Disability of justices

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Physical or mental impairment that prevents a justice from participating fully in the activities of the Supreme Court. One of the earliest cases of disability involved Justice Gabriel Duvall,Duvall, Gabriel who became a justice in 1811. By 1834, he had become so deaf that it was virtually impossible for him to converse with others. Duvall […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man accused of illegally transporting liquors, approving time limits for ratification of amendments and determining that their effective date would be based on ratification. Justice Willis Van DevanterVan Devanter, Willis;Dillon v. Gloss[Dillon v. Gloss] wrote the unanimous decision for the Supreme Court upholding the conviction of defendant […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a state was not liable if its social workers failed to remove a child from the custody of the father even after reports of serious child abuse. The Winnebago County Department of Social Services received numerous complaints of serious beatings administered to Joshua DeShaney by his father, Randy DeShaney, who […]

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Desegregation

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Process of dismantling the legally sanctioned system that separated people according to such characteristics as race, religion, or gender. In the United States, mandated racial segregation in housing, education, employment, and public accommodations and facilities was widespread, particularly in the South, before it was prohibited in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Substantive desegregation began with the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the convictions of Communist Party members under the 1940 Smith Act, which led to more vigorous prosecution of alleged communists in the 1950’s. Chief Justice Fred M. VinsonVinson, Fred M.;Dennis v. United States[Dennis v. United States] wrote the 6-2 majority decision (Justice Tom C. Clark did not participate) in which the […]

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Democracy

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Rule by the mass of people through institutions, processes, and principles that disperse power from the few to the many. In some ways, the Supreme Court is an unlikely focus for a discussion of democracy. Within the Court itself, decisions are made democratically by majority votes. On the other hand, the Court’s justices are unelected […]

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Delegation of powers

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The authorization by Congress of a transfer of its lawmaking power to another branch of government. The Supreme Court has been called on several times to address the controversial issue of when, if ever, Congress may transfer, or delegate, legislative power to the executive branch. The controversy is rooted in the text of the Constitution, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in overturning a conviction under a state criminal syndicalism law, incorporated the right of freedom of peaceable assembly and association to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice Charles Evans HughesHughes, Charles Evans;DeJonge v. Oregon[DeJonge v. Oregon] wrote the Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion (Justice Harlan Fiske Stone did not participate) overturning […]

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Declaration of Independence

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Document that declared the independence of the thirteen colonies in America from England. The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Its adoption and publication changed the struggle between England and the thirteen colonies from a rebellion into a war for independence. The declaration was written in June and July, 1776, […]

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Decision making

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The ways in which Supreme Court justices make decisions. The Supreme Court is a powerful institution, and its decision making pervades the state of public policy in key areas such as criminal procedure, abortion, religious freedom, sex discrimination, and race relations. Moreover, this very strong institution is also quite autonomous. Its members are appointed for […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld a federal injunction against a labor union in order to protect the U.S. mails and to preserve the orderly movement of interstate commerce. Also, the Court implicitly permitted lower courts to apply the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) to labor unions. During the famous Pullman strike in Chicago, members of the American […]

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Day, William R.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The first of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Supreme Court appointees, Day supported antitrust regulation and state power to regulate economic rights. In his most important opinion, he struck down the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act (1916). Born in Ohio in 1849, Day was descended from a family of judges. His grandfather and father served as justices on […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court allowed a territory to deny the vote to members of a religious sect that advocated an illegal practice. In the landmark 1879 case, Reynolds v. United States,[case]Reynolds v. United States[Reynolds v. United States] the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on polygamy, a religious practice of members of the Church of Jesus […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a gerrymandering scheme that benefits the dominant political party may be examined by the judiciary, serving notice to legislatures that an extreme partisan use of apportionment powers might be judged unconstitutional by the federal courts. Indiana Democrats contended that the Republicans, who were in the majority, had sought and obtained […]

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Davis, John W.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Davis argued more cases (140) before the Supreme Court than any attorney in history, including numerous high-profile cases resulting in decisions that changed U.S. jurisprudence and society. Born in West Virginia and educated at Washington and Lee University, Davis possessed a stoic conservatism that often created conflicts between his personal beliefs and his professional obligations. […]

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Davis, David

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Known as one of Abraham Lincoln’s best friends, Davis is best known for writing the opinion in an 1866 Supreme Court case that limited the use of military authority over civilians in areas not threatened by military action. Upon graduation from Kenyon College in Ohio in 1832, Davis moved to Massachusetts and read law with […]

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Davis, Bancroft

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As Supreme Court reporter for nineteen years, Bancroft edited volumes 108-186 of the United States Reports. In 1847 Davis graduated from Harvard, opened an office in New York City, and published The Massachusetts Justice. Two years later, he was appointed secretary of the U.S. legation in London, but he resigned in 1852 to practice law.United […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

By deciding that a state charter of a private institution was protected by the contracts clause of the Constitution, the Supreme Court enhanced protection of corporate property from interference by the states. Early in the nineteenth century, many Republicans wanted the states to exercise more controls over a new form of economic concentration the corporation.Corporations […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Using a broad interpretation of the commerce clause, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law mandating minimum wages and maximum hours for employees producing goods for interstate commerce. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938,Fair Labor Standards Act the last major piece of New Deal legislation, applied to employees engaged “in commerce” and “in the […]

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Daniel, Peter V.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As a Supreme Court justice, Daniel was a defender of slavery and an opponent of corporations and federal authority. Daniel began practicing law in 1808, was elected to the Virginia house of delegates in 1809, and served as lieutenant governor from 1818 to 1835. In 1836 he was appointed a federal judge by President Andrew […]

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Dallas, Alexander J.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Dallas published edited reports of the first cases decided in the Supreme Court. He also published a pamphlet expressing opposition to Chief Justice John Jay’s Treaty of 1794 with Great Britain. Educated at Edinburgh University, Dallas migrated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia in 1783. In 1793 he helped found the Pennsylvania Democratic […]

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Cushing, William

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Cushing was the first appointee to the Supreme Court. Serving on the Court for almost twenty-one years, he was adept at disposing of cases quickly and tersely by focusing on one simple issue that could resolve each case. After graduating from Harvard College in 1751, Cushing taught grammar school for one year in Roxbury, Massachusetts. […]

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Cushing, Caleb

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Cushing’s changing political party affiliations, which he said were the result of his allegiance to the Union, probably cost him a position on the Supreme Court. Cushing was an accomplished statesman, lawyer, and diplomat who nevertheless requested to have his nomination to the Supreme Court withdrawn when it became clear that the Senate would not […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court declared that the federal government possesses broad and inherent powers to deal with other countries and that the president exercises primacy in formulating and conducting foreign policy. In 1934 Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing the president to prohibit the sale of arms to the warring nations of Bolivia and Paraguay. Congress […]

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Curtis, Benjamin R.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Curtis was the major dissenting voice in Scott v. Sandford (1857), although he had a reputation as a supporter of slavery. He served as chief counsel defending President Andrew Johnson at his impeachment trial. When Curtis was a child, his father, an officer in the merchant marines, died, and his widowed mother operated a store […]

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Curator

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Position officially created in 1974 by the chief justice to chronicle and maintain the history and memorabilia of the Supreme Court. The office has accrued a vast collection of important films, manuscripts, photographs, prints, videos, and other memorabilia associated with the Court and its justices. Other pieces included in the collection are antique furnishings and […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court overturned statutes requiring loyalty oaths, viewing them as unconstitutional ex post facto laws and bills of attainder. Justice Stephen J. FieldField, Stephen J.;Cummings v. Missouri[Cummings v. Missouri] wrote the opinions for both Cummings and its companion case, Ex parte Garland, which were decided by 5-4 votes with Justice Samuel F. Miller dissenting. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court refused to enforce the equal stipulation in the separate but equal doctrine governing segregated schools that had been established in its landmark 1896 decision. Just three years after announcing the separate but equal doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court unanimously refused to take action in a case in which […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment protects a competent adult’s “liberty interest” in refusing unwanted medical treatment even if the result is death and that the U.S. Constitution permits, but does not require, state courts to demand “clear and convincing” evidence of the person’s desire before terminating life support services. In 1983 Nancy […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Based on narrow interpretations of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the Supreme Court severely limited the authority of the federal government to protect the civil rights of African Americans. Because state courts rarely prosecuted acts of violence against the freed slaves of the South, the Enforcement Act of 1870Enforcement Act of 1870 made it a […]

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Cruel and unusual punishment

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A key provision of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting the most shockingly barbarous punishments and conditions of incarceration. Borrowing from the English Bill of Rights of 1688, the Framers of the U.S. Bill of Rights (1791) included in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution a prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that federal law does not preempt tribal authority unless Congress clearly expressed its intent to do so. Crow Dog, a Brule Sioux, was convicted and sentenced to death in a Dakota territorial court for the murder of another Sioux. Under tribal law, Crow Dog would not have received a sentence of […]

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Crittenden, John J.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Crittenden, a U.S. senator who strove to preserve the Union, was nominated as associate justice of the Supreme Court. He served as attorney general under two presidents. Crittenden, son of a Revolutionary War officer, graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1807 and began practicing law in Kentucky. Appointed attorney general for Illinois […]

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Criminal syndicalism

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A philosophy calling for workers to organize and seize control of economic organizations and politics through illegal use of force. Between 1906 and 1916 the Industrial Workers of the WorldIndustrial Workers of the World (IWW) embraced syndicalism and conducted a “free speech” campaign to propagate the idea of a worker’s rebellion. Although local officials suppressed […]

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Cranch, William

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Cranch’s reports covered Supreme Court decisions exclusively. Cranch believed the stability of U.S. national jurisprudence depended on keeping a complete record of Supreme Court cases. The position of reporter of decisions had informal beginnings. The first two reporters, Alexander J. Dallas and Cranch, were self-appointed. Each was motivated by profit and the desire to perform […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s split decision in a case involving loan certificates issued by the state of Missouri showed the beginning of the Court’s evolution away from the influence of Chief Justice John Marshall. Article I, section 10, of the U.S. Constitution bans states from emitting “bills of credits.” Nonetheless, Missouri had authorized circulating loan certificates, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court adopted a heightened level of judicial scrutiny when dealing with gender-based classifications alleged to be discriminatory. Oklahoma law permitted eighteen-year-old women to purchase beer with 3.2 percent alcohol but required men to be twenty-one years old for the same privilege. Curtis Craig and a licensed vendor challenged the law. The state had […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, citing the equality of states, ruled that Congress could not impose conditions on a territory that remained valid after it had become a state. When Congress passed legislation admitting Oklahoma as a state, it stipulated that Guthrie was to be the capital until 1913. Oklahoma accepted this provision when it became a […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s decision protected the right of local government officials to place nondiscriminatory time, place, and manner restrictions on demonstrators. Cox is part of a series of cases establishing the government’s right to place reasonable time, place, and manner regulations on assemblies as long as these laws do not prevent people from speaking out […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a group of civil rights demonstrators, arguing that the group had a right to demonstrate peacefully even if local government officials disliked their political views. By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the conviction of civil rights demonstrators in Louisiana must be reversed because the state […]

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Courts of appeals

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Intermediate appellate courts situated just below the Supreme Court in the judicial hierarchy. They are the appellate workhorses, hearing the majority of appeals from the federal trial courts and federal regulatory commissions. In the late 1700’s the Supreme Court was overburdened with cases, so Congress took steps to ease its burden. With the Judiciary Act […]

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Court-packing plan

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s proposal to enlarge the federal judiciary in order to liberalize the Supreme Court and protect New Deal legislation. Franklin D. RooseveltRoosevelt, Franklin D. inherited a Republican-dominated federal judiciary when he became president in 1933 and had no opportunity to appoint a new justice during his first term. The Supreme Court then […]

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Court of Justice of the European Communities

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Court with jurisdiction over the European Communities (EC), ruling on questions regarding treaties and other agreements that involve the member states. In May, 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, proposed to place the whole of French and German coal and steel production in an organization that would allow participation by other European countries (member […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld a person’s refusal to testify before a grand jury, stating that the privilege against self-incrimination extends beyond criminal trials to investigations such as grand jury proceedings. In Counselman v. Hitchcock, the Court considered a federal statute that granted witnesses immunity from criminal prosecution based on their testimony during judicial proceedings but […]

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Counsel, right to

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The opportunity for defendants in federal criminal proceedings to be represented by lawyers, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the Sixth AmendmentSixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution appeared to contain the right to legal counsel, the exact meaning of that provision was unclear until interpreted by Congress and the Supreme […]

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Corwin, Edward S.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Constitutional law expert Corwin traced the history of due process law and criticized the Supreme Court for creating a twilight zone in which neither state nor federal law applied. Corwin was the premier constitutionalConstitutional interpretation analyst of his time, shaping much of the terminology and style of American discourse in the field of constitutional history. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld a restrictive covenant in the District of Columbia, a ruling that would stand until 1948, more than twenty years later. Restrictive covenants blocked the sale of properties owned by whites to members of minority groups and were designed to maintain segregation in an area. When a white owner of property controlled […]

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Corporations

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Group of people receiving a government charter permitting activities (primarily business) with certain of the rights and responsibilities of an individual. Business corporations developed in the early United States mainly in banking and finance. In McCulloch v. Maryland[case]McCulloch v. Maryland[MacCulloch v. Maryland] (1819), the Supreme Court upheld the federal government’s power to charter the second […]

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Copyright

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Protection granted to the creator of an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression that confers the exclusive right to make copies, create derivative works, distribute, display, or perform the work publicly. Concerned that a copyright might perpetuate an undesirable monopoly, the Supreme Court carefully interpreted the copyright statute. In Wheaton […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that fear of violence did not provide justification for postponing school desegregation, and it also affirmed that its constitutional interpretations were legally binding on governors and state legislators. In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation of the public schools violated the equal protection clause […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In upholding a state statute regulating navigation standards for ships, the Supreme Court formulated the doctrine of selective exclusiveness, allowing states to regulate aspects of interstate commerce in the absence of federal laws. A Pennsylvania law required each ship entering or leaving Philadelphia to hire a local pilot for navigation purposes. When Aaron Cooley was […]

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Cooley, Thomas M.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Cooley’s extensive writings on constitutional law influenced and were sometimes cited by Supreme Court justices. When Cooley was nineteen, he decided to go to Chicago to further his education but ran out of funds in Adrian, Michigan. He finished his law studies there and was admitted to the Michigan bar. Cooley worked at several jobs […]

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Contracts clause

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Article 1, section 10, of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from impairing contractual obligations. Through Supreme Court interpretation, the prohibition extends to state impairment of contracts not only among private parties but also between private parties and the states themselves. The Framers drafted the contracts clause because they were concerned with various attacks of the […]

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Contract, freedom of

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Also known as “liberty of contract,” the doctrine that individual persons and business firms should be free to enter into contracts without undue interference from government. The Supreme Court recognized that the Fifth Amendment’s due processDue process, substantive clause protected some substantive rights to property and liberty as early as Scott v. Sandford (1857). The […]

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Contempt power of courts

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Mechanism by which courts punish those who disobey their orders or disrespect their authority, in and out of court. The contempt power of the courts, derived from common law, was directly conferred on federal courts by the Judiciary Act of 1789Judiciary Act of 1789. It was broadly interpreted until 1830 when Judge James H. Peck […]

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Contempt power of Congress

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Power of Congress to punish those persons who refuse to cooperate in its investigations by jailing them. In Anderson v. Dunn[case]Anderson v. Dunn[Anderson v. Dunn] (1821), the Supreme Court recognized the inherent contempt power of Congress. The power included the ability of the House of Representatives and the Senate to punish contempt, or failure to […]

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Constitutionalism

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Idea that political power can and should be limited so as to prevent the possibility of tyranny. Typically, but certainly not always, the concept is supported by the presence of an actual written constitution. At the center of the idea of constitutionalism is the fear that if given the chance, government officials will somehow abuse […]

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Constitutional law

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Dynamic body of law that defines and limits the powers of government and sets out its organizational structure. A resilient document, the U.S. ConstitutionConstitution, U.S. has endured with only twenty-seven amendments since its formulation in 1787. Its sweeping language and generalities allow change and interpretation in the face of altered circumstances, from the changing human […]

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Constitutional interpretation

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Process by which general principles of a constitution are applied by officials to individual laws or actions. Chief Justice John Marshall noted, in Marbury v. Madison[case]Marbury v. Madison[Marbury v. Madison] (1803), that the U.S. Constitution requires extensive interpretation. Although it was written and put into effect in the eighteenth century, its creators expected it to […]

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Constitutional Convention

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Meeting of delegates from the thirteen original states held in Philadelphia for the purpose of framing the Constitution of the United States and submitting it to the Continental Congress, which subsequently offered it to the states for ratification. By 1787 the weaknesses of the new U.S. government under the Articles of ConfederationArticles of Confederation had […]

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Constitutional amendment process

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Procedure by which formal changes are made to the text of the U.S. Constitution. Article V of the Constitution specifies the procedures by which the document can be amended. The process has two steps, proposal and ratification, and two methods can be used to carry out each step. Amendments can be proposed by a two-thirds […]

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Constitution, U.S.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Document that defined the structure and powers of the U.S. national government. The U.S. Constitution was created in an effort to design a workable, strong national government for the American states that had freed themselves from the British Empire through the Revolutionary War. The Constitution replaced the Articles of ConfederationArticles of Confederation, which were regarded […]

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Conscription

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Compulsory induction of persons into military service by the government. Legal challenges brought before the Supreme Court to conscription statutes tend to ebb and flow with U.S. military action. Each new war or conflict, particularly if it is unpopular, brings to the Court a new set of draft cases. The first major test of the […]

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Conscientious objection

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Claim of exemption from compulsory military service, or at least from combat, based on ethical, moral, or religious grounds. Only claims based on religious principles raise constitutional issues. Conscription to raise an armed force dates to the American Revolution, when some states imposed requirements of military service on their male citizens. Both North and South […]

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Conkling, Roscoe

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In 1882 Conkling argued before the Supreme Court that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied to corporations as well as individuals. He also played a prominent role in bringing impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson. The son of a New York congressman, Conkling studied law in Utica and was admitted to the […]

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Congressional power to enforce amendments

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A power expressly granted to Congress in an amendment to the Constitution to “enforce” provisions of that amendment “by appropriate legislation.” Of the twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution, eight have enforcement clauses at the end, including the now-repealed Eighteenth Amendment. Of the remaining seven, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth, commonly referred to as the Civil […]

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Congressional power of investigation

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Power of Congress to demand information from people, orally or in writing, and to punish those who refuse to cooperate. Congressional committees usually secure information by summoning individuals to testify orally at hearings and to provide necessary documents. Most of those summoned want to testify and thereby have input into the legislative process, but some […]

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Congress, qualifications for

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The citizenship, age, and residence requirements for senators and representatives set out in Article I, sections 2 and 3, of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution establishes the qualifications for members of Congress. Representatives must be inhabitants of the state from which they are elected, must be at least twenty-five years of age, and must […]

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Congress, arrest and immunity of members of

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Protection from legal actions given to members of Congress by the speech and debate clause of Article I, section 6, of the U.S. Constitution. The speech and debate clause was originally intended to protect Congress and its members from attempts by other branches of government to interfere with and disrupt Congress’s ability to do its […]

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Conference of the justices

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Formal meeting of the justices to conduct Supreme Court business, including the selection of cases to hear, votes on cases already argued, and the issuance of miscellaneous orders. The nature of the conference of the justices has evolved over time, reflecting the changing environment and developing role of the Supreme Court. During its first decade, […]

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Concurring opinions

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Opinions in which a Supreme Court justice agrees with the decision that a majority or plurality of justices reached in the opinion for the Court but sets forth different reasoning in support of the decision. The Supreme Court produces an opinion for the Court in each case it resolves, but individual justices or groups of […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the registration provisions of the McCarran Act of 1950, although it declined to rule on the constitutionality of sanctions written into the act. A five-member majority of the Supreme Court upheld the McCarran ActMcCarran Act[MacCarran Act] of 1950, which required members of the CommunistCommunism Party to register and file financial statements […]

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Common law, federal

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Body of decisional, or judge-made, laws applied by federal courts. The Supreme Court holding, in United States v. Hudson and Goodwin[case]Hudson and Goodwin, United States v.[Hudson and Goodwin, United States v.] (1812), that no federal common law existed with regard to criminal matters, did not prevent the federal courts from developing a substantial body of […]

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Common law

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Law generated from court cases and judicial decisions. Common law, or judge-made law, is generated from a succession of judicial decisions or precedents. In common-law systems, courts are bound by the rule called stare decisis, or “let the precedent stand.” In the United States, common law is distinguished from equity law, which is based on […]

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Common carriers

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Legally, all businesses involved in public transportation are designated common carriers. In the eyes of the law in both the United States and Great Britain, a distinction is made between ordinary businesses and those that have a special obligation to the public. In the case of common carriers, in British common law (a subcategory of […]

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Commercial speech

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Communication involving the sale of products or services to a consumer. Beginning in the 1970’s the Supreme Court recognized that commercial speech was protected under the U.S. Constitution. Declaring that the First Amendment’s speech clause included commercial speech, the Court created a systematic approach to commercial speech cases and aggressively used it to overturn federal […]

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Commerce, regulation of

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Control, through laws, licenses, and other means, of the buying and selling of goods and services of all kinds, the related transportation of goods, and business and employment practices. In the early 1800’s New York granted a monopoly to a steamboat operating in New York waters, which conflicted with a congressional coastal license given to […]

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Comity clause

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, providing a foundation for a state to give the courtesy of enforcing the laws of another state. This courtesy is afforded out of respect and friendship and not out of obligation. The Articles of ConfederationArticles of Confederation specifically mentioned interstate relations premised on the concept of comity. Article IV, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court supported the use of a districtwide urban desegregation plan at a time when many observers thought the Court was unwilling to uphold the use of busing to correct de facto school segregation. By 1979 the Supreme Court appeared no longer willing to impose large, complicated school desegregation plans involving busing on urban […]

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Collegiality

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The practice of cooperation, solidarity, equality, fraternity, shared responsibility, and esprit de corps among Supreme Court justices. The chief justice provides leadership in maintaining a collegial working relationship among the justices and their staffs. John Marshall, chief justice from 1801 to 1835, fostered fellowship among the justices by arranging shared accommodations in a single boarding […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In a series of decisions on tax immunities, the Supreme Court held that the federal government could not tax the income of a state judge, based on dual sovereignty of the state and the federal government. Collector is of historical interest for its place in a line of opinions on tax immunities that began with […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In deciding three issues regarding the ratification of a child labor constitutional amendment, the Supreme Court introduced the Fourteenth Amendment, adding considerable confusion to the process. Chief Justice Charles Evans HughesHughes, Charles Evans;Coleman v. Miller[Coleman v. Miller] wrote the opinion for the 7-2 majority with Justices Pierce Butler and James C. McReynolds dissenting. The Court […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court declared reapportionment to be a political question and therefore not justiciable. This decision blocked all judicial efforts to correct malapportionment of legislative district boundaries until it was overturned in 1962. Qualified Illinois voters challenged their state’s U.S. congressional districts, alleging a lack of compactness and equality. Following prevailing precedents, a three-judge district […]

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Cold War

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Nonviolent conflict between the United States and other Western nations and the Soviet Bloc. The efforts of the United States to combat communist ideology raised a number of constitutional issues that were addressed by the Supreme Court. Shortly after the end of World War II (1941-1945), the United States and the Soviet Union became engaged […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that capital punishment for the crime of rape is an excessive and disproportionate penalty, and therefore contrary to the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments in the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. While serving sentences for murder, rape, and other crimes, Ehrlich Anthony Coker escaped from a Georgia prison. That same evening […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Chief Justice John Marshall used a minor dispute over the sale of lottery tickets in Virginia to assert the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over state court decisions. After Congress authorized a lottery sale for the District of Columbia, a Virginia court fined the Cohen brothers one hundred dollars for selling tickets in Virginia in violation of […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not protect newspapers from civil suits for breaking a promise of confidentiality. Dan Cohen, a political consultant, was fired from his job after two newspapers identified him as the source of information about a political candidate. Having been promised confidentiality, he sued for breach of contract. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a man for wearing a jacket emblazoned with a profanity in a courthouse, thereby establishing the concept of symbolic speech and limiting the concept of fighting words. By a 5-4 vote, the Court overturned the conviction of a defendant who wore a jacket with the words “Fuck the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court unanimously rejected President Bill Clinton’s claim of immunity from a civil suit while in office. In 1994 Paula JonesJones, Paula brought a sexual harassment suit against President Bill ClintonClinton, Bill. She alleged that an incident had taken place in 1991, when he was governor of Arkansas and she a state employee. President […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled the line-item veto was unconstitutional because it allowed the president to amend legislation passed by Congress. The Line-Item Veto Act of 1996Line-Item Veto Act authorized the president to veto fiscal portions of a bill, with the goal of putting a limit on federal spending. In Raines v. Byrd[case]Raines v. Byrd[Raines v. […]

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Clinton, Bill

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Clinton appointed two centrist-liberal justices to the Supreme Court. The attempt by the conservative-dominated Republican majority in Congress to impeach Clinton prompted appeals to the Court that determined more limited interpretations for immunity from testifying. Born William Jefferson Blythe IV, Clinton began life in a small town in the South three months after the death […]

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Clifford, Nathan

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Clifford spoke for the Supreme Court in nearly four hundred cases and presided over the commission that decided the disputed 1876 presidential election. He consistently dissented from Court opinions upholding federal power to confiscate property during wartime. Clifford studied law under Josiah Quincy and was admitted to the New Hampshire bar in 1827. He served […]

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Clerks of the justices

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Employees of the Supreme Court who assist the justices in research, selecting the petitions for certiorari worthy of review and writing the opinions at the decision-on-the-merits stage. Associate Justice Horace Gray was the first justice to employ a full-time clerk in 1882. His clerk’s responsibilities included being his personal barber and fulfilling basic secretarial duties. […]

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Clerk of the Court

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Individual responsible for the administrative management of the Supreme Court’s docket. The Supreme Court has five statutory officers: the clerk of the Court, the reporter of decisions, the marshal, the librarian, and the administrative assistant to the chief justice. Staff of the CourtCreated in February, 1790, the office of the clerk of the Court was […]

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Clear and present danger test

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

First legal standard established by the Supreme Court in 1919 to determine whether speech posed such a direct and imminent threat to society that it could be punished without violating the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the First Amendment was ratified in 1791, thereby guaranteeing that Congress could […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Overturning its 1921 decision, the Supreme Court held that Congress has the power to regulate primaries whenever state law makes them an integral part of the process for electing candidates to federal office. The precedent set in Newberry v. United States[case]Newberry v. United States[Newberry v. United States] (1921), which prevented Congress from regulating party primaries, […]

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Clarke, John H.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During his short tenure on the Supreme Court, Clarke opposed the Court’s nullification of social and economic regulatory legislation. The son of a prominent Ohio attorney, Clarke graduated from Western Reserve College in 1877 and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1878 after studying law at Western Reserve and with his father. Clarke practiced […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Webb-Kenyon Act of 1913, forbidding the shipment of alcoholic beverages into a state in violation of its laws. The Webb-Kenyon ActWebb-Kenyon Act, passed in 1913 over President William H. Taft’s veto, assisted the ProhibitionProhibition states in enforcing their laws against the sale or shipment of intoxicating liquors […]

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Clark, Tom C.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As attorney general, Clark designed and defended much of President Harry S Truman’s domestic anticommunism program. As a Supreme Court justice, he supported these and similar state-level loyalty programs and, in the Warren Court, opposed efforts to curb those programs. Born into a family of Texas lawyers, Clark served in World War I and received […]

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Civil War

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Also known as the War Between the States, the U.S. Civil War pitted eleven Southern states which seceded to form the Confederate States of America against the rest of the Union. The Civil War raised questions of fundamental importance to the U.S. constitutional order. Among these were questions about whether a state could secede from […]

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