Marshal of the Court

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Officer originally intended to serve and protect judges and others in federal trials. The first thirteen U.S. Marshals were appointed by President George Washington under the Judiciary Act of 1789Judiciary Act of 1789. The marshals’ duties originally included enforcing court orders and federal laws, capturing fugitives, and making arrests. The Secret Service and the Federal […]

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Marriage

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife. The marriage contract conveys rights and duties to both partners and continues until death or divorce. The conditions and terms of marriage, including who may marry, are largely governed by state laws. Before the mid-twentieth century, the Supreme Court infrequently considered issues involving […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

For the first time, the Supreme Court declared that a congressional statute was unconstitutional and therefore invalid. Before 1803, there was a great deal of debate about whether the Supreme Court possessed the authority to make binding decisions in regard to the constitutionality of statutes, especially those of the federal government. Many jurists argued that […]

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Mann Act

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Federal statute that criminalized the interstate movement of women for prostitution or other immoral purposes. Congress enacted the Mann Act in 1910 to comply with an international treaty prohibiting the movement of prostitutes between nations and to respond to domestic hysteria that a conspiracy of coerced prostitution, so-called “white slavery,” was flourishing in U.S. cities. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s decision established that the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination applied to the states. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Malloy v. Hogan[Malloy v. Hogan] wrote the 5-4 majority opinion for the Supreme Court, reversing a contempt citation of a person who declined to testify in a state court. The Court’s ruling […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court reaffirmed its power to create rules of evidence that apply in federal criminal cases. In McNabb v. United States[case]McNabb v. United States[MacNabb v. United States] (1943), the Supreme Court ruled that any statements an accused made while being improperly detained could not be used against that person at trial, thereby dramatically reducing […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court relaxed mathematical equality standards for state legislative redistricting. A Virginia state legislative redistricting plan was challenged because of deviations in district population that the state argued were the result of following county and city boundaries where possible. Justice William H. RehnquistRehnquist, William H.;Mahan v. Howell[Mahan v. Howell] wrote the 5-3 majority decision […]

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Madison, James

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

President Madison supported the republican principle of majority rule, the Jeffersonian ideas of strict construction of the Constitution, and the separation of church and state. One of his Supreme Court appointees, Joseph Story, was the prime molder of early U.S. private law, especially commercial and admiralty law. In Virginia, Madison was a member of legislative […]

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McReynolds, James C.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An isolated and irascible personality, McReynolds developed over the course of his twenty-six years of service into one of the most conservative justices of the twentieth century. As one of the Four Horsemen, he was notorious for his adamant opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal measures. McReynolds has been characterized by his contemporaries […]

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McLean, John

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As Supreme Court justice, McLean is remembered for his antislavery dissent in the 1857 case involving slave Dred Scott. McLean was reared on a farm in Ohio and apprenticed with a lawyer in Cincinnati. He was admitted to the bar in 1807. Along with his legal career, he pursued newspaper publishing for a time before […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court overruled a state policy of admitting African Americans to a public university’s graduate program on a segregated basis. In 1938 the Supreme Court held that states must provide equal opportunities for education in legal matters within the borders of the state. George McLaurin, a black teacher who was sixty-eight years old, was […]

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McKinley, John

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As a Supreme Court justice, McKinley supported states’ rights over the authority of the federal government. McKinley began his long, diverse political career in 1820 with a seat in the Alabama state legislature. In November, 1826, he entered the U.S. Senate upon the death of Henry Chambers. While a senator, he advocated governmental assistance to […]

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McKenna, Joseph

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The sole Court appointee of President William McKinley, McKenna was the last justice from the Gilded Age and is best remembered for a twenty-six-year record of ambivalence as to the question of government regulation of the economy. Born into an immigrant Irish family in Philadelphia, McKenna moved to Benecia, California, at the age of twelve. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court narrowed the broad due process protection given to juveniles in state proceedings in 1967. When the Supreme Court rendered its 1967 In re Gault decision, the Sixth Amendment’s jury trial guarantee had not yet been applied to the states by incorporation. After the Court incorporated that right for adults in Duncan v. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court established that the federal tax power could be used to regulate commerce. Congress had passed a law to regulate the production of oleomargarine. Defendant McCray, convicted for buying colored oleomargarine at a lower than legal price, claimed that Congress had exceeded its proper power to tax for revenue purposes. McCray maintained that […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court significantly restricted the conditions under which federal courts were allowed to accept second habeas corpus petitions by state prisoners sentenced to death. During the 1960’s the Court had expanded the scope of federal habeas corpus reviews of state criminal convictions. One consequence was that death row inmates were able to file several […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that Georgia’s use of capital punishment was constitutional, despite statistical studies showing that killers of white victims were four times more likely to be executed than killers of black victims. WarrenAfrican Americans;death penalty[death penalty] McCleskey, an African American, was convicted and sentenced to die for killing a white police officer in […]

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McCarran Act

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Statute also known as the Internal Security Act that aimed at stopping communist subversion in the United States. The McCarran Act, sponsored by Senator Patrick A. McCarran of Nevada, attacked the alleged communist threat. It created a Subversive Activities Control Board that could, with approval of the U.S. attorney general, order an organization that it […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court acquiesced to a congressional withdrawal of appellate jurisdiction in a case that threatened to bring down the Republican Party’s Reconstruction program. Article III of the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to make exceptions and regulations concerning the Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Ex parte McCardle led to the Supreme Court’s most important decision involving this […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, by approving a town’s Christmas season display, lessened the strict separation of church and state that had typified many of its decisions. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld a Rhode Island town’s display of a nativity scene because it was accompanied by many Christmas decorations and secular, seasonal items. In […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

By refusing to take sides in a dispute between two rival governments in Rhode Island, the Supreme Court held that the meaning of “a Republican form of government” is a political question and thus a responsibility of Congress rather than the courts. Following the Dorr Rebellion of 1842, two competing groups claimed to be the […]

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Lurton, Horace H.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The appointment of this former Confederate officer to the Supreme Court was a symbol of regional reconciliation. The son of a medical doctor who became an Episcopalian minister, Lurton was an avid backer of the South and expressed his support for the region even after the Civil War (1861-1865). He enlisted in the Confederate army […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that when land-use and environmental regulations deprive property owners of the total value of their land, the owners have a takings clause claim unless the governmental authority can defend the regulations as necessary to prevent a public harm or nuisance. In 1986 David Lucas purchased two oceanfront parcels on the Isle […]

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Lower federal courts

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

National-level courts below the Supreme Court created by Congress after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Article III of the U.S. Constitution states that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court and in such inferior courts as Congress may ordain and establish. Using the power given it by […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in striking down a Virginia antimiscegenation law, voided statutes preventing interracial marriage through- out the United States. In Pace v. Alabama[case]Pace v. Alabama[Pace v. Alabama] (1883), the Supreme Court upheld a law that punished interracial fornication more severely than fornication between members of the same race on grounds that both partners were […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the portion of a federal statute prohibiting three named federal employees from receiving governmental compensation was an unconstitutional bill of attainder. During the early period of the Cold War, a rider to an appropriations statute denied compensation for three persons branded as “subversives” by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Speaking […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a city ordinance prohibiting the distribution of pamphlets without a permit violated the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. Alma Lovell, a member of the Jehovah’s Witness Church, was prosecuted for distributing religious literature in Griffin, Georgia, without the required permission from the city commissioner. The Supreme Court […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld a Mississippi law mandating separate but equal accommodations on a railroad, despite its effect on interstate commerce. By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld a Mississippi statute requiring railroads to provide “equal, but separate accommodations” for African AmericansAfrican Americans;public accommodations[public accommodations] and whites. The Louisville, New Orleans, and Texas Railway […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s ruling enhanced the power of the federal courts by changing the definition of state residency for corporations. Under diversity jurisdiction, New York resident Letson sued the Louisville, Cincinnati, and Charleston Railroad Co., chartered in South Carolina, in federal circuit court for breach of contract. The railroad claimed that the federal court lacked […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

After an electric chair failed to kill a convicted murderer because of a mechanical failure, the Supreme Court decided that a second trip to the electric chair would not violate the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Willy Francis, a fifteen-year-old African American,African Americans;death penalty[death penalty] was found guilty of murdering a white […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a federal statute was unconstitutional because Congress had overstepped its authority to regulate interstate commerce. In 1990 Congress passed the Gun-free School Zone ActGun-free School Zone Act, making it a federal crime to possess a gun within one thousand feet of a school. After Alfonso Lopez, Jr., a high school […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that Congress had plenary authority over American Indian affairs and that Indian treaties were subject to unilateral abrogation. Lone Wolf, one of the principal chiefs of the Kiowa Nation, sought an injunction to block congressional ratification of an agreement allotting tribal lands. He argued that the agreement violated the Treaty of […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In the so-called Danbury Hatters’ case, the Supreme Court held that a boycott against a manufacturer of hats, initiated in an attempt to force unionization, was an illegal restraint of trade. Reacting to a secondary boycott sponsored by the American Federation of Labor, an employer brought suit against individual members of the United Hatters of […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Lochner is the most famous case in which the Supreme Court used the doctrine of substantive due process to overturn a statute regulating labor conditions. Journeymen bakers in the late 1900’s often worked more than one hundred hours per week, sometimes in squalid tenement cellars. There was good evidence that the combination of working long […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court approved a federal district court’s order requiring a hiring goal and a timetable for the employment of minority workers as a remedy for a union’s past discrimination. A federal district court found that a labor union had discriminated against nonwhite workers in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of […]

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Livingston, Henry Brockholst

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An expert in maritime and commercial law, Livingston wrote a number of Supreme Court majority opinions on these issues. His most notable decision stated that the disputed Embargo Act of 1807, which prohibited trade with Great Britain, was constitutional. Livingston graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1774, where he was a […]

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Lind, Henry Curtis

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Through his lifetime of service in the legal profession, and specifically as reporter of decisions of the Supreme Court, Lind established himself as one of the standard bearers of efforts to improve and advance law reporting A 1943 graduate of Princeton University, Lind studied law at Harvard University following his return from military service during […]

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Lincoln, Levi

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Lincoln was a staunch opponent of slavery and a defender of religious freedom and states’ rights. His refusal of a Supreme Court appointment lost the Jeffersonian Republicans the opportunity to gain a majority on the Court. Born into a colonial Massachusetts family, Lincoln graduated from Harvard College in 1771 and subsequently studied law in Massachusetts. […]

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Lincoln, Abraham

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During the Civil War, Lincoln assumed unprecedented powers for the executive branch to suppress the rebellion in the Southern states. To preserve the Union, he superseded traditional constitutional rights and expanded the president’s ability to take action without the approval of Congress or the Supreme Court. Born in the then-frontier state of Kentucky, Lincoln was […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the validity of state taxes on the sale of imported liquor, but the justices disagreed about the basis of the ruling. During the antebellum period, the Supreme Court found it difficult to harmonize federal authority over interstate commerce with the states’ police powers. The legislatures of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and […]

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Libel

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Printed or broadcast defamation, which entails false statements holding an individual up to ridicule, contempt, or hatred, or causing an individual to be avoided by others. Victims of libel, or defamatory false statements, sue the media for damages. Courts award monetary compensation to victims for the injury they suffered and stipulate punitive measures to chastise […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment did not prohibit the admission of criminal evidence obtained from a search conducted pursuant to a warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate even if the warrant was ultimately found invalid through no fault of the police officers conducting the search. Based on an affidavit referring […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

While vetoing state subsidies for teachers of parochial schools, the Supreme Court established a three-part Lemon test for evaluating whether governmental programs ran afoul of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. In 1968 the Pennsylvania legislature enacted a statute allowing direct salary supplements for teachers of secular subjects in private schools. Alton Lemon, supported […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

With its decisions in these three cases, the Supreme Court clearly established the right of the U.S. government to pay its debts in paper money. After a long tradition of rejecting the use of paper money as legal tender, the United States including former secretary of the treasury and later chief justice Salmon P. ChaseChase, […]

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Legal Defense Fund, NAACP

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Body of lawyers and legal experts that seeks to advance civil rights by sponsoring litigation. Although the National Association for the Advancement of Colored PeopleNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was primarily a lobbying group, its legal committee sponsored litigation as a means of achieving its civil rights goals. However, donations to […]

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Legal counsel, office of

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Nonstatutory unit of the Supreme Court consisting of two attorneys who perform a largely administrative function. The office of legal counsel, created in 1972, is a legal office within the administration of the Supreme Court. The office is staffed by two attorneys. Their duties are primarily to help the Court deal with procedural questions concerning […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court declared that public schools could not conduct prayer exercises at graduation ceremonies. Graduation ceremonies at a high school in Providence, Rhode Island, were voluntary. When inviting local clergy to offer nonsectarian invocations and benedictions, the principal would give them guidelines suggesting the use of “inclusiveness and sensitivity.” The principal took care to […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the states’ right to impose literacy tests for voting. An African AmericanAfrican Americans;literacy tests[literacy tests] challenged a state literacy testLiteracy tests that applied to voters of all races. The Supreme Court did not infer that the test was being used to discriminate against minorities and unanimously upheld the state law. In […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in allowing a bootlegger to be tried in both state and federal court, restricted the protection against double jeopardy. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the second indictment of a bootlegger who was tried first in state court for violating the Washington state prohibition law and then charged in federal court for violating […]

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Land grants

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Governmental actions legalizing the transfer of ownership of land from the government to private parties. Congress was given the power to dispose of land owned by the federal government in the property clause (Article IV, section 3, clause 2) of the U.S. Constitution. Using this power, Congress sold or granted most federal land to states, […]

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Lamar, Lucius Q. C.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Lamar was the first southerner appointed to the Supreme Court after the Civil War. As an associate justice, he championed the rights of business over government. Lamar was born into the landed southern aristocracy, in which public service was a tradition. A cousin, Joseph R. Lamar, also served on the Supreme Court. Lamar graduated from […]

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Lamar, Joseph R.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An esteemed legal historian and jurist, Lamar believed that law must slowly adjust to changing times. The clear, logical style expressed in opinions he wrote while on the Supreme Court enhanced the ability of executive officials to provide the necessary details for implementing laws. After studying law at Washington and Lee University, Lamar was admitted […]

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Labor

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Trade unions, associations, and other organized economic groups formed by people who work for wages, often performing manual labor. Attempts to organize in order to improve working conditions in the early 1800’s were labeled “criminal conspiracies” by the courts, a doctrine imported to the United States from English common law. The courts were generally sympathetic […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that government statutes regulating speech must be narrowly drawn so that they do not unduly restrict freedom of expression. Carl Kunz was a Baptist minister convicted of preaching on the New York City streets without a permit. Kunz, who had been accused of “scurrilous attacks on other religions” during earlier street […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Based on the argument of military necessity, the Supreme Court upheld the exclusion of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast and the requirement that they report to assembly centers, which almost always resulted in assignment to internment camps. After the United States entered into a war with Japan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued […]

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Knaebel, Ernest

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Knaebel, whose most significant contributions were made as editor of United States Reports, developed a reputation before the Supreme Court as an effective advocate on issues relating to public and Indian lands. After his graduation from Yale University in 1897, Knaebel developed law practices in New York and Denver. During the administration of President Theodore […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court applied the Sixth Amendment’s promise of a speedy trial to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause under the incorporation doctrine. Klopfer had been indicted by North Carolina for criminal trespass for taking part in a sit-in demonstration in a restaurant. At Klopfer’s trial, the jury failed to reach an […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s decision regarding a Missouri congressional redistricting act established that legislative districts should be as mathematically equal as possible. The Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, upheld a federal district court’s overturning of a 1967 Missouri congressional redistricting statute. In the opinion for the Court, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Kirkpatrick […]

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King, Edward

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

King was a prominent Pennsylvania jurist who was twice nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court by President John Tyler. The Senate declined both nominations because of Tyler’s failure to gain adequate support from the Democrats and the Whigs. Edward King (Library of Congress) Before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President John […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court declared that Congress’s investigative power and its derivative contempt power were limited to legislative not judicial purposes. Justice Samuel F. MillerMiller, Samuel F.;Kilbourn v. Thompson[Kilbourn v. Thompson] wrote the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court in this undated decision, holding that Congress may conduct investigations to obtain information only for future legislation […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s ruling created a distinction between manufacturing and commerce that survived many years but is no longer valid. An Iowa law that prohibited companies from manufacturing liquor for sale outside the state was challenged as an unconstitutional attempt by a state to regulate interstate commerce. The Supreme Court upheld the statute, making a […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a Pennsylvania law prohibiting underground mining that causes damage to surface structures does not violate either the takings clause or the contracts clause. In 1966 the Pennsylvania legislature enacted a law prohibiting coal mining that caused subsidence damage to preexisting public buildings, dwellings, and cemeteries. Based on Pennsylvania Coal Co. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court struck down loyalty oaths for public school teachers. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Keyishian v. Board of Regents[Keyishian v. Board of Regents] wrote the decision for the 5-4 majority that struck down a New York law requiring public school teachers to swear a loyalty oath certifying that they were not […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In its first school desegregation case involving a major city outside the South, the Supreme Court held that a district-wide busing plan was an appropriate remedy for a situation in which official policies had encouraged the establishment of racially segregated schools in any section within the district. A federal district judge ordered a desegregation plan […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court defined the extent to which the federal rules covering searches and seizures should apply to the states. California authorities entered the apartment of George and Diane Ker using a passkey and conducted a warrantless search during which they found and seized marijuana. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld their convictions, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that it had no power to force state governors to extradite accused persons from their states, a decision that lasted until 1987. A free black Ohioan helped a Kentucky slave escape to Ohio. The Kentucky governor asked two Ohio governors, first Salmon P. Chase then William Dennison, to extradite the Ohioan […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that the right to travel was part of the liberty guaranteed by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and that Congress had not authorized the secretary of state to deny passports because of beliefs or political affiliations. In 1948 the Department of State established a policy of not issuing […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that Congress had the power to impose duties on officers of the executive branch of the government. President Andrew JacksonJackson, Andrew asserted an extreme position of executive independence, leading to several conflicts with Congress. A constitutional conflict occurred when Postmaster General Amos Kendall refused to honor government contracts with a mail […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court recognized the right of Congress to enforce its own interpretation of Fourteenth Amendment rights. A New York statute required passage of an English literacy test in order to register to vote. In Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections[case]Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections[Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections] (1959), […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

This decision represents the broadest interpretation of the commerce clause ever issued by the Supreme Court. Early in U.S. history, the Supreme Court made a distinction between interstate commerce, which was regulated by the federal government, and intrastate commerce, which was the province of the states. Starting with National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld grants of use immunity as well as of transactional immunity as falling within the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. By a 5-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld a 1970 congressional enactment requiring witnesses to testify before grand juries under use immunity grants. Use immunity means the government cannot use any testimony […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that violent sexual predator legislation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s substantive due process clause nor did it trigger criminal protections, such as those against ex post facto laws and double jeopardy. At issue was whether the Kansas violent sexual predator legislation was in effect criminal legislation that violated Gregory L. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the power to apply federal criminal statutes to Native Americans within tribal lands. In Ex parte Crow Dog[case]Crow Dog, Ex parte[Crow Dog, Ex parte] (1883), the Supreme Court decided that tribal law applied to crimes committed by Native Americans in Indian country. Congress reacted by passing the Major […]

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Juvenile justice

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

System of laws, courts, and institutions created for children who commit illegal acts. As early as the Middle Ages, the English legal system recognized that children who commit crimes should be treated differently than adults.Family and children The U.S. legal system also recognized this and adopted the common law rule that children under the age […]

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Jury composition and size

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Composition and number of members in a jury, a group of citizens brought together to hear testimony and determine a verdict in a trial. The right to trial by juryJury, trial by is guaranteed by Article III of the U.S. Constitution as well as by the Sixth, Seventh, and Fourteenth Amendments. Although the right to […]

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Jury, trial by

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Legal process in which a group of citizens sworn as jurors hears evidence presented at trial and then collectively decides on the accused’s culpability for a crime or civil offense. Article III, section 2, of the U.S. Constitution provides the right to trial by jury for all crimes except impeachment, and the Seventh Amendment grants […]

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Judiciary Acts of 1801-1925

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Laws passed by Congress establishing the number of justices who will sit on the Supreme Court, creating federal courts other than the Supreme Court, and defining the jurisdiction of all federal courts including, except for what is constitutionally mandated, the Supreme Court. The status of the federal judiciary in the beginning of the nineteenth century […]

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Judiciary Act of 1789

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Bill passed by Congress establishing a three-tier system of federal courts. The Constitution,Constitution, U.S. written during the summer of 1787 and ratified in 1788, established a new government that started working in April, 1789, when the newly formed Congress began meeting. President George Washington was sworn into office on April 30. At that point two […]

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Judicial self-restraint

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The view that unelected federal judges should generally be reluctant to interfere with the decisions of the democratically elected branches of government. Advocates of judicial self-restraint argue that the Supreme Court should generally refrain from interfering with the exercise of authority by Congress, the president, and the state governments.Separation of powers This doctrine is rooted […]

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Judicial scrutiny

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Standard by which the Supreme Court evaluates the constitutionality of certain governmental actions. The three levels of judicial scrutiny are strict scrutiny, intermediate (or heightened) scrutiny, and ordinary (or minimum) scrutiny. The Supreme Court employs tests, or standards of review, with the aim of giving parties to a specific case some reasonable expectation as to […]

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Judicial review

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s power to declare lower court decisions, state constitutional provisions, state laws, federal legislation, and other actions to be contrary to the U.S. Constitution and therefore null and unenforceable. The Supreme Court’s power of judicial review is in one sense unexceptional, but in another, radically controversial. The Court’s power derives from the principle […]

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Judicial powers

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Mandate to interpret and apply the law, granted to the Supreme Court under the U.S. Constitution. When the Constitution was being drafted, the Founders gave consideration in the first three articles to the three branches of government they envisioned in such a way as to provide checks and balances and to make each branch of […]

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Judicial Improvements and Access to Justice Act

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Public Law 102-702, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, placed stringent limits on the types of cases that the Supreme Court is required to hear on appeal. Passed by Congress to address the concerns of justices about the growing caseloadWorkload of the Supreme Court, the Judicial Improvements and Access to Justice Act repealed the […]

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Judicial immunity

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The freedom from prosecution conferred upon members of the judiciary when they act in their official capacity. While acting within the scope of official duties and official jurisdiction, judges must be able to act according to the dictates of conscience, free from the threat of civil damages, even though decisions that are rendered may later […]

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Judicial codes and rules

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Prescribed professional standards that govern the conduct of the judiciary as it performs its duty to render judgments. The House of Delegates of the American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which in turn was adopted in some form by most state and federal jurisdictions in the United States. The Judicial […]

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Judicial activism

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Term applied to court decisions seen as going beyond the usual canons of constitutional or statutory interpretation; it is the opposite of judicial self-restraint. The term can be applied to any decision in which the Court alters or nullifies the policy of another policymaker such as Congress or the president. Judicial activism occurs whenever the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act, declaring that slavery was a political question for the states to decide. A conductor on the Underground Railroad, John Van Zandt, was accused of hiding and assisting fugitive slaves in violation of the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act. Salmon P. Chase,Chase, Salmon P. attorney and future chief […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court used the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery to outlaw racial discrimination in housing. Jones alleged that the Alfred J. Mayer Company, a private concern, refused to sell him a house because he was black, and he sued under a portion of the 1866 Civil Rights ActCivil Rights Act of […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During a period of hostility to civil liberties, the Supreme Court issued a ruling regarding a list of allegedly subversive organizations that favored freedom of association. In March, 1948, President Harry S Truman issued an executive order creating a list of subversive organizations. Seventy-eight allegedly subversive organizations were placed in six classifications on the attorney […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that indigent defendants have a constitutional right to be represented by counsel in federal criminal proceedings. In examining an appeal of a person convicted of counterfeiting, the Supreme Court ruled, by a 6-2 margin, that the Sixth Amendment prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life or liberty unless […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court rejected a reverse discrimination claim in which a female employee was promoted over a white male employee who was judged slightly more qualified. In United Steelworkers of America v. Weber[case]United Steelworkers of America v. Weber[United Steelworkers of America v. Weber](1979), the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Law […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that convictions based on nonunanimous jury verdicts in state criminal trials do not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the common law tradition, criminal convictions were based on the unanimous agreement of twelve-member juries. In 1968 the Supreme Court required states to provide jury trials in criminal […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Going back to the rights of discovery and conquest, the Supreme Court upheld the U.S. government’s ultimate authority to extinguish title of occupancy and to convey title in the soil. In 1775 William Johnson purchased land in Illinois from the Piankeshaw tribe, but Virginia in 1783 conveyed the land to the federal government for the […]

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Johnson, William

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The first Jeffersonian appointed to the Supreme Court, Johnson resisted Chief Justice John Marshall’s desire for unanimous decisions by the Court. His example established the custom of justices reading individual dissenting or concurring opinions as a regular practice of the Court. Johnson graduated from Princeton with honors in 1790 and returned to Charleston, South Carolina, […]

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Johnson, Thomas

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Although he served only briefly on the Supreme Court, Johnson participated in an important case involving the power of federal officials. Johnson practiced law and served on the Maryland provincial assembly before the American Revolution. He served as the first governor of Maryland from 1777 to 1779. During the 1780’s, he worked to ratify the […]

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Jenner-Butler bill

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Measure designed to curtail the Supreme Court’s power to protect the constitutional rights of alleged political subversives. The Jenner-Butler bill was one of scores of measures sponsored by conservative members of Congress during 1957-1958 to curtail the Supreme Court’s power in the wake of the Court’s controversial decisions on racial desegregation and the protection of […]

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Jehovah’s Witnesses

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Evangelical religious sect that engages in vigorous missionary work and holds unconventional Christian beliefs. In 1931 an Adventist sect known as Bible Students adopted the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. Over the next two decades, their style of aggressive, unconventional evangelism resulted in numerous confrontations across the United States. This conflict resulted from their refusal to salute […]

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Jefferson, Thomas

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Jefferson rejected the idea that the Supreme Court should have exclusive authority to decide questions of constitutionality. As a Democratic-Republican president, he attempted to counter the nationalist tendencies of the Court under Federalist chief justice John Marshall. Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1765. Three years later he was elected to the Virginia […]

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Jay, John

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As the first chief justice, Jay was responsible for establishing procedures, admitting practitioners, and organizing the Supreme Court’s business. A strong nationalist in his constitutional views, he believed that the Court had judicial authority to hear cases against a state. The son of a prominent New York City merchant, Jay was a member of colonial […]

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Japanese American relocation

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The removal of more than 112,000 Japanese immigrants and their children, most of whom were U.S. citizens, to detention camps as a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. In 1790 the Nationality ActNationality Act of 1790 established the standards to be used for U.S. citizenshipCitizenship and naturalization. The law stated that only […]

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