Civil Liberties Court Cases

Civil Liberties Court Cases
Freedom of Religion
Engle v Viatle (1962): struck down New York State nondenominational prayer that started with “Almighty God, we
acknowledge our dependence on thee…”; school-sanctioned prayer in public schools is unconstitutional.
Epperson v Arkansas (1968): prohibits states from banning the teaching of evolution in public schools.
Lemon v Kurtzman (1971): struck down a Pennsylvania law reimbursing parochial schools for textbooks and teacher salaries &
established the Lemon Test: (1) have a primarily secular purpose; (2) principal effect must neither aid nor inhibit religion; (3)
must not create excessive entanglement between gov’t and religion.
Lee v Weisman (1992): ruled against clergy-led prayer at high school graduation ceremonies.
Freedom of Speech & Press
Schenck v U.S. (1919): Schenck did not have the right to print, speak, distribute material against US efforts in WWI because of
a “clear and present danger”.
Chaplinskey v New Hampshire (1942): first amendment does not protect “fighting words”; these words “have a direct
tendency to cause acts of violence by the person to whom, individually, the remarks are addressed”; determined the use of
obscenities aimed at gov’tal policy or worn as a means of protest do not constitute fighting words in and of themselves.
New York Times v Sullivan (1964): created a base definition of libel – material that is written with malice and a reckless
disregard for the truth; slander criteria are similar, but more difficult to prove when charges are made against public officials.
Tinker v Des Moines (1969): students’ rights do not end at the school doors, and defined the students’ wearing black
armbands to protest the Vietnam War as a “legitimate form of symbolic speech”.
New York Times v U.S. (1971): “Pentagon Papers case”; the gov’t did not have the right to prevent the New York Times from
printing information about the history of the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
Texas v Johnson (1988): Johnson’s burning of the U.S. flag outside the Republican National Convention in protest of the
president’s foreign policy was a form of symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment.
McConnell v Federal Election Commission (2003): major provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law were
constitutional; specifically, the ban on soft money & restrictions placed on television advertising did not violate free speech.
Morse v Frederick (2007): “Bong Hits 4 Jesus case”; student with the banner as the Olympic torch went through town was
suspended; case limits students’ free speech rights; ruled free speech rights were not violated by his suspension.
Freedom of Assembly
DeJonge v Oregon (1937): due process under the Fourteenth Amendment applies to freedom of assembly; DeJonge had the
right to organize a Communist Party and speak at its meetings even though the party advocated “industrial or political change
or revolution”; court changed decision in Dennis v U.S. during the 1950s.
Boy Scouts of America v Dale (2000): private organizations’ First Amendment rights of expressive association allows them to
choose their own membership and expel members based on their sexual orientation, even if such discrimination would
otherwise be prohibited by anti-discrimination legislation designed to protect minorities in public accommodations.
Right to Keep and Bear Arms
District of Columbia v Heller (2008): case challenged DC’s gun control laws that banned guns in the District and required any
legal guns to be unloaded; Court ruled the restrictions unconstitutional; how far reaching the decision is, however, is unclear
because it only applied to DC and federal laws.
Right to Privacy
Mapp v Ohio (1961): established the exclusionary rule for states that determined police may only obtain evidence available
through a legitimate search warrant.
Griswold v Connecticut (1965): Court struck down a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraceptives, after a doctor was
arrested for distributing birth control; right to privacy in area of sexual relations.
Terry v Ohio (1968): ruled searches of criminal suspects are constitutional and police may search suspects for safety purposes.
Roe v Wade (1972): developed the concept of “secure in their persons”, ruling abortions are constitutionally protected under
a trimester system; allows unrestricted abortions in the first trimester, regulated abortions during the second trimester, and
allowed states to ban abortion during the third trimester unless the mother’s or baby’s life was endangered.
U.S. v Leon (1984): created a “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule, allowing the introduction of illegally obtained
evidence where police can prove that evidence was obtained without violating the principles of Mapp.
Webster v Reproductive Health Services (1987): did not overturn Roe, but gave states more regulatory power over abortions.
Planned Parenthood v Casey (1992): upheld a Pennsylvania law requiring minors to wait 24 hours after receiving parental
approval before getting an abortion; also struck down a provision mandating women obtain “informed spousal consent” and
upheld in principle, Roe.
Right to Due Process
Escobedo v Illinois (1964): ruled Escobedo’s due process rights of self-incrimination and right to counsel were violated and he
was released from prison; suspects must be allowed to consult a lawyer during questioning.
Gideon v Wainright(1964): established the accused has the right to an attorney, even if he or she cannot afford one, based on
Gideon’s inability to afford a lawyer to defend himself and Florida’s rule of only providing free counsel in capital cases.
Miranda v Arizona (1966): Miranda, a mentally retarded individual, accused and convicted of kidnapping and rape. He
confessed to the crime without any mention by the police of his right to a lawyer or what consequences the answer to their
questions would have on the outcome of the trial. Established the “Miranda Rights”: to remain silent, anything said can be
used in court, he has a right to consult a lawyer at any point of the questioning process, and that a lawyer will be provided if
the accused cannot afford one.
New York v Quarles (1984): created a “public safety” exception to the Miranda warnings allowing police to arrest an accused
criminal without reciting Miranda rights where public safety is threatened.
Hamdi v Rumsfeld (2004): Enemy combatants held in the U.S. have due process rights; based on cases of violations of habeas
corpus during the War on Terror.
8th Amendment
Furman v Georgia (1972): found imposition of death penalty across the country was often racist and arbitrary; Court ordered a
halt to all death penalty punishments in the nation unless a less arbitrary method of sentencing was found.
Gregg v Georgia (1976): held “the punishment of death does not invariably violate the Constitution” based on the system
developed in Georgia; death penalty is not “cruel and unusual punishment” under adequate guidelines.
Atkins v Virginia (2002): U.S. aligned with most other nations by forbidding the execution of defendants who are mentally
Undefined Rights – 9th & 10th Amendments
U.S. v Lopez (1995): ruled Congress misused its authority in the Gun-Free School Zone Safety Act, making the possession of a
gun within 1000 yards of a school a federal crime; Court held that enforcement of such regulations is authority of the states.
Gonzales v Oregon (2006): Court ruled the federal gov’t could not block Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law by moving against
physicians who assisted terminally ill patients by giving them medicine that would enable them to commit suicide.