• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court limited people’s ability to make general claims that their rights were protected by the “spirit” of the Constitution’s preamble or body. Henning Jacobson refused to submit to a smallpox vaccination pursuant to a duly passed Massachusetts state law and Cambridge city ordinance and was fined five dollars. At trial, Jacobson insisted that […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that a French film was not obscene and could not be banned but was divided as to its reasoning. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Jacobellis v. Ohio[Jacobellis v. Ohio] wrote the opinion for the 5-3 majority, which held that a particular French film was not obscene by national standards […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in a ruling involving a utility company, set a standard for determining when actions by private entities were public enough to fall under the constitutional limitations applied to the government. A Pennsylvania resident claimed that Metropolitan Edison Co., a private utility company, failed to provide adequate notice and a public hearing before […]

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Jackson, Robert H.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During his thirteen years on the Supreme Court, Jackson wrote eloquent defenses of free expression in some cases, while in others he upheld state power to suppress speech and other freedoms. His opinions were individualistic, pragmatic, hard to predict, and middle-of-the-road. The son of a hotel and livery stable owner, Jackson grew up in Frewsburg, […]

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Jackson, Howell E.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A Southern Democrat who had served with the Confederacy, Jackson was the final Supreme Court appointee of outgoing Republican president Benjamin Harrison. In 1895 on his deathbed, Jackson wrote a dissent favoring a federal income tax. Born in Paris, Tennessee, Jackson soon moved with his family to Jackson where he attended Jackson Male Academy and […]

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Jackson, Andrew

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As president, Jackson emphasized executive power and democracy (at least for white men) and rejected the idea that the Supreme Court has the exclusive authority to decide questions of constitutionality. The six justices he appointed dominated the Court for decades after he himself left office. The son of Irish immigrant families, Jackson read enough law […]

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Iredell, James

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Serving on the Supreme Court for nearly a decade, Iredell was a supporter of judicial restraint, a strict constructionist, and defender of the Constitution’s original design. Born in Lewes, England, Iredell spent his childhood in Bristol. The eldest of five sons born to Francis and Margaret McCulloh Iredell, he was forced to leave school after […]

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Interstate compacts

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Contracts between two or more states binding them to certain specified provisions of an agreement. The U.S. Constitution provides for a federal governing system, with those powers not exercised by the federal government being retained by the states. According to Article I, section 10, of the Constitution, with the approval of Congress, states can enter […]

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Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC)

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Federal governmental agency that regulates all interstate commerce and transportation. In its 1886 session, the Supreme Court reached an important decision in Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railway Co. v. Illinois.[case]Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railway Co. v. Illinois[Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railway Co. v. Illinois] In an earlier case, Munn v. Illinois[case]Munn v. […]

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International perspectives on the Court

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Effect that the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court, with its power of judicial review, have had on legal and governmental systems internationally. More important than the spread of democracy or constitutions, the spread of the concept of the rule of law and, more particularly, of judicial review affected the world in the late twentieth […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in its decisions on various islands seized during the Spanish American War, determined the applicability of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to overseas territories. The fourteen cases regarded as the Insular Cases arose out of the seizure of various island territories in the 1898 Spanish American War. Partisan political issues […]

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Insanity defense

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Not guilty plea entered by a criminal defendant on the grounds that an impaired mental condition makes him or her unable to understand the wrongfulness of the act committed. For most of U.S. history, insanity determinations were the province of the states, with intrastate consistency maintained by appellate court decisions and state statutes. Inconsistencies appeared […]

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Injunctions and equitable remedies

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Court orders commanding or preventing actions and nonmonetary legal relief, obtained when monetary damages do not properly redress the injury. To understand injunctions and equitable remedies, it is necessary to examine their historical origins in British law. In Britain, two court systems, law courts and equity courts, have existed side by side for some six […]

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Indigent criminal defendants

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Persons accused of crimes who, due to their poverty, are not able to adequately provide for their own defense. Although social scientists have long debated the causes of crime, it is beyond dispute that the impact of the criminal justice system is felt most heavily among the most economically disadvantaged members of society. In city […]

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Indian Bill of Rights

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Also known as the Indian Civil Rights Act, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that applies the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment to the actions of tribal governments and tribal courts. In Colliflower v. Garland[case]Colliflower v. Garland[Colliflower v. Garland](1965), the federal court system was faced with a variety of constitutional […]

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Independent and adequate state grounds doctrine

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Rule applied to a state court’s judgment to determine if it was based on state laws or constitutional provisions that are independent of federal law and therefore not within the Supreme Court’s reach. In Michigan v. Long[case]Michigan v. Long[Michigan v. Long] (1983), the Supreme Court ruled that it can decide whether an asserted state ground […]

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Incorporation doctrine

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Process by which the Supreme Court has gradually nationalized the Bill of Rights, requiring state governments to extend to residents much the same rights as the federal government must. In Barron v. Baltimore[case]Barron v. Baltimore[Barron v. Baltimore] (1833), the Supreme Court ruled that rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights restrained the actions of the […]

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Income tax

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A tax levied directly on the income earned by individuals or corporations. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Framers included two clauses relating to taxation: “all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States” and “no capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or […]

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Implied powers

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Authority a government is assumed to have in order to perform its constitutionally prescribed duties. These powers are not specifically enumerated; rather, they constitute the unwritten methods a government may employ in order to exercise its enumerated powers. In its earliest and most renowned implied powers case, McCulloch v. Maryland[case]McCulloch v. Maryland[MacCulloch v. Maryland] (1819), […]

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Impeachment of presidents

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As specified in the U.S. Constitution, impeachment means charging the president or other federal officials with treason, bribery, or other “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach; the president is tried by the Senate and, if found guilty, removed from office. The U.S. Constitution limits the grounds for […]

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Impeachment of judges

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The constitutional procedure by which judges, who have tenure for life, can be removed from office, if impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 spent little time discussing impeachment of judges; the major focus was on presidential impeachments. The Virginia Plan, introduced as the Convention began […]

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Immigration law

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Statutes that regulate the entry of non-U.S. citizens into the United States. The Supreme Court has less control over immigration law than over almost any other area of the legal system because congressional power over the immigration of aliens into the country is considered part of the nation’s sovereignty. During the first hundred years of […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

By overturning congressional use of the legislative veto, the Supreme Court, in this single decision, overturned more combined laws than it had in its entire history. Jagdish Chadha, a Kenyan of Asian Indian descent carrying a British passport, entered the United States on a student visa in the 1960’s. When his student visa expired, he […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court disallowed a released-time religious instruction program in public schools, helping define the meaning of the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause. By an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional a released-time religious education program in the Illinois public schools. Under the Illinois program, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish instructors not paid […]

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Illegitimacy

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Status accorded a person whose biological parents are not legally married to each other. Because of the traditional moral and, by consequence, legal stigmatization of illegitimate births, children born outside of marriageMarriage had only limited rights before 1968. With regard to support or maintenance and inheritance rights, illegitimate children generally were in a far less […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s agreement to hear a case in which it was asked to review the constitutionality of a tax levied by Congress is regarded as implying that the Court had the power of judicial review. Marbury v. Madison[case]Marbury v. Madison[Marbury v. Madison] (1803) is generally accepted as the first case in which the Supreme […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the speech and debate clause applied only to statements made on the floor of the House or Senate and that members of Congress could be sued for allegedly libelous statements contained in press releases and newsletters to their constituents. Senator William Proxmire regularly announced Golden Fleece awards in order to […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled against a religious leader’s libel claim, providing a right of parody for the press. Publisher Larry FlyntFlynt, Larry’s Hustler magazine printed an issue containing a parody of Jerry FalwellFalwell, Jerry, in which the conservative religious leader was depicted having sex with his mother in an outhouse. A Virginia federal district court […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Ruling that the Fifth Amendment requirement for a grand jury indictment is not binding on the states, the Supreme Court interpreted the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as a requirement for “fundamental principles of liberty and justice.” Joseph Hurtado was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. In conformity with the California […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the organizers of a Saint Patrick’s Day parade did not have to include a gay group and that Massachusetts violated the parade organizer’s First Amendment right by forcing it to allow the gay group to march. Justice David H. SouterSouter, David H.;Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of […]

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Hunt, Ward

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Hunt was one of the last Supreme Court justices of the Reconstruction era to adhere stubbornly to the principles of emancipation and full equality. His vigorous dissent in an 1876 case was an attempt to secure Fifteenth Amendment voting rights for African Americans. Born in Utica, New York, Hunt was the son of a bank […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that the president could not remove members of independent regulatory commissions on policy grounds before their terms had expired. In Myers v. United States[case]Myers v. United States[Myers v. United States] (1926), the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the president to remove a postmaster before his term had expired. A dictum […]

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Hughes, Charles Evans

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Having resigned as an associate justice in 1916 to run for the presidency of the United States, Hughes returned to the Supreme Court in 1930 as chief justice. In that capacity, he led the Court through the critical days of the Great Depression and the New Deal. Hughes attended Madison University (later Colgate) and was […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that prison inmates lack the rights to privacy and protection against searches under the Fourth Amendment. Palmer, a Virginia inmate, claimed prison officer Hudson conducted an improper search of his locker and cell, during which he destroyed some of Palmer’s personal property and generally harassed him unnecessarily. The officer discovered a […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ended a long-standing dispute by disavowing the existence of a federal common law for crimes. For ten years, the Democratic Republicans and the Federalists had disagreed over whether there was a federal common law for criminal offenses. Barzillai Hudson and George Goodwin, who published a report linking Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonaparte, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld a woman’s murder conviction, denying her claim that an all-male jury prevented her receiving a fair trial. In the only sex discrimination case to come before the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court unanimously upheld the conviction of Gwendolyn Hoyt for murdering her husband even though she claimed […]

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Howard, Benjamin C.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Howard edited and reported the decisions of the Supreme Court from 1843 to 1861. He was elected as a U.S. representative from Maryland on four different occasions. Howard was the son of a U.S. representative from Maryland. Howard pursued a degree in classical studies and graduated from Princeton College in 1809. Later he studied law, […]

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Houston, Charles Hamilton

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

African American civil rights lawyer Houston was instrumental in devising and using litigation strategy to establish the equal rights of African Americans before the law in a series of Supreme Court cases. The only child of black, middle-class Washington, D.C., parents, Houston won honors at Amherst College and Harvard Law School. He won a scholarship […]

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Housing of the Court

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Places where the Supreme Court met and held court. Although the Framers of the U.S. Constitution agreed to a tripartite division of the federal government, the judiciary received the least emphasis. The Judiciary Act of 1789Judiciary Act of 1789 established a Supreme Court consisting of a chief justice and five associate justices. Most of the […]

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Housing discrimination

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Attempt by government entities or private parties to bar the sale or rental of housing to members of minority groups. The first type of housing discrimination addressed by the Supreme Court was attempts by cities and towns to establish separate residential areas for different races. In Buchanan v. Warley[case]Buchanan v. Warley[Buchanan v. Warley] (1917), the […]

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Hornblower, William B.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Hornblower’s failed Supreme Court confirmation, along with that of fellow New Yorker Wheeler H. Peckham, opened the way for the appointment of Louisiana senator Edward D. White to the Court in 1894. Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Hornblower graduated from Columbia Law School in 1875 and soon found employment as a corporate attorney in New […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

By upholding an emergency moratorium on the foreclosure of homes and farms, the Supreme Court greatly limited the scope of the obligations-of-contracts clause. During the Great Depression, many state legislatures enacted debtor-relief statutes to mitigate the wholesale foreclosure of homes and farms. The Minnesota Mortgage Moratorium Law of 1933 authorized state courts to grant two-year […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Although the Supreme Court dismissed this case involving a state’s extradition of a suspect to Canada, Roger Brooke Taney’s opinion is a memorable assertion of federal control of foreign affairs. The governor of Vermont had a Canadian resident wanted for murder in Canada arrested, with the intent of sending him back to Canada, although no […]

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Holmes, Oliver Wendell

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In the course of his twenty-nine years on the Supreme Court, Holmes wrote 873 opinions, and several of his eloquently argued dissents on free speech and due process are now treated as precedents. Holmes preferred common law over natural law and was strongly reluctant to interfere with state legislation that was not expressly prohibited by […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In an age of laissez-faire constitutionalism, the Supreme Court recognized that a state, under its police power, could place some restrictions on freedom of contract. During the 1890’s Albert Holden was convicted of violating a Utah statute that had established the eight-hour workday in mines and smelters.Maximum-hour laws In appealing his conviction, Holden argued that […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s rulings regarding requirements that both parents of an unmarried minor be notified before the young woman obtains an abortion indicated that the Court would approve some restrictions on abortion rights. The Supreme Court struck down a two-parent notification requirement without a judicial bypass for an unmarried minor to obtain an abortion, but […]

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Hoar, Ebenezer R.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As U.S. attorney general, Hoar advised President Ulysses S. Grant regarding his nominations to the Supreme Court. His excessive influence on the president caused the Senate to reject Hoar’s own nomination to the Court. Hoar pursued classical studies at Harvard University and graduated in 1835. For a period of time, he was a senator in […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that the exigencies of war justified a military curfew which was applied almost exclusively to Japanese Americans. After the United States entered into a war against Japan, many Americans feared that JapaneseWorld War II;Japanese American relocation Americans living on the West Coast might engage in subversive activities, especially if there were […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Social Security Act of 1935. By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the old-age benefits provisions of the Social Security Act of 1935. Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo,Cardozo, Benjamin N.;Helvering v. Davis[Helvering v. Davis] in the opinion for the Court, adopted a broad view of the federal […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court upheld the public accommodations section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and enjoined a motel from refusing to serve African Americans. An Atlanta motel owner, whose clientele was largely interstate travelers, refused to rent rooms to African Americans as required by Title II, the public accommodations provision of […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court approved a statute allowing Congress to levy a head tax on immigrants, thereby establishing congressional power over immigration and taxes imposed for other purposes. Early immigration was handled by the states, some of which imposed a head tax on every immigrant a shipper delivered to the United States to create a fund […]

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Haynsworth, Clement, Jr.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Federal judge whose 1970 nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate. Haynsworth was chief judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals when President Richard M. Nixon announced that Haynsworth was his nominee for a vacancy on the Supreme Court. The Haynsworth nomination was part of Nixon’s southern strategy, an effort to […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this early case, the Supreme Court asserted its power to find laws enacted by Congress unconstitutional and to decline to enforce them. Congress passed a law in 1792 requiring the U.S. circuit court justices to hear veteran’s disability claims and forward recommendations to the secretary of war, who could decline to accept them. Five […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruling in this Hawaii property case almost entirely eliminated public use as a limit on the government taking private property in condemnation proceedings. A Hawaii law, designed to lessen the power of oligopoly landowners, allowed lessees of single family homes to invoke eminent domain and buy the property they leased. The landowners […]

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Harrison, Robert

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A friend of George Washington, Harrison was nominated as one of the original six justices of the Supreme Court but was forced to decline because of ill health. Harrison, a lawyer and judge in colonial America, practiced law in Alexandria, Virginia. George Washington was his client and soon the two became close and trusted friends. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Court held that confessions excluded because of an absence of Miranda warnings could be used to impeach the credibility of a criminal defendant who takes the stand to testify. When Vivan Harris was arrested for selling heroin, he made incriminating statements before he was properly informed of his constitutional rights, as required by Miranda […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment (1976) to the Medicaid program, which prohibited federal funding for abortions except where the woman’s life would be endangered or in cases of rape or incest. The Medicaid program, which began in 1965, provides the states with funds to help pay for the medical needs of poor people. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court banned poll taxes in state elections in the United States. Justice William O. DouglasDouglas, William O.;Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections[Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections] wrote the 6-3 majority opinion that overturned a Virginia state annual poll tax, thereby ending all poll taxes as a precondition for voting in […]

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Harlan, John Marshall

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An early champion of modern American constitutional law, Harlan is remembered as the “Great Dissenter” on the Supreme Court for his crusade for a nationalistic interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment broad enough to protect the rights of African Americans and to apply the first eight amendments to the states. As a Kentuckian and former slave […]

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Harlan, John M., II

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

As an associate on the Supreme Court, Harlan was regarded as the Court’s conservative conscience. He believed that the content of constitutional provisions changed and moved with the times and was the author of the constitutional right to privacy. Harlan’s family was noted for public service. A Quaker forebear, George Harlan, came to America in […]

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Hand, Learned

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Hand was cited by name more often than any other judge by the Supreme Court, and the press called him the tenth justice. The mystery of his career is why he was never appointed to the Court. Hand was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1909 by […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Striking down federal restrictions on child labor, the Supreme Court held that Congress could regulate only interstate commerce, not the manufacturing of goods destined for such commerce. Influenced by the ProgressiveProgressivism movement, Congress in 1916 passed the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act,Keating-Owen Child Labor Act which banned from interstate commerce any goods made in a plant […]

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Hamilton, Alexander

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

One of the most effective advocates for a strong and independent national government, Hamilton developed many of the arguments later used by Chief Justice John Marshall to establish the constitutional doctrines of judicial review, national supremacy, and the loose construction of the Constitution. As an aide-de-camp and secretary to General George Washington during the American […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a state law prohibiting segregation could not be applied to carriers engaged in interstate commerce, which was under the exclusive supervision of Congress. During Reconstruction, the Louisiana legislature passed a statute forbidding public carriers in the state from segregating passengers according to race. Josephine DeCuir, a black woman, was traveling […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court introduced the public forum doctrine, which required that streets, parks, and other public places must be accessible for public assembly and the discussion of public issues. A local ordinance of Jersey City, New Jersey, required a permit in order to hold public meetings or distribute literature in public areas. Mayor Frank Hague, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Right of prisoners to have the constitutionality of their imprisonment reviewed by a federal court. Habeas corpus, literally “you have the body,” originated as a common-law writ in England. In the United States, the writ of habeas corpus was guaranteed in Article I of the U.S. Constitution. Federal statutes enacted in 1789 and 1867 empowered […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court struck down grandfather clauses as a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment. Grandfather clauses indirectly discriminated against African Americans,African Americans;grandfather clauses[grandfather clauses] usually by waiving the literacy requirement for voting to those whose ancestors had been entitled to vote before the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. As late as Giles v. Harris[case]Giles v. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court restricted the state action doctrine when it gave a broad reading to a Reconstruction-era statute that criminalized conspiracies to interfere with rights “secured” by the U.S. Constitution. In the southern states during the 1960’s, it was almost impossible to convict white citizens who used violence against civil rights activists. After defendants in […]

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Guarantee clause

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Clause in Article IV, section 4, of the U.S. Constitution empowering the national government to guarantee to each state a republican form of government. As a basis of national power, the guarantee clause has seldom been invoked. President Abraham Lincoln relied on it for authority to suppress the rebellion of the Southern states, and Congress, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In the third round of the white primary cases, the Supreme Court accepted the right of political parties acting as private organizations to exclude African Americans from voting in primaries. In Nixon v. Condon[case]Nixon v. Condon[Nixon v. Condon] (1932), the Supreme Court prohibited racial discrimination in primary elections whenever state action was implicated. The Texas […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that an amendment to the Mississippi state constitution that banned bringing slaves into the state for sale was not valid in the absence of legislation to enforce it, but the majority could not agree on the constitutional issues of the case. The state of Mississippi added a constitutional prohibition against the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court banned sex discrimination in postsecondary schools receiving federal funds. Justice Byron R. WhiteWhite, Byron R.;Grove City College v. Bell[Grove City College v. Bell] wrote the opinion for the Supreme Court for this 6-3 decision in which there was a wide, conflicting array of dissents and concurrences. This ruling declared that Title IX, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a special tax on large newspapers was invalid because it abridged the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. When Louisiana’s largest newspapers were critical of Senator Huey Long, his supporters in the legislature imposed a special license tax on all newspapers with more than twenty […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court interpreted Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Law so that if employment practices have an adverse effect on minorities or women, employers are required to show that the practices are clearly related to job performance. On July 2, 1965, the day that Title VII took effect, Duke Power instituted a new […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled against a Virginia county that closed public schools rather than desegregate. Contrary to the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education II (1955), Prince Edward County, Virginia, followed state law, closed its public schools, and provided tax credits and tuition grants to whites-only private schools. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that prosecutors or judges cannot make negative comments about a defendant’s invoking the Fifth Amendment and that this protection against self-incrimination applies to the states under the due process clause. No one can stop a juror from drawing an inference regarding guilt or innocence from a defendant’s declining to take the […]

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Grier, Robert C.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A Supreme Court justice noted for his forthright and scholarly opinions, Grier typically upheld the power of the states. In 1863 his opinion extended the president’s powers by providing legal authority for the chief executive’s use of emergency power before congressional authorization. Grier graduated from Dickinson College in 1812 and was admitted to the Pennsylvania […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the use of capital punishment, with proper procedures and safeguards, is not inconsistent with the requirements of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia[case]Furman v. Georgia[Furman v. Georgia] (1972) that capital punishment as commonly practiced in 1972 violated the U.S. Constitution. In response, thirty-five state […]

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Greenberg, Jack

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

One of the leading civil rights attorneys in the post-World War II (1941-1945) period, Greenberg took on countless cases, many before the Supreme Court, aimed at breaking down legalized racial segregation in the United States. The son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Greenberg grew up in New York City. After graduation from Columbia University and […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court called for integration of public school facilities rather than a desegregation of schools. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled “intolerable” a Virginia county school board plan allowing a freedom of choice plan. Under this plan, no white student in the rural, mixed black and white district had chosen to attend a formerly all-black […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court expanded the contracts clause to include public as well as private contracts. The 1792 Virginia-Kentucky compact stipulated that Kentucky land titles were to be decided by the preexisting Virginia laws, which protected a number of absentee landowners. However, Kentucky passed a law allowing its settlers to recover the value of improvements they […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court invalidated a Georgia election system as not representative of its voters and introduced the one person, one vote concept. By an 8-1 vote, the Court invalidated Georgia’s county unit primary election system, which severely impacted urban areas, finding it to be unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice […]

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Gray, Horace

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Gray brought considerable judicial experience and wide legal learning to the Supreme Court, especially in the area of common law. Writing more than 450 Court opinions, he strongly promoted the right of states to enact legislation. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1851, Gray served as reporter of the Massachusetts supreme court from 1854 […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court gave the authority to the federal government to tax the salaries of state employees. New York imposed a tax on the salary paid to a federal worker who resided in that state. The worker paid the tax and appealed, arguing intergovernmental immunity. The Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, overruled Collector v. […]

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Grandfather clause

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Legal provision enacted in some southern states after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment that exempted men who could vote before 1866 and their descendants from suffrage restrictions such as literacy tests and poll taxes. The Fifteenth AmendmentFifteenth Amendment, adopted in 1870, guaranteed that citizens of the United States could not be denied their right […]

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Grand jury

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Panel of ordinary citizens having the authority to view evidence of criminal activity, presented by a prosecutor, solely to determine if sufficient evidence exists to warrant submitting the accused to trial. The grand jury is descended from English common law dating to the twelfth century. It originally performed an investigatory function, as citizens were assembled […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In striking down an Arizona law requiring citizenship or long-term residency to receive welfare benefits, the Supreme Court increased protections for noncitizens residing in the United States. The Supreme Court unanimously struck down Arizona’s law requiring welfare beneficiaries to be either U.S. citizens or residents of the United States for a certain number of years. […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Although the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of union leaders on criminal contempt, it clearly indicated the Court’s lack of support for labor unions. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) supported the striking employees of Buck’s Stove and Range Company by organizing a boycott of the manufacturer’s products. The company got an injunction against the […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court struck down racial gerrymandering in Tuskegee, Alabama, opening the door for a reconsideration of the justiciability of redistricting cases. Justice Felix FrankfurterFrankfurter, Felix;Gomillion v. Lightfoot[Gomillion v. Lightfoot] wrote the unanimous opinion of the Court overturning the arbitrary redrawing of the city limit lines in Tuskegee, Alabama, in such a way as to […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court refused to decide whether President Jimmy Carter had the authority to terminate a treaty without the approval of the Senate, but the majority could not agree about why the issue was nonjusticiable. In December, 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced that he was establishing full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court promoted price competition in legal services when it held that the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 prohibited state bar associations from setting minimum fees for legal services. The Virginia Bar Association enforced minimum fee schedules for services set by the county bar associations. Lawyers were threatened with disciplinary action for regularly charging […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that state agencies must provide welfare recipients with evidentiary hearings before ending their benefits. In conformity with state law, New York welfare officials terminated the public assistance of a recipient, with notice that the action could be challenged in a posttermination […]

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Goldberg, Arthur J.

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Although he served on the Supreme Court for only three terms, Goldberg provided an articulate and highly influential voice on individual liberties, labor issues, and social justice. He was a key player in several significant decisions by Earl Warren’s court, especially those that expanded constitutional rights. The eleventh and last child of immigrant Russian Jews, […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court’s ruling allowed Congress to pass laws abrogating various contracts that called for payment in gold because the contracts, if honored, would have harmed the U.S. economy. All three cases were argued and decided together, with Chief Justice Charles Evans HughesHughes, Charles Evans;Gold Clause Cases[Gold Clause Cases] writing the opinion for the 5-4 […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Although the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man for writing and distributing a socialist pamphlet, it determined that the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech is so central to the notion of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment that it must be required of the states under the incorporation doctrine. Justice Edward […]

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Ginsburg, Douglas

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Despite having served only a year on the federal bench, Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987. The failure of his nomination due to questions about his inexperience and personal life set a precedent for later investigations of presidential appointees to the Court and federal judiciary. A graduate of University of Chicago Law […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that counsel must be provided for indigents accused of serious crimes. Clarence Earl Gideon had convictions for petty crimes as a young man but no criminal convictions when he was arrested for breaking into a poolroom to steal coins and beverages. He requested an attorney be appointed […]

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  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court limited the broad protection from libel suits granted newspapers by its 1964 decision. Robert Welch, Inc., publisher of the John Birch SocietyJohn Birch Society magazine, used its publication to make a number of false, strongly defamatory statements attacking Elmer Gertz, an attorney representing citizens in a civil suit against a police officer […]

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Gerrymandering

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The practice of drawing contorted electoral district boundaries with the intent of favoring a particular party or group. Put simply, gerrymandering is the drawing of electoral districts in order to favor a political party or other group. In practice, gerrymandering results in contorted district boundaries that include “desirable” demographic groups (whose members are inclined to […]

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German Federal Constitutional Court

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Germany’s highest court, which can declare the actions of other German national institutions unconstitutional. After the destruction of the Nazi regime at the end of World War II, the Germans in the zones occupied by the United States, Britain, and France adopted a new constitution called the Basic Law. The Germans initially planned to use […]

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