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					       Important Supreme Court Case Rulings and Concepts

The judicial branch, and the Supreme Court in particular, have played a key role in determining
practical applications of governmental powers and personal liberties. It takes the vagueness of
the personal liberties outlined in the US Constitutions and attempts to make specific rulings
which attempt to clarify what the government and the people of this country are allowed to do
under the US Constitution and laws. The Court’s rulings are a way to informally amend the US
Constitution and are used much more frequently than the formal method which has only
happened 27 times.

Some general terms you will need for the whole packet:

due process clause- Clause contained in the 5th and 14th amendments of the US Consitution.
Over the years, it has been construed to guarantee to individuals a variety of rights ranging from
economic liberty to criminal procedural rights to protection from arbitrary governmental action.

substantive due process- Judicial interpretation of the 5th and 14th amendments’ due process
clause that protects citizens from arbitrary or unjust laws from states. States have the legal
burden to prove that their laws were/are a valid exercise of their reserved powers.

incorporation doctrine – An interpretation of the Constitution that holds that the due process
clause of the 14th amendment requires that state and local governments also guarantee rights.

selective incorporation – A judicial doctrine whereby most but not all of the protection found in
the Bill of Rights are made applicable to the states via the 14th amendment. (See Chart below for
rights that have been incorporated to the states and local gov’t as well as the cases that have done

fundamental rights/freedoms – Those rights defined by the Court to be essential to order,
liberty, and justice and therefore entitled to the highest standard of review which is known as
strict scrutiny. These rights include but are not limited to speech, religion, criminal proceedings,
and voting.

“Test” – a term used for guidelines/doctrine established in Supreme Court rulings that attempt to
provide parameters on future rulings on similar topics. Examples include the “Miller test” for
obscenity cases and the “Lemon test” for religion in public schools

Speech/Press/Assembly - Concepts and Terms:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
We have all heard of this famous phrase but I also think we know words can hurt just as much as
physical harm. But does this mean those words should be limited? Supreme Court cases
involving speech have to balance a citizens right to voice an opinion versus the impact negative
or hurtful speech may have on a community or individual.

Types of speech that have more limitations:
1. Commercial speech – Speech used in business, advertising, etc. Highly regulated
2. Libel – False written statements that harm someone’s reputation. In the US it is harder to win
    in court – you must prove there was a malicious intent to harm the person’s reputation. In
    Great Britain it is easier to sue for libel.

3. Slander –False spoken statements that harm someone’s reputation.

4. Obscenity- Material that is considered sexually offensive by community standards. Violence
    and profanity can also be regulated but under a different specific standards.

          “Miller Test” – created from Miller v California (1973) Used as the standard for enforcing state and local law involving
obscene material. It has three parts :

          Whether the average person, applying contemporary community (local) standards, would find that the work, taken as a
           whole is sexually explicit
          Whether the work depicts/describes, in a clearly offensive way, sexual conduct or etc. . . specifically defined by applicable
           state law,
          Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. (This is also known as the
           (S)LAPS test- [Serious] Literary, Artistic, Political, Scientific).

The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions are satisfied.

The first two prongs of the Miller test are held to the standards of the community, and the last prong is held to a reasonable person
standard. The reasonable person standard of the last prong acts as a check on the community standard of the first two prongs, allowing
protection for works that in a certain community might be considered obscene but on a national level might have redeeming value.

* Congress has written several laws attempting to regulate Internet pornography involving children ( in the pornography or accessing
the pornography) but Court rulings have been complex and have not always been supportive of the laws due to the nature of the
Internet not being a local community.

5. Speech that creates a dangerous situation
           Clear-and-present danger doctrine or “test” – created from Schenck v U.S. (1919): court sees whether the words used
           could create a clear and present danger – if so they can be punished.
           Direct incitement “test” – new speech test from Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969); holds that advocacy of illegal action is
           protected by the First Amendment unless an imminent lawless action is intended and likely to occur .

Other Speech Terms/Concepts:
prior restraint – prohibition of speech/publication before it happens; the Court has consistently protected
       (with a few exceptions for national security) news agencies and people from the government’s
       attempt at prior restraint; basically verbal, written, and other forms of speech are punished after it
       has taken place.

least-restrictive – If speech, press, is to be restricted in should be done in the least restrictive manner
       possible. Example – if the local government is going to ban a particular book on Nazi Germany from
       the local school library they shouldn’t get rid of all the books about WWII.

symbolic speech – Symbols, signs, and other methods of expression generally also considered to be
     protected by the First Amendment.

Fighting words – Words by their very utterance inflict injury or tend or incite an immediate breach of
      peace. Fighting words that include profanity, obscenity, or threats can be regulated.

Hate Speech – involves school, local, and state laws that limit speech that creates or fosters an
      intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Example – 2/3 or colleges have banned this type of
      speech including information posted on web sites that can be attributed to a student.
                                  Important Speech/Press/Assembly Cases

Case Name and Judge Vote                      Important Concepts from ruling

Schenck v U.S. (1919)
Clear and present danger test

Gitlow v New York (1923)
Dangerous tendency

Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)
Direct incitement

New York Times v US (1971)
     also called the Pentagon papers case

Miller v California (1973)                    See Notes above
Obscene material

Tinker v Des Moines Indep. School(1969)
Symbolic student speech

Texas v Johnson (1989)
Symbolic speech

New York Times v Sullivan (1964)

Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier (1987)
Student newspaper
Religion Terms and Concepts:

The two major constitutional clauses involving religion sometimes clash. Many religion cases
involve a balance of these two clauses and many of them started from situations in public schools.
Older Court rulings said the government can only supply books and busing to religious schools
but more recent rulings have further blurred the lines of what the government can provide to
religious schools. Religious speech in public schools has become more limited however. State
and local governments can ban religious activity if there is a compelling state interest to do so
(illegal drug use, polygamy, etc)

Establishment clause

Free exercise clause

Wall of separation

“Lemon test”

                                        Important Religion Cases

Case Name and Judge Vote                     Important Concepts from ruling
Everson v Board of Education (1947)
School busing to private games

Engel v Vitale (1962)
Voluntary prayer in public school

Lemon v Kurtzman (1971)                      See definition above for answer
Public funding for private schools

Zelman v Simmons-Harris (2000)
School vouchers

Reynolds v United States

Oregon v Smith (1990)
Use of drugs for religious ceremonies

Sante Fe Independent School v Doe. (2000)
Student led prayer at public school

Wisconsin v Yoder
Mandatory school attendance
Criminal Procedure Terms and Concepts:
These cases deal mainly with amendments- 4-8 of the US Bill of Rights.

exclusionary rule

good-faith exception

probable cause

search warrant

warrantless searches

Patriot Act

double jeopardy

due process – see definition on first page of speech and religion packet

enemy combatant
                                         Important Cases

Case Name and Judge Vote                   Important Concepts from ruling
Gideon v Wainright (1963)
Right to an attorney

Mapp v Ohio (1961)
Exclusionary rule

Miranda v Arizona (1966)
Miranda warnings

Furman v Georgia (1972)
Death penalty

Gregg v Georgia (1976)
Death penalty

US v Leon (1984)
Good faith exception

Maryland v Craig (1990)
Child testimony in a trial

Rasul v Bush (2004)
Enemy combatants and Guantanamo Bay

Hamdan v Rumsfeld (2005)
Enemy combatants and Guantanamo Bay
                                           Important Miscellaneous Cases

Case Name and Judge Vote                                  Important Concepts from ruling

Marbury v Madison (1803)                                  Judicial review precedence set. That is all you need to know for this case.

McCulloch v Maryland (1819) 9-0                             Elastic clause allows Congress to do other activities for its enumerated powers
and in this case – create a national back. It also said the federal government is supreme to the states and can’t be taxed by them.

Gibbons v Ogden (1824)                                    Congress (and not the states) regulates interstate commerce and waterways.

Baker v Carr (1961) 6-2                                     Said reapportionment conducted by state legislatures can be questioned in
federal courts if there is a possibility of infringement on voting rights. Later case clarifications elaborated on Baker v Carr. These
included the “one person- one vote” Gray v. Sanders concept and that districts can’t be formed predominantly based on racial makeup
(1962) of the population Hunt v. Cromartie (1999)

Korematsu v US (1944)
Japanese internment camps

Bush v Gore (2000)
Florida recount in presidential election

McConnell v FEC (2003)
Constitutionality of BCRA campaign finance law

Federal Election Commission v.
Wisconsin Right to Life (2007)
Constitutionality of BCRA campaign finance law

Gonzales v Oregon (2005) 6-3                             Federal government can’t use Controlled Substance Act to halt Oregon’s
Doctor assisted suicide                                  Death with Dignity Act

Rumsfeld v FAIR (2005)                                    Solomon Amendment is upheld and the federal gov’t
Military recruiters                                       can take away funding from schools who do not allow military recruiters on

Kelo v City of New London (2005)
Eminent domain

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)
Right to bear arms
      other important gun law case will be given in federalism