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Landmark Supreme Court Cases


Landmark Supreme Court Cases EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW Abington School District v. Schempp Also known as School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Landmark Supreme Court Cases

Landmark Supreme Court Cases

Abington School District v. Schempp
  • Also known as School District of Abington
    Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp, 1963
  • Do opening exercises including scripture reading
    and recitation of the Lords prayer violate the
    Establishment and Free Exercise clauses? (1st
  • Yes, such exercises are a violation of the
    establishment clause (8-1)
  • if the purpose and effect of a law is the
    advancement or inhibition of religion, it exceeds
    the scope of legislative power.

Baker v. Carr (1962)
  • Do imbalances among congressional districts deny
    residents equal protection of the laws? (14th
  • Do federal courts have jurisdiction over cases
    involving malapportionment?
  • The court ruled yes on both questions (6-2)
  • This case helps lead to the Wesberry case that
    established the one person, one vote principle
    in redistricting cases
  • One of 3 key redistricting cases. Can you name
    the other two?

Bethel School District 403 v. Fraser (1986)
  • Do schools have the right to restrict students
    speech content?
  • Is sexually suggestive speech protected by the
    1st amendment?
  • Yes to the first issue, no to the second (7-2)
  • Students can be punished for speech in school
    that would be protected in other settings.
  • the Court has upheld time, place and manner
    restrictions in other cases as long as they are
    content neutral

Brown v. Board of Ed. of Topeka, Kansas (1954)
  • Overturned the Plessy decision
  • What does this case say about stare decisis?
  • Is this case an example of judicial activism?
  • separate but equal is inherently unequal
    because the very fact that separate schools exist
    marks one race as inferior
  • The courts opinion was unanimous (9-0)

Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
  • Are campaign contributions and expenditures
    protected by the 1st amendment as political
  • Is the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974
  • The Court ruled that it is not a violation of
    free speech rights to limit the amount
    individuals or groups may contribute to
    campaigns, but that it is a violation to limit
    the amount of money candidates or groups may
    spend. (no majority vote)

Bush v. Gore (2000)
  • Does the manual recount of votes cast in Florida
    violate the equal protection clause?
  • Yes, because the standards for judging a voters
    intent in the recount werent uniform
  • Historical implication of this case 1st time
    the Court intervened in a presidential election
    critics claim this interference ensured Bushs
  • (7-2 vote on the equal protection question, 5-4
    on stopping the recounts)

Clinton v. City of New York (1998)
  • Is the Line Item Veto Act of 1997 constitutional?
  • Do you remember what a line item veto is?
  • Why would Congress want to give the executive
    this power?
  • No, the Act is not constitutional because it
    violates the doctrine of separation of powers.
  • (6-3)

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
  • Are slaves citizens?
  • Is the Missouri Compromise constitutional?
  • The Court answered no to both questions, which
    contributed to the political tensions leading up
    to the Civil War. (7-2)
  • What amendment would later be passed that would
    ensure the citizenship of former slaves and free
    people of color?
  • Is this case an example of judicial activism or
    judicial restraint?

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health
  • Does someone have a constitutionally protected
    right to die under the 9th amendment?
  • This is the original right to die case.
  • The court ruled in a 5-4 decision to reject Nancy
    Cruzans parents request that they be allowed to
    take their daughter off life support (a feeding
    tube) due to a lack of clear and convincing
    evidence that Nancys parents would be honoring
    their daughters wishes.
  • This case drew attention to the need for living
    wills, especially for terminally ill patients.
  • How does this case compare with the Terri Schiavo
    case from 2005?

Edwards v. Aguillard ( 1987)
  • Are state laws requiring the teaching of
    creation science a violation of the First
    Amendments Establishment clause?
  • Yes, because such laws violate the Lemon test
  • is there a clearly secular purpose?
  • Does the statute neither advance nor inhibit
  • Do such laws create excessive entanglement of
    government with religion? (7-2)
  • What recent cases have come before the court on
    this issue?

Engel v. Vitale (1962)
  • Does the use of a nonsectarian (nondenominational)
    prayer violate the Establishment clause?
  • Yes (6-1) because it creates government
    compelled prayer, even if students choose not to
  • When the power, prestige, and financial support
    of government is placed behind a particular
    religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure
    upon religious minorities to conform to the
    prevailing, officially-approved religion is

Escobedo v. Illinois (1964)
  • Escobedo was accused of murdering his
    brother-in-law. During questioning, he was not
    allowed to consult with his attorney, who was at
    the police station at the time. Escobedo made
    some incriminating statements during questioning,
    but had not been notified of his right to remain
  • Were Escobedos 6th amendment rights to counsel
  • Yes (5-4) (general questioning versus an
    accusatory investigative process)
  • Upholds the ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

Furman v. Georgia (1972)
  • Is the death penalty cruel and unusual
    punishment and therefore a violation of the 8th
  • Is the imposition of the death penalty by juries
    done in a fair manner?
  • Yes No, which makes it a cruel and unusual
    punishment because juries arent given specific
    guidelines about imposing the death penalty
  • This case was overturned by . . .

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
  • What happens when state laws regarding commerce
    conflict? Can a state grant an exclusive right to
    navigate its waters?
  • Who has the final authority to regulate
    interstate commerce?
  • Upheld the constitutionality of the Commerce
    Clause in Article I section 8 (6-0) Why?
  • Sometimes called the steamboat case

Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
  • Gideon had been convicted of a misdemeanor. He
    couldnt afford a lawyer and Florida state law
    didnt provide for counsel for non-capital
  • Was Gideons 6th amendment right to counsel
  • Under what circumstances must an accused person
    be provided with legal counsel?
  • The due process clause of the 14th amendment
    makes it necessary for the states to recognize
    that in our adversary system of criminal justice,
    any person hauled into court, who is too poor to
    hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial
    unless counsel is provided for him. (9-0)
  • This case extends the right to counsel under the
    6th amendment to both capital and non-capital

Gitlow v. New York (1925)
  • Does the freedom of speech guaranteed in the 1st
    amendment apply to the states? (Can states make
    laws that violate it?) This case marks the
    beginning of the incorporation process of the 1st
  • Does the 1st amendment protect speech that would
    encourage the overthrow of the U.S. government?
    Just how far does free speech protection go?
  • The Court ruled that the 1st amendment protection
    does apply to the states, but that in this case,
    the state had a legitimate interest in protecting
    public safety that trumped an individuals right
    to free speech, so Gitlows conviction was
    upheld. (7-2)
  • Has the court ruled consistently on this issue?
    Under what circumstances is the Court less
    tolerant of free speech?
  • For a current example, consider Justice Talking
  • http//

Gregg v. Georgia (1976)
  • This case was a test of the revised laws many
    states had passed after the Furman decision in an
    attempt to overcome the problems the Court had
    raised with regard to the arbitrary application
    of capital punishment.
  • This case upheld that Georgias two phase trial
    process (phase one determines guilt or acquittal,
    second phase determines sentencing) overcame the
    problems the Court had found in the Furman
  • Overturned the Furman decision and found that the
    death penalty was not necessarily cruel and
    unusual (7-2)

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
  • Is it legal for states to pass laws that would
    punish any person who uses any drug, medical
    article or instrument for the purpose of
    preventing conception? The law also allowed for
    punishment of anyone who assisted another in
    committing an offense of this law, such as a
    doctor who wrote a prescription for
  • This case established that certain decisions
    (such as family planning) exist within a zone of
    privacy protected by provisions of the 1st, 3rd,
    4th, 5th, 9th, and 14th amendments. (7-2)
  • Griswold is considered the cornerstone of the
    later Roe v. Wade case.

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988)
  • To what extent are school newspapers forums for
    public expression?
  • Are student publications free from censorship by
    school authorities?
  • The public schools do not possess all of the
    attributes of streets, parks, and other
    traditional public forums meaning that school
    officials retain ultimate control. . .over a
    school-sponsored newspaper. (5-3)
  • Can you explain the differences in the Courts
    rulings in this case versus its rulings in the
    Tinker and Bethel cases?

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States
  • Do federal civil rights laws violate a private
    property owners rights to due process under the
    14th amendment?
  • Does Congress have the power to enact civil
    rights legislation under the Commerce Clause?
  • No and Yes. ((9-0)
  • The action of the Congress in the adoption of
    the act Title II of the Civil Rights Act of
    1964 as applied here to a motel which concededly
    serves interstate travelers is within the power
    granted it by the Commerce Clause of the
    Constitution as interpreted by this court for 140

INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) v.
Chadha (1983)
  • Is a one-house congressional veto constitutional?
  • Does Chadha get to stay in the country?
  • No and Yes
  • In this case, the Court declared the legislative
    veto unconstitutional because Article I requires
    that every order, resolution, or vote to which
    the concurrence of the Senate and House of
    Representatives may be necessary. . . shall be
    presented to the President of the United States.
  • Do you remember what a legislative veto is? See
    p. 394-395 in Wilson.

Korematsu v. United States (1944)
  • Following the invasion of Pearl Harbor, President
    Truman issued an executive order to clear all
    persons of Japanese descent from California and
    relocate them to internment camps. (Executive
    Order 34)
  • Was this executive order a proper exercise of the
    war power even though it uses racial
    classifications, which are subject to the highest
    judicial scrutiny?
  • In a 6-3 vote, the Court said yes. Although this
    case raises all sorts of civil rights issues, the
    court only agreed to take up the question of the
    Presidents use of war powers rather than
    imposing martial law.
  • Under President Regan, Congress passed
    legislation to provide financial compensation to
    the living survivors of the exclusion and
    relocation orders.

Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
  • Established the 3-part Lemon test used to
    determine if a statute, law or action violates
    the Establishment clause of the 1st amendment.
  • The three parts are
  • is there a clearly secular purpose for the
    government action?
  • Does the statute neither advance nor inhibit
  • Do such laws create excessive entanglement of
    government with religion?
  • If the answer to any of the above is yes, then
    the Establishment clause has been violated.
  • In this case, the states of Pennsylvania and
    Rhode Island were giving state money to parochial
    schools to use to pay for books, teacher
    salaries, etc. for academic subjects only. The
    Court found that while these actions did have
    purely secular functions (using taxpayer money to
    help educate the states children), it created
    excessive entanglements between religion and
  • For example, would the science teachers be forced
    to teach evolution if it violated the schools
    doctrinal positions?
  • (7-1 vote)

Marbury v. Madison (1803)
  • Is the Judiciary Act of 1789 authorizing the
    Supreme Court to issue writs of mandamus
    constitutional? Does Marbury get his job?
  • Why is this arguably the most important Supreme
    Court case ever?
  • Whats the historical significance of the Courts
    decision in this case? The answer to this has
    two parts. . . (5-0)
  • Consider Justice Marshalls words It is
    emphatically the province and duty of the
    judicial department to say what the law is and
    Why does a judge swear to discharge his duties
    agreeably to the constitution , if that
    constitution forms no rule for his government?
    If it is closed upon him, and cannot be inspected
    by him?

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
  • Does Congress have the power to create a bank?
  • Can the state of Maryland tax such a bank?
  • Yes to the first, no to the second.
  • This case upholds the idea that Congress has
    implied powers based on the necessary and
    proper clause found in Article I section 8

Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
  • Are confessions obtained during a suspects
    interrogation as part of an investigation
    admissible as evidence if the suspect has not
    been notified of his/her right to remain silent
    (5th amendment) or right to have counsel present
    (6th amendment)?
  • One of the Warren courts most controversial
    decisions. Why would this case be considered
    judicial activism?
  • In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled to overturn
    Mirandas conviction. the prosecution may not
    use statements, whether exculpatory or
    inclupatory, stemming from custodial
    interrogation of the defendant unless it
    demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards
    effective to secure the privilege against
    self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation,
    we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement
    officers after a person has been taken into
    custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of
    action in any significant way.

Near v. Minnesota (1931)
  • A newspaper called The Saturday Press published
    by Mr. Near and others published a series of
    articles that accused public officials with
    gross neglect of duty or misconduct in office.
    The newspaper was shut down under a state statute
    aimed at malicious, scandalous and defamatory
    periodicals which found the paper to be a
    public nuisance
  • Is this an infringement of the liberty of the
    press under the 14th amendment?
  • The court ruled yes in a 5-4 vote. This case
    upheld the idea that prior restraint amounts to
    censorship of the very kind the Framers intended
    the 1st amendment to prevent. So, even though
    some newspapers might exploit a scandal, state
    laws cant be used to prevent publication.

New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)
  • Should school officials have to meet the same
    standards of reasonableness for conducting
    searches as law enforcement officials do when
    dealing with the public?
  • The issue here is the conflict between the
    schools need to provide safety and order and a
    students reasonable expectation of privacy under
    the 14th amendment
  • The Court ruled 5-3 that schools have to meet a
    lesser standard that searches be reasonable
    rather than the probable cause standard.

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964)
  • This is a famous libel case originating in
    Montgomery, Alabama
  • To what extent does the 1st amendment protect
    people who criticize public officials?
  • Several minor details in the ad which ran in the
    Times were incorrectdid this constitute libel?
    Can public officials sue for libel if people
    criticize their actions as public officials?
  • In a unanimous vote, the court ruled that
    erroneous statement is inevitable in free
    debate and that the Alabama law that allowed the
    law suit would create condition in which critics
    of official conduct may be deterred from voicing
    their criticisms, even though it is believed to
    be true and even though it is in fact true,
    because of doubt whether it can be proved in
    court or fear of the expense of having to do so.
  • Remember the Alien and Sedition Acts? The Court
    did in writing the opinion in this case!

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
  • Did the Louisiana law allowing for separate but
    equal rail cars for whites and blacks violate
    the 13th and 14th amendments?
  • The court ruled no to both questions in a 7-1
    vote. Justice Harlan dissented, writing that
    our Constitution is color-blind, and neither
    knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.
  • This case upheld the separate but equal
    standard that proliferated in the South and other
    places across the country under Jim Crow laws
    after the Civil War.
  • Which case overturned this decision?

Powell v. Alabama (1932)
  • One of the famous Scottsboro boys cases.
  • Were the defendants denied the right to counsel
    and then tried in a hostile environment too
    quickly to develop an adequate defense?
  • This case is one in a series through which the
    court slowly developed the fundamentals of
    fairness to which an accused person (especially
    the poor and minorities) is entitled under the
    Constitution. (7-2)
  • What other cases help develop this doctrine?

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
  • Are quota systems in college admissions unlawful?
  • Is it acceptable to consider race as a factor in
    admissions criteria?
  • This case was the first major legal challenge to
    affirmative action policies.
  • The Court ruled (5-4) that the UC-Davis policy
    amounted to a quota and was a violation of the
    14th amendments equal protection clause, but
    upheld that race may be considered as part of
    admissions criteria.
  • This was an extremely controversial ruling and
    produced 7 separate opinions.
  • Review affirmative action in Glencoe p. 412-413
    Wilson p. 544-549
  • Do you think this case would be decided the same
    way today?

Reynolds v. Sims (1964)
  • Another redistricting case originating in
    Birmingham, Alabama when residents of Jefferson
    County challenged the apportionment of the
    Alabama state legislature.
  • Was the equal protection clause of the 14th
    amendment violated?
  • The Court ruled (8-1) that apportionment must be
    based primarily on population.

Roe v. Wade (1973)
  • This case is NOT just about abortion Does the
    14th amendment use of the word person include
    the unborn? Does the right of privacy found in
    the Constitution include a womans right to an
  • In a 7-2 decision, the court found that the term
    person applies only after birth We need not
    decide the difficult question of when life
    begins. When those trained in the respective
    disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology
    are unable to arrive at any consensus, the
    judiciary, at this point in the development of
    mans knowledge, is not in a position to
    speculate as to the answer.
  • This case is often cited as the exemplar of
    judicial activism and is considered a litmus
    test for judicial nominees.

Santa Fe School District v. Doe (2002)
  • Do student-led, student-initiated, invocations
    broadcast at public school football games violate
    the establishment clause of the 1st amendment as
    applied to the states by the 14th amendment?
  • In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that they are
    a violation of the establishment clause.
  • You be the judge Does the schools policy hold
    up under the Lemon test?
  • The court held that the policy subjected those
    who attended the games to what some may find a
    personally offensive religious ritual

Schenck v. United States (1919)
  • What does this case say about civil rights and
    liberties during times of war?
  • In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that
    Schencks actions, by encouraging men to evade
    the draft constituted a clear and present
    danger to national security. Established the
    clear and present danger test.
  • How does this case compare to other cases when
    safety, national security, the public good, etc.
    have been pitted against the rights of the

Texas v. Johnson (1989)
  • Was Johnsons action of burning the flag during a
    protest at the 1984 Republican National
    Convention a form of constitutionally protected
    freedom of speech/expression?
  • What is symbolic speech? What kinds of speech or
    actions did the Framers intend to protect when
    they wrote the 1st amendment?
  • Was Johnson prosecuted not for his point of view,
    but because of the method he chose to express
    his dissatisfaction? (Justice Stevenss dissent)

Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969)
  • Does the 1st amendment protect the rights of
    public school students to wear black armbands to
    school in protest of the Vietnam War?
  • In a 7-2 vote, the court held that the students
    action was protected because the school board
    didnt demonstrate that the action was disruptive
  • It can hardly be argued that either students or
    teachers shed their constitutional rights to
    freedom of speech or expression at the
    schoolhouse gate. (Justice Fortas, writing for
    the majority)
  • Has the Court been consistent in its rulings on
    these types of cases?

United States v. Nixon (1974)
  • Can a federal court force a president to turn
    over materials (papers, tapes, etc) that a
    president has claimed are covered by executive
  • In an 8-0 decision, the court ruled that to read
    the Article II powers of the president as
    providing an absolute privilege. . .would upset
    the constitutional balance of a workable
    government and gravely impair the role of the
    courts under Article III.
  • What were the historical implications of this

Wesberry v. Sanders (1964)
  • Another redistricting case upholds the one
    person, one vote principle
  • While it may not be possible to draw
    congressional districts with mathematical
    precision, that is no excuse for ignoring our
    Constitutions plain objective of making equal
    representation for equal numbers of people with
    the fundamental goal of the House of
    Representatives. That is the high standard of
    justice and common sense which the founders set
    for us.

Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)
  • Another case that originated out of Alabamaa
    Mobile man sued on behalf of his children, making
    the case that a state statute that permitted one
    minute of silence or voluntary prayer amounted
    to regular religious services.
  • The court ruled 6-3 that in this case we are
    faced with a state measure which forces an
    individual, as part of his daily life. . .to be
    an instrument for fostering public adherence to
    an ideological point of view he finds
    unacceptable. The 1st amendment protects the
    right to select any religious faith or none at
    all. (Justice Stevens)
  • Would the moment of silence pass the Lemon test
    if the wording was changed?

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989)
  • The first major challenge to Roe, this case
    upheld that state legislatures can place some
    limits on abortions.
  • Specifically,
  • can states refuse to spend taxpayers money on
    abortions? (yes)
  • Can states decide when life begins (language in
    the Missouri law said life began at conception)?
  • Can states recognize the rights of the unborn?
  • How are these limitations not inconsistent with
    the Roe decision?

West Virginia State Board of Ed. v. Barnette
  • Can states require students to recite the Pledge
    of Allegiance or salute the flag? What if
    students religious beliefs consider this to be
    worshipping a graven image?
  • Do such laws pass the Lemon test?
  • Do such laws prohibit the students free exercise
    of religion?
  • The West Virginia state statute was found
    unconstitutional in a 6-3 vote

Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)
  • This case involves Amish families who wished to
    end their childrens schooling at the eighth
    grade. Although they felt further education
    teaches values they viewed as at odds with the
    traditional Amish lifestyle, the parents
    recognized the need for elementary education as
    necessary in order to read the Bible, to be good
    farmers and citizens and to be able to deal with
    non-Amish people when necessary in the course of
    daily affairs.
  • Do compulsory education laws infringe on the free
    exercise clause?
  • In a 6-1 decision, the court found that such laws
    do violate the free exercise clause.
  • Some critics of this ruling contend that by
    exempting the Amish, the state is actually
    violating the establishment clause. (theres
    always more than one viewpoint!)

Works Cited
  • Hall, Kermit L. , ed. The Oxford Guided to United
    States Supreme Court Decisions. Oxford, UK
    Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Menez, Joseph F and John R. Vile. Summaries of
    Lading Cases on the Constitution. 50th
    anniversary ed. New York Rowman Littlefield,
  • Remy, Richard C. United States Government
    Democracy in Action. Glencoe, 2006.
  • McClenaghan, William A. Magruders American
    Government. Prentice Hall, 2000.
  • Wilson, James Q. and John J. DiIlulio, Jr.
    American Government. 9th ed. Houghton Mifflin,