Supreme Court Cases: Contemporary America
In 1957, Cleveland, Ohio, police arrived at Dollree Mapp’s home searching for a man believed to be involved in a recent car bombing and for evidence involving an illegal gambling operation. Mapp refused to admit them, and they had no search warrant. The officers left, but soon returned, knocked on the door, and when Mapp did not immediately answer, they opened the door and entered. When Mapp appeared and demanded to see a search warrant, she was shown a piece of paper which she snatched away from the officer. The officer retrieved the paper and handcuffed Mapp. The police then searched the entire house but found no bombing suspect and no evidence of an illegal gambling operation. However, they did find some obscene material, possession of which was at the time a violation of Ohio law. At her trial in an Ohio court on a charge of possession of obscene literature, no search warrant was produced, and the failure to produce one was not explained. After her conviction, Mapp appealed to higher Ohio courts which upheld her conviction, and she then appealed to the Supreme Court.
By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court overturned Mapp’s conviction and for the first time applied “the exclusionary rule” to state courts. As a result, evidence obtained by police in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used against the defendant in either a federal or a state court.
By a 6-1 vote, with two justices not participating, the Supreme Court overturned the judgment of the New York courts and ruled that requiring public school students to recite a government composed prayer is a violation of the no establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice Hugo Black stated: “It is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as part of a religious program carried on by government.”
By a 6-2 vote (one justice not participating), the Supreme Court overturned the Colegrove v Green ruling. The Court held that under the equal protection of the laws clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, federal courts do have jurisdiction to hear cases involving the drawing of legislative districts.
The Court’s decision in Baker v Carr led to later Court decisions often referred to as the Court’s “one man-one vote” rulings which had a major impact on the distribution of political power between urban and rural areas in state legislatures, the U. S. House of Representatives, and county commissioners courts.
After his retirement as Chief Justice of the U. S. from 1953-1969, Earl Warren was asked what he regarded as the most significant case decided during his tenure as Chief Justice. His answer was Baker v Carr.
A unanimous Supreme Court overturned Gideon’s conviction. The Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel now applies to the states using the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the doctrine of “incorporation” and requires that in any serious criminal case in a state court, if the accused cannot afford a lawyer, the state must provide one. The Court called the right to a lawyer “fundamental” and necessary for a fair trial.
Gideon was retried before the same judge in the same courtroom, but this time he had a court-appointed lawyer and was acquitted.
In another case some years later, the Supreme Court extended the right to a lawyer to any criminal case in a state court in which a jail sentence of any length is a possible outcome.
The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Alabama Supreme Court’s judgment and thus ruled in favor of the New York Times. In doing so, the Court interpreted the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press to establish the following rule for what public officials must prove to win a libel suit for defamatory falsehoods relating to their official conduct: a public official must prove that the defamatory statement about his official conduct was made with “actual malice” – that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.
This “actual malice” rule in reality has meant that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a public official to win a libel suit relating to his official conduct.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed Escobedo’s conviction. The Court held that, under the circumstances of this case, where a police investigation is no longer a general inquiry into an unsolved crime, but has begun to focus on a particular suspect in police custody who has been refused an opportunity to consult with his counsel and has not been warned of his right to remain silent, the accused has been denied the assistance of counsel of the Sixth Amendment. Thus, no statement obtained by police during the interrogation can be used against him at trial.
Because of some confusion concerning the Supreme Court’s ruling in Escobedo, two years later in Miranda v Arizona, the Court announced that it was reexamining that decision and the principles it announced and reaffirming it.
By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court reversed their conviction and ruled that the Connecticut law was unconstitutional because it infringed on the constitutionally protected right to “privacy” of married people. The majority concluded that “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance,” and that “various guarantees create zones of privacy” into which government cannot intrude. The majority asserted that the right to privacy was inherent in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments and that states must honor it based on the Fourteenth amendment’s due process of law clause and the doctrine of incorporation.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overturned Miranda’s conviction. Speaking through Chief Justice Earl Warren, the majority held that if police do not inform the accused of certain constitutional rights, including their Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination, then their confessions may not be used as evidence against them at trial. Warren summarized the Court’s holding: “When an individual is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom by the authorities in any significant way and is subjected to questioning, the privilege against self-incrimination is jeopardized. … The accused must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.”
By a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court overturned their conviction and declared the Virginia law banning interracial marriage unconstitutional. The Court held: “There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection of the Laws clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The Court also found that the Virginia law deprived citizens of liberty without due process of law: “To deny this fundamental freedom [marriage] on so unsupportable a basis as racial classification…is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.”
The Supreme Court unanimously overturned Brandenburg’s conviction and declared the Ohio law unconstitutional as a violation of the freedom of speech of the First Amendment. In doing so, the Court formulated a new test for judging freedom of speech cases more protective of speech than the previous “clear and present danger test” announced by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the 1919 Schenck case and subsequently followed by the Court. The new test announced in Brandenburg allows government to punish the advocacy of illegal action only if “such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”
By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s judgment and ruled in favor of the First Amendment speech rights of public school students. The majority noted that wearing the arm bands was “closely akin to pure speech” protected by the First Amendment. In a memorable, famous statement, the Court held: “First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate…”
A unanimous Supreme Court declared both state laws unconstitutional as violations of the no establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. In doing so, the Court established a new test now called “the Lemon test” for deciding cases involving the First Amendment’s establishment clause. The “Lemon test” has three prongs. For a law not to be a violation of the establishment clause, it must meet the following conditions: (1) it must have a secular purpose; (2) its principle or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and (3) it must not result in excessive government entanglement with religion. If a law does not satisfy any one of the three prongs, the law is unconstitutional.
By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York Times and the Washington Post. The majority concluded that the U. S. government had violated the First Amendment’s freedom of the press when it attempted to stop publication of “the Pentagon Papers.” Citing the Court’s 1931 decision in Near v Minnesota, the majority noted that “prior restraint” by government of publication by the press is hardly ever permitted.
By a 6-1 vote, with two justices not participating, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Amish and held that the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause prevents a state from compelling Amish children to attend school to the age of sixteen. The Court concluded that the state’s interest in making sure students attend two more years of school was not enough to outweigh the individual’s right to free exercise of religion.
By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the District Court’s judgment declaring the Texas abortion law unconstitutional. The majority held that “the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision.” The Court based its decision in part on the Court’s previous 1965 decision in Griswold v Connecticut and the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice Harry Blackmun noted that “although the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy … the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution … This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservations of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” However, the majority continued, the right is not unqualified.
The majority then announced the following rule. In the first trimester of a pregnancy, the abortion decision is left to the woman and her physician. In the second trimester, in the interest of the health of the mother, the state may regulate the procedure in ways reasonably related to maternal health. In the third trimester, the state, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may choose to regulate and even forbid abortion except where medical judgment is that abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision and thus sustained Texas’ public school finance system. The majority held that education is not a fundamental right under the U. S. Constitution since it is neither explicitly nor implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution.
Some years later, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Edgewood ISD, other school districts, Rodriguez and other parents of Mexican American students filed another suit challenging Texas’ public school finance system. This time, they brought their suit in a lower Texas court, rather than in a federal court, and they argued that the Texas system violated the Texas Constitution, rather than the U. S. Constitution. Eventually, the Texas Supreme Court in 1989 in Edgewood ISD v Kirby, ruled that the Texas system was a violation of the Texas Constitution and directed the Texas Legislature to come up with a new system for financing Texas’ public schools.
The Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the District Court and the plaintiffs that, given the past history of discrimination against minority voters, the multi-member districts unfairly discriminated against African American and Mexican American voters in those counties. The Court thus directed that those multi-member districts be eliminated. However, by a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the District Court’s judgment on the other question. In other words, the majority found that the 9.9% variation in population equality among some of the House districts was acceptable, but the majority did note that “very likely, larger differences between districts would not be tolerable.”
In a significant defeat for President Nixon personally, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the President in this instance could not claim executive privilege, and thus the tapes had to be turned over. In the Court’s words: “The generalized assertion of privilege must yield to the demonstrated specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial.” However, for the first time in U. S. history, in an important victory for the office of the President, the Court did declare that the President does have the right of executive privilege and it must be shown great respect and deference.
By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty and rejected the argument that capital punishment was per se unconstitutional. Thus, the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibition does not render death sentences unconstitutional. Georgia’s law imposing the death penalty under very specific circumstances and guidelines was constitutional. The judicious and careful use of the penalty was justified in that it met contemporary standards of society, served as a deterrent, and was not randomly applied. However, the Court did strongly imply that mandatory death penalty laws would violate the Eighth Amendment.
The Supreme Court was extremely divided, and many different opinions were written. The Court came to two very different decisions. First, congressional limits on individual money contributions to political candidates were permissible under the Constitution because of the government’s interest in preventing corruption. On the other hand, congressional limits on the amount of money political candidates could spend were unconstitutional violations of First Amendment rights.
In this first major constitutional test of so-called “affirmative action” programs, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the California court’s judgment and thus its decision in Bakke’s favor. The Court ruled that state universities cannot use racial quotas in their admissions decisions. Such quotas based on race are unconstitutional violations of the equal protection of the laws clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the majority determined that, using affirmative action as a way of righting past wrongs against racial and ethnic minorities, state universities can consider race as one of several criteria in making admissions decisions.
By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court overturned the judgment of the Kentucky court and held that the Kentucky law was an unconstitutional violation of the no establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. The Court held that the law failed that part of the so-called “Lemon test” announced in the Court’s decision in the 1965 case Lemon v Kurtzman which requires that laws must have a secular, not a religious, purpose. In the majority’s view, the Ten Commandments concern worshipping God and observing the Sabbath and are “plainly religious in nature” and therefore do not meet the secular requirement of Lemon v Kurtzman.
A divided Supreme Court overturned the New Jersey Supreme Court’s judgment. The search of T. L. O.’s purse was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment applies to searches by public school officials and that public school students have a legitimate expectation of privacy. However, the Court continued, the school’s need to maintain an environment where learning can occur requires some easing of the restrictions to which searches are usually subject. Thus, the Court ruled, school officials do not need a warrant, and searches they conduct do not need to be based on “probable cause.” Instead, the legality of their searches depends simply on the reasonableness of the search. A search in the public school environment is justified when there is “reasonable suspicion,” rather than “probable cause,” that the search will reveal evidence the student has violated or is violating the law or a school rule.
By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court ruled for the school district and against Fraser. His suspension, the majority ruled, did not violate his freedom of speech of the First Amendment. The majority noted that “the First Amendment does not require school officials … to permit a vulgar and lewd speech that would undermine the school’s basic educational mission.” The majority pointed out the difference between this case and the Court’s decision in Tinker v Des Moines School District: “The marked distinction between the political “message” of the armbands in Tinker and the sexual content of respondent’s speech in this case seems to have been given little weight by the Court of Appeals. In upholding the students’ right to engage in a nondisruptive, passive expression of a political viewpoint in Tinker, this Court was careful to note that the case did “not concern speech or action that intrudes upon the work of the schools or the rights of other students.”
By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the lower federal courts. The majority ruled that the Louisiana law failed all three parts of the so-called ‘Lemon Test” announced by the Court in 1965 in Lemon v Kurtzman. The Louisiana law, the majority concluded, had no secular purpose, advanced a religious viewpoint, and resulted in excessive entanglement between government and religion.
By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the lower federal courts and ruled against the state of South Dakota. The majority believed Congress passed the law in the interest of the “general good” and by “reasonable means.” In its authority under Congress’ constitutional power to tax and spend, the Court also emphasized, the 5 percent penalty was not enough to render it “coercive.” The majority further noted that Congress has the power to attach conditions to the receipt of federal funds provided that the spending power is being exercised in pursuit of “the general welfare.”
By a 5-3 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision and ruled in favor of the school district’s action. The school district had not violated the students’ First Amendment freedom of the press rights. The majority ruled that public school officials can censor school-sponsored, student produced newspapers because the papers are part of the school curriculum rather than a forum for public expression as long as the censorship is “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturning Johnson’s conviction. The majority held that burning a flag as political protest is a form of symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment. The majority wrote: “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable… We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the lower courts and held that officially approved, clergy-led prayer at public school graduations led to subtle religious coercion and thus violated the no establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. The majority wrote: “The government involvement with religious activity in this case is pervasive, to the point of creating a state-sponsored and state-directed religious exercise in a public school.” Further, the majority noted, “the state, in a school setting, in effect required participation in a religious exercise.”
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that Shaw and the other plaintiffs had stated a “claim upon which relief can be granted under the Equal Protection Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment. The majority thus invalidated North Carolina’s plan on the grounds that any gerrymander based on race, even one designed to benefit a minority, is subject to strict scrutiny equal protection analysis.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals and ruled that Congress did not have constitutional authority under the commerce clause to pass the Gun-Free School Zones Act. The majority held that “the possession of a gun in a local school zone is in no sense an economic activity that might, through repetition elsewhere, substantially affect any sort of interstate commerce.”
This was the first time since 1937 that the Supreme Court had declared an act of Congress based on the commerce clause of Article I, Section 8 unconstitutional.
By a7-2 vote, the Supreme Court declared the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional. The majority ruled that the law was overly broad and vague in its regulation of speech on the Internet and attempted to regulate “indecent” speech which the First Amendment protects. The majority further noted that in its attempt to keep certain material out of the hands of minors, the Congress failed to take safeguards to ensure the availability of material that might legally be viewed by adults.
A unanimous Supreme Court ruled on both President Clinton’s claim of immunity and the postponement. The Court held that executive immunity extended neither to acts allegedly committed before becoming President nor to acts unrelated to the President’s official duties. As to the postponement, the Court ruled that the case could proceed because delay could result in witnesses dying and memories fading. The Court held that instances where sitting Presidents have been parties to law suits have been so infrequent that fear of harassment suits against the President are merely speculative. Finally, the Court said that if such suits should become a problem, Congress could pass legislation to remedy it.
The case was eventually settled out of court.
By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeals and held that a public school district’s policy allowing students to vote on a prayer to be read by a student at football games violated the no establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. The majority held that the voting policy resulted in religious coercion of the minority by the majority. The majority noted that the prayer was public speech authorized by government policy on government property at a government/school sponsored event. Finally, the majority asserted that the policy involved both perceived and actual state endorsement of the prayer.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and declared Congress’ Violence Against Women Act unconstitutional. The majority agreed that Congress did not have the constitutional authority under the commerce clause or the Fourteenth Amendment to allow rape victims to sue their attackers in a federal court.
On December 12 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Florida Supreme Court. By a 7-2 vote, the Court held that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision violated the equal protection of the laws clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. By a different 5-4 vote, the Court held that there was no remedy available. Since December 13 was the deadline for states to verify their presidential election elections, the majority felt that it would be impossible to create a recount procedure that would be uniform throughout the state during that time, and thus, a recount was not possible without offending the Equal Protection clause. The recount standards and procedures would vary from county to county and even from one election judge to another. Under those circumstances, there was no guarantee that each vote would be treated equally.
What the majority of the Supreme Court did was to order a stop to any recount of the Florida vote. That in turn meant that since George W. Bush had slightly more popular votes in the state than did Al Gore, Bush won all of Florida’s electoral votes. That in turn meant that Bush became President because, with all of Florida’s electoral votes, he ended up with 271 electoral votes, one more than the 270 needed to win.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overruled the decision of the Appeals Court and ruled that a public school can require all students who participate in extracurricular activities to submit to such random drug testing. The majority held that given the “nationwide epidemic of drug use,’ the requirement was constitutional. The policy “reasonably served the School District’s important interest in detecting and preventing drug use among its students.”
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overruled the judgment of the lower courts and ruled that Ohio’s voucher program did not violate the no establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. The majority emphasized that the program was facially “neutral in all respects toward religion” and that “previous court decisions have drawn a consistent distinction between government programs that provide aid directly to religious schools, and programs of true private choice, in which government aid reaches religious schools only as a result of the genuine and independent choice of private individuals.”
By a 5-4 vote, Court ruled here that the Law School’s admission process was narrowly tailored to achieve the constitutionally permissible goal of creating a diverse student body. The majority noted that “not every decision influenced by race is equally objectionable” and that “we have never held that that the only governmental use of race that can survive strict scrutiny is remedying past discrimination.” The majority stated that they also “accepted the law school’s argument that admitting ‘a critical mass’ of minority students was essential to achieving student diversity and the educational benefits that diversity is designed to produce.” Finally, the majority pointed out, “the law school engages in a highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant’s file in which race counts as a factor but is not used in a mechanical way.”
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court affirmed the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision and thus ruled against Susette Kelo and the other property owners. A majority of the Court “rejected a literal interpretation” of the term “public use” in the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment and ruled that the words “public use” can be interpreted to mean “public benefit.” Consequently, the majority determined that government can take private property from an individual in order to turn it over to a private developer where the taking will result in “economic development” for the area.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appeals Court and ruled in favor of Principal Morse. Thus, the majority ruled that Frederick’s First Amendment speech rights had not been violated. The majority held that the First Amendment does not protect student speech that could reasonably be understood to promote illegal drugs. The majority concluded that the free speech rights of public school students must be considered in light of the “special characteristics” of the public school environment and that it is an important responsibility of the schools to deter drug use among young people.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the D. C. Court of Appeals and found that D. C.’s law banning virtually all handguns and requiring firearms to be kept disassembled or trigger locked was unconstitutional. The majority declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep suitable firearms unconnected to service in a militia and to use that firearm for lawful purposes such as self-defense in one’s home. However, the majority continued, the right is not unlimited. For example, the majority elaborated, it is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. Moreover, the majority noted, this decision should not be interpreted to cast doubt on laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and public buildings or on laws forbidding possession by felons and mentally ill individuals.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals judgment and ruled in favor of McDonald. The majority held that the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment “incorporates” the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and thus applies this right to state and local governments.
The Supreme Court thus for the first time in U. S. history ruled that the Second Amendment, like most of the other rights of the Bill of Rights, now applies to and limits the power of state and local governments through its “incorporation” by the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process of law clause.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s judgment and ruled in favor of Citizens United. The majority held that portions of Congress’ McCain-Feingold law were unconstitutional violations of the freedom of speech of the First Amendment. The majority declared that “if the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” The majority noted that “corporations, as associations of individuals, have free speech rights. Spending money is essential to disseminating speech, and limiting a corporation’s ability to spend money is unconstitutional because it limits the ability of its members to associate effectively and to speak on political issues.” Finally, the majority noted, “speech would be suppressed in the realm where its necessity is most evident: in the public dialogue preceding a real election.” Government cannot make political speech a crime, the majority stated, and “yet this is the statute’s purpose and design.”
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court affirmed part of the Court of Appeals’ judgment and reversed part of it. The government had argued that Congress’ constitutional authority to adopt the law and its individual mandate was the commerce and necessary and proper clauses of Article I, Section 8. A majority of the Court ruled that the Act was not a valid use of the commerce and necessary and proper clauses, but that it was a constitutional use of Congress’ power to tax. However, a majority of the Court ruled that the Medicaid expansion called for by the Act violated the Constitution by threatening the states with the loss of existing Medicaid funds if they declined to comply with its expansion.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overruled the judgment of the Alabama courts. The Court ruled that imposing on a juvenile under the age of 18 at the time of their crime a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole does violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. A majority of the Court concluded that “mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features – among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.”
By a 5-3 vote with one justice not participating, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the lower courts. The majority ruled that the states are preempted from enacting laws which interfere with an exclusive power of the national government which in this case is the Congress’ power “to establish an (sic) uniform Rule of Naturalization.” The majority also noted that the state cannot pass laws which may interfere with the national government’s sovereign power to control and conduct foreign affairs. The Court thus struck down as unconstitutional all but one of the Arizona law’s four provisions, namely the one which allows officers to verify a person’s immigration status with the federal government. While the Court expressed the opinion that this provision may also be unconstitutional, it held that until the provision was actually implemented, the Court would withhold a ruling on its constitutionality.
By a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals overturning Jones’ conviction. The Court held that the placing of the GPS on the vehicle was a search and was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Following the precedent set in Katz v. United States, the Court held that Jones had a reasonable expectation of privacy while the car was being driven on public highways and streets.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that police use of a trained drug-sniffing dog at the front door of a private home is a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and therefore, without consent of the home owner, requires both probable cause and a search warrant. The Court thus overturned Jardines’ conviction as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the lower federal courts and ruled in favor of Edith Windsor. The majority ruled that DOMA was an unconstitutional exercise of Congressional power. The majority concluded that restricting “marriage” and “spouse” only to opposite sex unions as the DOMA did was unconstitutional. DOMA, the majority continued, seeks to injure a class of citizens that New York seeks to protect. As such, the Act denies Windsor equal protection and thus violates the liberty component of the due process of law clause of the Fifth Amendment.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the lower courts and declared Section 4 of the Act and its “coverage formula” unconstitutional. As a result, the majority confirmed, its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to the “pre-clearance” requirement of Section 5 of the Act. The majority noted that much has changed in the last 50 years. Literacy tests and other qualifying requirements have been banned for 40 years. The majority stated: “There is no denying, however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.” By 2009, the majority pointed out, “the racial gap in voter registration and turnout was lower in the states originally covered by Section 5 than it was nationwide.” Furthermore, the majority noted, “African American turnout in 5 of the 6 states originally covered by the law has come to exceed white voter turnout.”
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that “taking a cheek swab is like fingerprinting and photographing a legitimate booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” Taking a cheek swab is painless and poses no threat to the person’s health or safety. DNA identification is extremely accurate and may even lead to the exoneration of a totally innocent person.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court affirmed the Missouri Supreme Court’s judgment and ruled that an involuntary blood draw is a search and nonconsensual, warrantless blood draws violate the Fourth Amendment. The majority noted that prior Court decisions have made it clear that blood samples may not be taken without a warrant unless “exigent circumstances” exist. Missouri sought a per se rule that because alcohol quickly begins to dissipate in the blood stream, that fact alone constitutes an exigent circumstance. The Supreme Court refused to adopt such an across the board rule and reaffirmed that, absent exigent circumstances, the state must get a warrant in order to take a blood sample from someone suspected of DWI.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that as applied to “closely held corporations” such as Hobby Lobby, the Department of Health and Human Services regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In striking down the requirement, the majority held that the government had not shown that requiring the coverage was “the least restrictive means” of infringing on religious liberty.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the Town of Greece had not violated the no establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. The majority begins by noting that there is a long tradition of legislative prayers in the U.S. The First Congress hired a chaplain, and the practice has continued uninterrupted to this day. The majority noted that legislative prayers need not be nonsectarian because to require them to be would place legislators and judges in the position of religious censors. However, the majority pointed out, that does not mean there are no constraints on content. As long as the content does not proselytize or disparage other religions, it is permitted. The Court noted that spectators are free to leave, arrive late, or even protest the prayer at the meeting.
By a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court overturned the decisions of the California courts and decided that, as a general rule, under the Fourth Amendment, without a warrant, police may not search information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been lawfully arrested. The Court emphasized that searches incident to a valid arrest are limited to the area within the immediate reach of the person arrested for police safety and to prevent the destruction of evidence, and the information on Riley’s cell phone could not pose a danger to officers and no evidence related to the weapons charge for which he was arrested was in danger of destruction. Therefore, the Court concluded, there being no “exigent circumstances” in this case to justify a warrantless search, the evidence was inadmissible.
By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the judgment of the Court of Appeals in all four cases and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The majority ruled that the due process of law and equal protection of the law clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize such marriages legally licensed and performed in other states. According to the majority, the hope of the couples in these cases “is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
By an 8-0 vote, the Supreme Court noted that from the beginning of the Republic legislative districts have always been based on total population. The Three-fifths Compromise, which counted slaves for purposes of representation, illustrates that the Framers understood that total population was the basis of representation. Women and children were not voters at the time the Constitution was written, but nowhere was it suggested they should not be counted for purposes of representation. The Court thus concluded that states can continue to use total population as the basis for drawing legislative districts.
By a 4-3 vote (one vacancy and one justice not participating), the Supreme Court ruled that the race-conscious admissions program in use by the University when Fisher applied was lawful under the equal protection of the laws clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The majority held that it was satisfied that the University’s affirmative action program was necessary to achieve a legitimate educational purpose (diversity) and that race-neutral approaches would not be able to achieve that legitimate purpose. However, the majority noted, the University does have a duty to continue to monitor its program to ensure that its constitutionality and efficacy are still valid.