In the 1920’s a heightened suspicion of communist activities on domestic American land arose, the Red Scare. Benjamin Gitlow, a prominent member of the Socialist party, was arrested and convicted on charges of violating the New York Criminal Anarchy Law of 1902 during these drastic times. What was his violation? The publication and circulation of the Left-Wing Manifesto, a mere pamphlet, in the United States was his infringement. He appealed the decision on the basis that it violated his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and press and it was passed on to the United States Supreme Court. The court ruled 7-2 in favor of Gitlow on the basis of Section 1 of the Fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Gitlow v. New York exemplifies the protection of civil right and liberties with judicial activism.
When the rights of the American citizen are on the line than the judiciary should utilize the powers invested in them to protect and enforce what is constitutional. However, in times of controversy, where personal preference or aspects of religious or personal nature are at hand, the judiciary should exercise their power with finesse, thereby acting out judicial restraint. An example of such is in the case of Engel v. Vitale where Mr. Justice Black delivered the opinion of the court directing the School District’s principal to read a prayer at the commencement of each school day. In cases that do not regard whether an action is constitutional or not, the judiciary should suppress their power of judicial review.
The famous Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka can be used to illustrate when judicial review should be implemented to aid one or a faction in actions that are unconstitutional. In the town of Topeka, Kansas a black third-grader was forced to walk one mile through a switchyard in order to get to her black elementary school, although a white elementary school was only a few blocks away. Her parents attempted to enroll her into the white school but were repeatedly denied. The Brown v. Board of Education case was tried on behalf of the black minority that was the target of racial segregation in public schools. When civil rights are at risk, the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review should be set into motion; this is the time for judicial activism.
In 1951, the parents of twenty children filed a law suit against the Board of Education demanding that the school district revoke its policy on racial segregation. When brought to the District Court, they ruled in favor of the Board of Education, citing the Plessy v. Ferguson case as a precedent for the unreal perception that things can be separate but remain equal. Prior to the case, three-judge District Courts found that segregation in education was devastating to the educations of Negro children, but even so, they somehow were able to see that Negro and white schools in Topeka were still equivalent in quality.
Utilizing the powers invested by the Constitution into the Supreme Court, they proceeded to review this case, combined with numerous other cases of school segregation in South Carolina, Delaware, and Virginia. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Warren announced the unanimous decision of the Court, “"We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does...We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate...