the privileges and immunities and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion:
No, the state law is within constitutional boundaries. The majority, in an opinion authored by Justice Henry Billings Brown, upheld state-imposed racial segregation. The justices based their decision on the separate-but-equal doctrine, that separate facilities for blacks and whites satisfied the Fourteenth Amendment so long as they were equal. (The phrase, "separate but equal" was not part of the opinion.) Justice Brown conceded that the Fourteenth Amendment intended to establish absolute equality for the races before the law. But Brown noted that "in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races unsatisfactory to either." In short, segregation does not in itself constitute unlawful discrimination.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1895/1895_210)


Pollock v. Farmers Loan and Trust Company (1895)
Facts of the Case:
The Constitution gave the states the power to impose direct taxation. The federal government could impose direct taxes as well, but only if those taxes were apportioned among the states in proportion to their representation in Congress. In this case the Court examined a national income tax passed by Congress in 1894. This case was decided together with Hyde v. Continental Trust Company of the City of New York.

Question:
Was the income tax a direct tax in violation of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution?

Conclusion:
Yes. The Court held that the act violated the Constitution since it imposed taxes on personal income derived from real estate investments and personal property such as stocks and bonds; this was a direct taxation scheme, not apportioned properly among the states. The decision was negated by the adoption of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429 (1895) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1894/1894_893)


Ricci v. Destefano (2009)
Facts of the Case:
White and Hispanic candidates for promotion in the New Haven, Connecticut fire department sued various city officials in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut when the New Haven Civil Service Board (CSB) failed to certify two exams needed for the plaintiffs' promotion to Lieutenant and Captain. The CSB did not certify because the results of the test would have promoted a disproportionate number of white candidates in comparison to minority candidates. The plaintiffs argued that their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e, and the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause were violated. On appeal, the Second Circuit court of appeals affirmed the previous decision. It reasoned that the CSB, by refusing to certify the results of the promotional exam, was trying to fulfill its obligations under the rules utilized by the plaintiffs in their argument and therefore was protected in its actions.

Question:
1) Can a municipality reject results from an otherwise valid civil service exam when the results unintentionally prevent the promotion of minority candidates? 2) Does 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e permit federal courts to relieve municipalities from having to comply with local laws that require strict compliance with race-blind merit selection procedures?

Conclusion:
Maybe--it depends on the facts. Not answered. The Supreme Court held that by discarding the exams, the City of New Haven violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Antonin G. Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito. Before an employer can engage in intentional discrimination for the purpose of avoiding a "disparate impact" on a protected trait (race, color, religion, national origin), the employer must have a "strong basis in evidence" that it will be subject to "disparate impact liability" if it fails to take the discriminatory action. Here, the Court reasoned that New Haven failed to prove it had a "strong basis in evidence" that failing to discard the results of the exam would have subjected it to liability, as the exams were job-related, consistent with business necessity, and there was no evidence that an equally-valid, less-discriminatory alternative was available. Justice Scalia wrote separately, concurring. He noted that the Court avoided answering whether the "disparate impact" provision of Title VII was consistent with the Equal Protection Clause. Justice Alito also wrote a concurring opinion and was joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas. He criticized the dissent for omitting key information in reaching its alternate conclusion. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, and Stephen G. Breyer. She argued that the City of New Haven had good cause to believe it would be vulnerable to a Title VII lawsuit if it certified the exams. Moreover, she criticized the majority for ignoring "substantial flaws" in the exam.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. (2009) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_08_328)


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)


Smith v. Allwright (1944)
Facts of the Case:
A resolution of the Democratic Party of Texas, a group that the Texas Supreme Court had deemed a "voluntary association," allowed only whites to participate in Democratic primary elections. S.S. Allwright was a county election official; he denied Lonnie E. Smith, a black man, the right to vote in the 1940 Texas Democratic primary.

Question:
Did denying blacks the right to vote in primary elections violate the Fifteenth Amendment?

Conclusion:
Yes. The Court overruled its decision in Grovey v. Townsend (1935) and found the restrictions against black people unconstitutional. Even though the Democratic Party was a voluntary organization, the fact that Texas statutes governed the selection of county-level party leaders, the party conducted primary elections under state statutory authority, and state courts were given exclusive original jurisdiction over contested elections, guaranteed for black people the right to vote in primaries. Allwright engaged in state action abridging Smith's right to vote because of his race. A state cannot "permit a private organization to practice racial discrimination" in elections, argued Justice Reed. (The Court's decision in this matter was amended on June 12, 1944.)

Citation
The Oyez Project, Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1943/1943_51)


Smith v. Allwright (1944)
Facts of the Case:
A resolution of the Democratic Party of Texas, a group that the Texas Supreme Court had deemed a "voluntary association," allowed only whites to participate in Democratic primary elections. S.S. Allwright was a county election official; he denied Lonnie E. Smith, a black man, the right to vote in the 1940 Texas Democratic primary.

Question:
Did denying blacks the right to vote in primary elections violate the Fifteenth Amendment?

Conclusion:
Yes. The Court overruled its decision in Grovey v. Townsend (1935) and found the restrictions against black people unconstitutional. Even though the Democratic Party was a voluntary organization, the fact that Texas statutes governed the selection of county-level party leaders, the party conducted primary elections under state statutory authority, and state courts were given exclusive original jurisdiction over contested elections, guaranteed for black people the right to vote in primaries. Allwright engaged in state action abridging Smith's right to vote because of his race. A state cannot "permit a private organization to practice racial discrimination" in elections, argued Justice Reed. (The Court's decision in this matter was amended on June 12, 1944.)

Citation
The Oyez Project, Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1943/1943_51)


Stanton v. Stanton (1975)
Facts of the Case:
The case had started in Utah state court. A divorced father stopped paying child support for his daughter when she turned eighteen, so the daughter's mother went to court to ask for support until both the daughter and the son reached twenty-one. Utah divorce court ruled against the mother, and the Utah Supreme Court held that there was a "reasonable basis" for the differential: women matured earlier and married younger; men had a greater need for education. The Utah court stated in its opinion that the basis for the law, though an "old notion," was not unconstitutional.

Question:
Does the differing standard for child support violate the equal protection clause?

Conclusion:
Yes. Justice Blackmun wrote for the majority. He said the law failed under any standard, including rational basis (the Supreme Court's lowest standard of review). The decision remained in the context of child support, without considering different ages for males and females in other contexts. The Stanton decision placed the Court on record as declaring that society's stereotypes were not a legitimate basis for official policies that treated men and women differently. Blackmun wrote: "A child, male or female, is still a child...No longer is the female destined solely for the home and the rearing of the family, and only the male for the marketplace and the world of ideas...If a specified age of minority is required for the boy in order to assure him parental support while he attains his education and training, so, too, is it for the girl."

Citation
The Oyez Project, Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U.S. 7 (1975) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1974/1974_73_1461)


Texas v. White (1868)
Facts of the Case:
In 1851, Congress authorized the transfer of $10 million worth of United States bonds to the state of Texas. The bonds were payable to the state or bearer and were to be redeemable in 1864. In 1862, during the Civil War, an insurgent Texas legislature authorized the use of the bonds to purchase war supplies. Four years later, the reconstruction government tried to reclaim the bonds.

Question:
Was Texas a state in the union eligible to seek redress in the Supreme Court? Could Texas constitutionally reclaim the bonds?

Conclusion:
Yes. In a 5-to-3 decision, the Court held that Texas did indeed have the right to bring suit and that individuals such as White had no claim to the bonds in question. The Court held that individual states could not unilaterally secede from the Union and that the acts of the insurgent Texas legislature--even if ratified by a majority of Texans--were "absolutely null." Even during the period of rebellion, however, the Court found that Texas continued to be a state.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1868/1868_0)


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)


University of California Regents v. Bakke (1978)
Facts of the Case:
Allan Bakke, a thirty-five-year-old white man, had twice applied for admission to the University of California Medical School at Davis. He was rejected both times. The school reserved sixteen places in each entering class of one hundred for "qualified" minorities, as part of the university's affirmative action program, in an effort to redress longstanding, unfair minority exclusions from the medical profession. Bakke's qualifications (college GPA and test scores) exceeded those of any of the minority students admitted in the two years Bakke's applications were rejected. Bakke contended, first in the California courts, then in the Supreme Court, that he was excluded from admisn solely on the basis of race.

Question:
Did the University of California violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by practicing an affirmative action policy that resulted in the repeated rejection of Bakke's application for admission to its medical school?

Conclusion:
No and yes. There was no single majority opinion. Four of the justices contended that any racial quota system supported by government violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., agreed, casting the deciding vote ordering the medical school to admit Bakke. However, in his opinion, Powell argued that the rigid use of racial quotas as employed at the school violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The remaining four justices held that the use of race as a criterion in admissions decisions in higher education was constitutionally permissible. Powell joined that opinion as well, contending that the use of race was permissible as one of several admission criteria. So, the Court managed to minimize white opposition to the goal of equality (by finding for Bakke) while extending gains for racial minorities through affirmative action.

Citation
The Oyez Project, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1977/1977_76_811)


Ware v. Hylton (1796)
Facts of the Case:
This case involved the Treaty of Paris, which established peace in 1783. A Virginian owed a debt to a British subject. A Virginia law provided for the confiscation of such debts on the ground the the debt was owed to an alien enemy. The British subject (actually, his administrator) sued in a federal court to recover on the bond. The administrator argued that the Treaty of Paris ensured the collection of such debts.

Question:
Does the Treaty of Paris override an otherwise valid state law?

Conclusion:
Four of the five justices wrote opinions. It was the practice of that time for the Court to issue opinions one after another, and there was no "opinion for the Court." Collectively, the justices held that federal courts had the power to determine the constitutionality of state laws. They invalidated the Virginia law under the supremacy clause and, in the words of a distinguished scholar of the period, "established for all time [the Supreme Court's] power of judicial review of state laws."

Citation
The Oyez Project, Ware v. Hylton, 3 U.S. 199 (1796) available at: (http://oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1796/1796_0)


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)

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