• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court showed a lack of respect for state judiciaries in deciding that it would not be bound by state supreme court decisions. Dubuque, Iowa, railroad promoters issued potentially questionable bonds exceeding the state’s debt limit. Reformers on the new Iowa supreme court overturned earlier Iowa supreme court rulings that accepted the bond’s validity. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld a California law denying disability benefits to pregnant women, but its ruling was later set aside by federal legislation. Three state employees challenged California’s disability benefits system, which denied medical benefits to pregnant women, charging that the plan violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the California law […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, provided for the rights of juveniles accused of committing crimes Justice Abe Fortas,Fortas, Abe;Gault, In re[Gault, In re] writing for an 8-1 majority, upheld a habeas corpus petition for a fifteen-year-old boy who had been sent to a juvenile detention center without notice to his parents. The Supreme […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court made it clear that the government must show malice in order to obtain a constitutional criminal libel conviction. Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Garrison v. Louisiana[Garrison v. Louisiana] unanimously reversed the criminal libel conviction of Louisiana attorney general Jim Garrison, a critic of the theory […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Using the commerce clause, the Supreme Court removed almost all limitations on Congress’s power to regulate the states. In Garcia, the Supreme Court had to determine whether the hour and wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) applied to a public transportation system owned and operated by the city of San Antonio. The […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that capital punishment as commonly practiced in 1972 constituted cruel and unusual punishment and thus violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. By the late 1960’s the majority of Americans opposed the death penalty. The Legal Defense Fund (LDF) of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People led a legal […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld a federal public works program that required a 10 percent set-aside of federal funds for minority-controlled businesses. The Public Works Employment Act of 1977 was the first federal statute to include an explicitly race-conscious classification since the Freedman’s Bureau Act of 1877. Nonminority contractors challenged the act as a violation of […]

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Fuller, Melville W.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Fuller was a gifted judicial administrator who managed the Supreme Court efficiently for twenty-two years; however, his legal impact was limited and many of his most important decisions were later overturned. Fuller’s parents divorced shortly after his birth, and Fuller grew up in the household of his maternal grandfather, Chief Justice Nathan Weston of the […]

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Full faith and credit

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A clause in the Constitution stating that states in the United States must recognize the validity of judicial decisions and legislative acts originating within other states. The full faith and credit clause, Article IV, section 1, of the Constitution, mandates that each state must give at least the same effect to the laws and court […]

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Fugitives from justice

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Defendants who escape trial by fleeing the jurisdiction of state courts. Article IV, section 2, of the U.S. Constitution requires the extradition of fugitives to face justice, a requirement that the Supreme Court upheld in the early years of the republic. In Kentucky v. Dennison[case]Kentucky v. Dennison[Kentucky v. Dennison] (1861), however, the Court reversed itself. […]

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Fugitive slaves

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Slaves who had escaped from their masters. Under the institution of slavery that existed in the United States until 1865, many African Americans were classified as property with no political or legal rights. In 1619 the first African slavesSlavery;beginnings of were brought to Virginia. By the late 1700’s, there were more than a million blacks […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that payment of taxes does not establish the standing to sue necessary to challenge the constitutionality of congressional spending statutes. Harriet Frothingham filed suit as a federal taxpayer to prevent the secretary of the treasury from spending money under the Maternity Act of 1921, which provided grants to the states for […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court reaffirmed that discrimination based on sex is contrary to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but only a plurality of the justices recognized all gender classifications as inherently suspect. A federal law automatically allowed a male member of the armed service to claim his spouse as a dependent, but a […]

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Freund, Ernst

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A legal scholar, Freund influenced the Supreme Court through his treatise on police powers and his theoretical defense of free speech. Freund was born in New York while his German parents were visiting the United States but grew up and was educated in their homeland. He moved to the United States shortly after completing legal […]

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French Constitutional Council

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

French government council, not part of the judicial branch, that examines proposed laws to ensure that they are constitutional, oversees certain elections, and certifies extraordinary actions in times of national emergency. The Constitutional Council of France, while similar to the U.S. Supreme Court, is not its equivalent. Although both are charged with reviewing the constitutionality […]

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Frankfurter, Felix

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During his twenty-three years as an associate justice, Frankfurter, a dedicated liberal in his personal life, was a major advocate of judicial self-restraint. As a justice, he attempted to decide cases procedurally rather than to reconstruct the judicial system. Frankfurter was twelve when he arrived in the United States from his native Austria. He learned […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court refused federal relief for a defendant convicted of murder in state court under conditions of mob intimidation. When Leo Frank, a JewishJews;discrimination against capitalist, was tried in Georgia for the murder of a young woman, a large anti-Semitic mob intimidated the jury as it reached a guilty verdict. Almost all observers agreed […]

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Fourth Amendment

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights that protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Framers of the Bill of Rights were concerned with the old English practice of issuing general warrants and writs of assistance. These two legal tools authorized searches with few stipulations on searching agents, allowing […]

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Fourteenth Amendment

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that provides legal protections for individuals against actions by state governments. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified after the Civil War (1861-1865) to provide protection for individuals, including the African AmericansAfrican Americans;Fourteenth Amendment[fourteenth Amendment] newly freed from slavery, against actions taken by state governments. Before ratification of the amendment, the rights […]

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Fortas, Abe

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Associate justice and nominee for chief justice who resigned from the Supreme Court in disgrace. A gifted student, Fortas received a scholarship to study at Yale Law School. After graduating in 1933, Fortas taught at Yale and worked for various New Deal government agencies. He worked full-time for the U.S. government from 1941 to 1946, […]

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Foreign affairs and foreign policy

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Domain of public policy making whereby the national government orders its relations with other countries. The Supreme Court typically defers to the political branches of the government in the area of foreign policy making. The president is constitutionally the lead actor in dealing with foreign governments. Article II of the U.S. Constitution invests the president […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment allows the controversial police practice of randomly approaching individuals in public places and asking them for permission to search their belongings, as long as the request is not coercive in nature. It is an elementary principle of law that persons may waive their constitutional rights. In Schneckloth […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s broad construction of the contracts clause enhanced protection from legislative interference for vested rights in private property. For the first time, moreover, the Court declared that a state law was unconstitutional and therefore invalid. In 1795 the Georgia legislature granted thirty-five million acres of prime cotton land along the Yazoo River to […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

For the first time since the 1920’s, the Supreme Court ruled that a taxpayer could sue the government for the misuse of government money but carefully limited the right of suit. By an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that a group of taxpayers could sue to stop federal funds from being spent on teaching […]

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Flag desecration

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Act of physically “harming” the U.S. flag, usually through such means as burning or tearing; at times the term was also applied to verbal criticism of the flag or what it represents. The U.S. flag, a symbol of the nation, is displayed widely in front of government buildings, private homes, and commercial enterprises and used […]

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Fiscal and monetary powers

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Taxation, government expenditures, and management of the public debt; creation and regulation of the money supply and banking system. The U.S. Constitution bestowed extensive monetary powers on the new central government and restricted possible monetary actions by state governments. In 1792 Congress chartered the Bank of the United States, which operated branches in major cities. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

This decision extended the impact of Buckley v. Valeo to referendum campaigns. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down a clause in Massachusetts law restricting the amount of money corporations could contribute to support or oppose referenda. Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.,Powell, Lewis F., Jr.;First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti[First National Bank […]

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First Monday in October

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Opening day of the Supreme Court session. In 1916 Congress moved the opening session of the Supreme Court from the second Monday in October to the first Monday in October (beginning in 1917) to allow the Court more time to handle its increasing agenda. Some rituals of first Monday include tributes offered to deceased and […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this case involving buildings in a flood plain, the Supreme Court first ruled that a zoning ordinance could result in a taking, thus requiring just compensation under the Fifth Amendment. A flood destroyed buildings that belonged to the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern California. The church found it could not rebuild because […]

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First Amendment speech tests

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Rules set forth in several twentieth century Supreme Court decisions by which the Court judged later claims of protected speech. Beginning in the early twentieth century, the Supreme Court adopted tests by which to decide claims of First Amendment protection. The first and most frequently applied test is that of clear and present dangerClear and […]

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First Amendment balancing

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Weighing of different interests involved in cases raising First Amendment claims, typically the free speech rights of an individual versus the potential harm posed to society as a whole. The Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence gradually evolved after World War I. Earlier, the Court had invoked various tests for resolving First Amendment conflicts, including the […]

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First Amendment absolutism

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Position that protections given by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are absolute, not subject to qualification or abridgement in any way. Among the Supreme Court justices who could be called First Amendment absolutists is Justice Hugo L. BlackBlack, Hugo L.. He argued that when the First Amendment said “Congress shall make no law” […]

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First Amendment

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights that guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, religious liberty, separation of church and state, and the rights to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Although the First Amendment, together with the other nine amendments known as […]

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Financing political speech

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Process by which money is raised and spent to promote candidates for public office and their platforms and to publicize views on public issues, legislation, ballot questions, and other political matters. Beginning in 1867, Congress attempted to regulate various kinds of political finance. The earliest efforts limited solicitation of political funds from government employees or […]

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Finality of decision

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Under the law, the Supreme Court may review final decisions made by the highest court available to a petitioner in a state if a decision is sought in matters involving federal laws. Title 28, section 1257, of the U.S. Code gives the Supreme Court jurisdiction to review final decisions or judgments made by the highest […]

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Fifth Amendment

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights that provides a right to avoid self-incrimination, a right to a grand jury indictment in capital or infamous crime cases, a right to be free from double jeopardy, and a right to just compensation for property taken by the government. The Fifth Amendment […]

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Fifteenth Amendment

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbidding discrimination in voting rights on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2 gives enforcement power to Congress. The original U.S. Constitution tied the right of individuals to vote in federal elections to state election laws. Vote, right toA person who was eligible to vote […]

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Field, Stephen J.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

For thirty-four years, Field used his position as a Supreme Court justice to effect a broad interpretation of the Constitution in restricting government regulation of property rights. Born in Connecticut, Field was the son of a clergyman. His brother, David Dudley Field, was a prominent Democratic politician and lawyer in New York. Stephen followed a […]

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Fetal rights

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Constitutional rights accorded to a fetus, or a developing human being within a womb. The legal notion that fetuses have rights results in part from the 1973 Supreme Court decision on abortion in Roe v. Wade[case]Roe v. Wade[Roe v. Wade]. The majority in Roe held that “the unborn have never been recognized in the law […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In upholding a state regulation, the Supreme Court declared that the concept of substantive due process had been repudiated. This case involved a Kansas statute that prohibited anyone except lawyers from engaging in the business of debt adjustment. By a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Kansas law. Writing the majority […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court rejected the notion that copyrights should be granted to those whose only claim to copyright is that they gathered information. Rural Telephone Service Company published a directory containing information that Feist Publications used in preparing its own somewhat different but overlapping directory. Rural sued, alleging copyright infringement and arguing that the effort […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this street oratory case, the Supreme Court tolerated a level of government control of speech that is no longer acceptable. Chief Justice Fred M. VinsonVinson, Fred M.;Feiner v. New York[Feiner v. New York] wrote the opinion for the 6-3 majority over strong dissents from Justices Hugo L. Black, William O. Douglas, and Sherman Minton. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A collection of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay supporting the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. In 1787 the Framers of the ConstitutionConstitution, U.S. of the United States were seeking support for its adoption. An important battleground was the large and influential state of New York, whose governor, George Clinton, strongly […]

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Federalism

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Political union and the resulting constitutional structures that configure relationships among the states and institutions of national governance. Even before the U.S. ConstitutionConstitution, U.S. went into effect, there were serious debates about what type of political system it would create and what type of union had already been formed. Part of the problem was multiple […]

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Federal Tort Claims Act

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Statute that enabled private citizens to sue the government in civil tort actions in federal court. The Federal Tort Claims Act was passed in 1946 to protect third parties injured by the actions of federal government employees. If a federal employee, acting within the scope of his or her employment, injures a third party, then […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the right of those convicted of state offenses to use habeas corpus petitions in federal courts, notwithstanding minor time limitations in state law. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Fay v. Noia[Fay v. Noia] wrote for the 6-3 majority, upholding the right of state prisoners to use habeas corpus petitions […]

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Family and children

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Men, women, their offspring, and other relatives. The Supreme Court has applied constitutional protection to family issues such as the right to marry, the right to privacy, the right of parents to raise and educate children, and in some cases the rights of children. Family law in the United States is created largely by the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this case and one in 1816, the U.S. Supreme Court engaged in a constitutional power struggle with the Virginia supreme court over seized Loyalist property and the state’s treaty obligations. Justice Joseph StoryStory, Joseph;Fairfax’s Devisee v. Hunter’s Lessee[Fairfax’s Devisee v. Hunter’s Lessee] wrote the opinion for himself and only two other justices because three […]

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Extrajudicial activities

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Actions undertaken by Supreme Court justices, usually at the command of the president or Congress, that are outside the scope of their judicial function of hearing and deciding cases. From the earliest days of the Supreme Court, justices have served in a variety of official capacities beyond their strictly judicial duties. The practice was always […]

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Executive privilege

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Inherent power of the president to withhold information from Congress and the courts or to refuse to testify in a legislative or judicial proceeding. Presidential discretion to refuse to appear before a legislative or judicial proceeding is sometimes considered a separate category of executive discretion called executive privilege, or presidential privacy. According to William Safire, […]

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Executive immunity

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Limited right of a government executive official not to be sued in civil court for certain acts of official misconduct. It differs from executive privilege, which is a limited right to refuse to come before or furnish information, documents, or items to the legislature or judiciary. The U.S. Constitution expressly provides some immunity for federal […]

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Executive agreements

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

International agreements made by presidents on their own constitutional authority or in cooperation with Congress. Executive agreements vary widely in formality and importance. Many address routine economic, military, and political subjects such as postal regulations and trade agreements, and others, such as the Yalta Agreement in 1945, the Vietnam WarVietnam War peace settlement in 1973, […]

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Exclusionary rule

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Judicially created doctrine proscribing the admissibility at trial of evidence obtained illegally through violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights. The exclusionary rule, as applied to Fourth AmendmentFourth Amendment search and seizureSearch and seizure provisions, originated with the Supreme Court’s 1914 decision in Weeks v. United States.[case]Weeks v. United States[Weeks v. United States] Although no emergency […]

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Ex post facto laws

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Statutes that render an act committed in the past illegal, although that act was legal when it took place. Ex post facto laws, regarded as tools of oppression when the U.S. Constitution was written, were banned in Article I, section 9, of the Constitution, where they are excluded from the powers of Congress, and in […]

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Evolution and creationism

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Modern scientific theories of natural and human origins and religious beliefs about the world’s creation. The emergence of the theory of evolution as a scientific account of human origins has, since the nineteenth century, created conflicts with religious beliefs. Conservative Christians, in particular, have often viewed evolution as inconsistent with biblical teaching concerning creation. They […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld bus fare reimbursements for private school students in the first case to use the Fourteenth Amendment to apply the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause to the states. Justice Hugo L. BlackBlack, Hugo L.;Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township[Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township] wrote the 5-4 […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court imposed a racially neutral principle to decide a question of the legitimacy of race-based restrictions on park land donated to a municipality. Justice Hugo L. BlackBlack, Hugo L.;Evans v. Abney[Evans v. Abney] wrote the 6-2 majority opinion upholding a decision of a Georgia court that a park built on land donated to […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, established the constitutionality of zoning ordinances by concluding they were a legitimate form of police power. When comprehensive zoning ordinances began to be adopted in the first two decades of the twentieth century, many legal scholars and courts doubted their constitutionality on a number of grounds. Ambler Realty […]

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Espionage acts

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Laws passed during World War I outlawing the unauthorized transmission of information that might injure the nation’s defense and banning a wide range of expressions of opinion critical of governmental policies or symbols during wartime. On June 15, 1917, two months after the United States entered World War I, Congress passed the Espionage ActEspionage Act […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court overturned a murder conviction because the accused was never warned of his right to remain silent. This decision helped transform police behavior toward those accused of committing crimes. In this early defendants’ rights case, Danny Escobedo was taken to the police station as a murder suspect but was denied repeated requests to […]

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Ernst, Morris L.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An attorney who fought against censorship and supported reproductive freedom, Ernst developed strategies and arguments that garnered civil liberties victories in the Supreme Court. Ernst’s parents moved to New York City when he was two, and he grew up there. He graduated from Williams College in 1909 and completed his law degree at New York […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In ruling that under the Rules of Decision Act, federal courts were to proceed if multistate lawsuits occurred, the Supreme Court not only overturned one of its previous decisions but also declared it to have been unconstitutional. The Supreme Court decided Erie by an 8-0 vote (Benjamin N. Cardozo did not participate), but the three […]

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Equal protection clause

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Provision of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits certain forms of discrimination. Thomas Jefferson securely linked the ideal of equality to the U.S. political tradition when he argued in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” However, his tribute to equality did not immediately find a home in the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court found laws banning the teaching of evolution to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned an Arkansas supreme court ruling that upheld Arkansas “Monkey Law” statutes banning the teaching of evolution in public elementary schools, secondary schools, and universities. The Court held that Arkansas violated the freedom of […]

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Environmental law

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Legislation dealing with and often designed to protect the natural and physical surroundings the air, earth, and water in which humans, other animals, and plants exist, or with the plants and animals themselves. Recognizing that technical expertise is necessary to implement environmental public policies, legislators have delegated considerable policy-making power to administrative agencies. Federal environmental […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, by invalidating a nondenominational prayer, first banned prayers in public schools as an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Justice Hugo L. BlackBlack, Hugo L.;Engel v. Vitale[Engel v. Vitale] wrote the 7-1 opinion, in which Justice Byron R. White did not participate. The Supreme Court invalidated a twenty-two-word nondenominational school prayer composed by New […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Narrowly interpreting the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled that the states were not required to make a religious exception for the use of illegal drugs. Alfred Smith and another Native American were fired from their jobs after their employer discovered that they occasionally smoked the hallucinogenic drug peyote as […]

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Employment discrimination

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Act of making decisions related to hiring and promoting workers based on nonjob-related characteristics such as race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, and disability. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964Civil Rights Act of 1964 (including its amendments) is the most important employment discrimination statute in U.S. law. It forbids employment discrimination […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that patronage dismissals of nonpolicy-making employees infringed on First Amendment rights to political beliefs and association. In Cook County, Illinois, an elected Democratic sheriff attempted to remove several noncivil service employees who had been appointed by the previous sheriff, a Republican. By a 5-3 vote, the Court upheld a court of […]

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Ellsworth, Oliver

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Ellsworth helped author the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established the federal judicial system. As an associate justice, he favored the expansion of the powers of the federal courts, but illness and a diplomatic assignment prevented him from having much impact. Intended by his father to have a career in the church, Ellsworth entered Yale […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court invalidated an Arizona statute and its accompanying statutory gloss, which together required employees to take an oath to support the federal and state constitutions, threatening prosecution for perjury and immediate discharge of an employee belonging to any organization committed to overthrowing the government. Barbara Elfbrandt, a teacher and a Quaker, refused to […]

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Elections

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Events at which the citizens of a nation vote to select governmental and other public officials and to approve or disapprove of various local propositions and measures. The U.S. Constitution left elections and suffrage almost totally to the states’ discretion. Article I, section 2, provides that the electors (voters) of each state shall have the […]

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Elastic clause

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Last clause of Article I, section 8, of the U.S. Constitution, authorizing Congress to make all laws necessary and proper for exercising its enumerated powers and any other power granted by the Constitution to the national government. In 1791, when advising President George Washington on the constitutionality of establishing a national bank, Thomas Jefferson and […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Based on an individual’s rights to privacy and equality, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that made it a felony to provide contraceptives to unmarried persons. In the landmark case Griswold v. Connecticut[case]Griswold v. Connecticut[Griswold v. Connecticut] (1965), the Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to privacy, which included the right of married […]

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Eighth Amendment

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that forbids requiring excessive bail, imposing excessive fines, and inflicting cruel and unusual punishments. The Eighth Amendment is derived almost verbatim from the English Bill of Rights (1689). Adopted in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, the amendment was intended to prohibit the abuse of federal government power, […]

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Eighteenth Amendment

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Prohibition amendment, that prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating beverages. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on January 16, 1919, and went into effect on January 16, 1920. The Supreme Court’s decisions in such cases as Crane v. Campbell[case]Crane v. Campbell[Crane v. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court reaffirmed its 1989 decision that flag burning was a constitutionally protected form of free speech. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 majority, struck down the 1989 Flag Protection ActFlag Protection Act, which Congress passed to void the Court’s ruling in Texas v. Johnson[case]Texas v. Johnson[Texas v. Johnson] (1989), which overturned a Texas […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this incorporation case, the Supreme Court held that local officials could not block an otherwise lawful demonstration because they disliked the demonstrators’ political views. About two hundred African American students marched peacefully in small groups from a church to the South Carolina state capitol, an obviously public forum, to protest the state’s racially discriminatory […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in striking down a law barring indigents from entering California, strengthened the constitutional right to travel, especially for poor citizens. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that California’s Great Depression era “Okie Law” was unconstitutional in its attempt to bar any person from bringing an indigent person into California. Justice James F. Byrnes,Byrnes, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court struck down a state law requiring balanced treatment of “evolution science” and “creation science,” based on the establishment clause of the First Amendment. In Epperson v. Arkansas[case]Epperson v. Arkansas[Epperson v. Arkansas] (1968), the Supreme Court infuriated many religious groups when it overturned a state law that prohibited the teaching of Darwinian evolution […]

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Education

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Process of being trained by formal instruction and directed practice. Responsibility of the state, rather than the federal government, according to the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Educational cases involve two major concepts: parens patriae and in loco parentis. The first of these, parens patriae, maintains that the state, as a parent to all […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court extended its ruling that potential jurors could not be peremptorily excluded on the basis of race from criminal trials to include civil trials. In Batson v. Kentucky[case]Batson v. Kentucky[Batson v. Kentucky] (1986), the Supreme Court ruled that litigants in criminal trials could not use peremptory challenges to exclude federal court jurors on […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

This Supreme Court decision, reached by a conservative majority, protected states from class-action suits by citizens alleging that these states were undermining federal legislation by granting them benefits too late. John Jordan sued Illinois by suing various of its state and county officials, asserting they were paying out benefits later than federal law mandated and […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In its first decision under the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), the Supreme Court found that the framers of the act had not intended for it to apply to the manufacturing process. During the 1890’s, the American Sugar Company was a large monopoly controlling 98 percent of the refining industry. Responding to a public outcry, President […]

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Dworkin, Ronald

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Dworkin defended liberal jurisprudence and proposed that Supreme Court justices and lower court judges use critical moral judgment in interpreting the Constitution. A self-described liberal scholar, Dworkin argued for expansive judicial review to advance causes such as sexual freedom, legal abortion, and euthanasia. He proposed a moral reading of the Constitution according to which judges, […]

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Duvall, Gabriel

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During his twenty-three year tenure on the Supreme Court, Duvall sided with Chief Justice John Marshall on most well-known decisions. Duvall favored a strong central government and nationalist interpretation of the Constitution. Duvall had a multifaceted career. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1778. He served as a soldier in the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An antilabor Supreme Court majority severely curtailed labor union activity by limiting the protections granted to these organizations by Congress. Justice Mahlon PitneyPitney, Mahlon;Duplex Printing Co. v. Deering[Duplex Printing Co. v. Deering] wrote this 6-3 opinion for the Supreme Court ruling that the 1914 Clayton Act did not protect labor unions from conviction for illegal […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

With this decision, the Supreme Court applied the Sixth Amendment’s right to jury trial to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment under the incorporation doctrine. Justice Byron R. White,White, Byron R.;Duncan v. Louisiana[Duncan v. Louisiana] writing for a 7-2 majority, held that a jury trial is mandatory in a state court if the same offense […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the establishment of military tribunals to try civilians in a U.S. territory was illegal because it was not authorized by an act of Congress. In 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the governor of Hawaii suspended the writ of habeas corpus, placed the territory under martial law, suspended […]

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Due process, substantive

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The doctrine that the liberty protected by the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments encompasses more than the procedural rights owed by the government when it seeks to punish someone for a crime. One of the intents of the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment was to protect the property and contract rights […]

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Due process, procedural

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Right not to be deprived by government of life, liberty, or property without notice and an opportunity to be heard according to fair procedures. The Supreme Court recognized that the constitutional right to procedural due process derives historically from the Magna Carta (1215), which prohibited the English monarch from depriving a certain class of subjects […]

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Douglas, William O.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An associate justice for nearly thirty-seven years, Douglas served longer on the Supreme Court than anyone else. As an associate justice, he always followed the Bill of Rights closely. Douglas was born in rural Minnesota but moved to Yakima, Washington, in 1904 with his newly widowed mother. Douglas, who contracted polio at age three, improved […]

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Double jeopardy

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Guarantee, stated in the Fifth Amendment, that if a person has been acquitted or convicted of an offense, he or she cannot be prosecuted a second time for that same offense. The second clause of the Fifth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, states “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a federal court may enjoin the enforcement of an excessively vague state statute when there is evidence of bad faith and harassment in the enforcement of the statute. According to the doctrine of abstention, federal courts normally do not intervene in state court proceedings until after they are finalized. James […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the government may not attach conditions to building permits that result in the taking of private property without just compensation, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Florence Dolan applied for a building permit to expand her plumbing and electrical supply store in Tigard, Oregon. As part of a […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In a companion case to Roe v. Wade (1973), the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia’s restrictions on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy were unconstitutional. Before the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Doe v. Bolton, Georgia’s abortion legislation stipulated that only medically necessary abortions were allowed and that abortions were available only to state […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s ruling that the state of Ohio’s attempt to collect a tax from a bank chartered in its state constituted a breach of contract exemplifies the nineteenth century view of contracts and federalism. Justice James M. WayneWayne, James M.;Dodge v. Woolsey[Dodge v. Woolsey] wrote this 6-3 decision upholding an injunction against the collection […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this important example of the nineteenth century view of federalism, the Supreme Court ruled that a state could not tax a person’s federal income. A U.S. ship captain on duty in Pennsylvania challenged the validity of that state’s tax on his federal income. The state supreme court upheld the tax, but the Supreme Court […]

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Diversity jurisdiction

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The authority of the federal courts to resolve disputes between citizens of different states or between a citizen and an alien when the total amount of damages in controversy exceeds seventy-five thousand dollars. Article III, section 2, of the U.S. Constitution grants authority to the federal courts to resolve disputes among citizens of different states. […]

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Dissents

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Disagreements with the outcome of a case before the Supreme Court and the treatment of the involved parties. These disagreements are usually expressed in the form of a written opinion added to the majority opinion. Dissenting opinions were relatively rare in the first one hundred years of the Supreme Court’s history and were far from […]

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