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Ap Government Court Cases

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AP Government Court Cases

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
1. The Supreme Court had to decide if the state had power over the federal government in regulating commerce based on Article I Section 8.
2. Aaron Ogden was granted a license to run a steam-driven ferry monopoly in New York. Thomas Gibbons, his previous competitor, decided to continue running his ferries in defiance of the monopoly, so Ogden decided to sue Gibbons for trying to block his business and won in all the New York courts.
3. In this trial, the Supreme Court decided that the federal government had ultimate authority in regulating interstate commerce, and that all state commerce laws had to comply with the Federal commerce laws.
4. I think that this case was judged fairly because this was obviously a case involving interstate commerce since Ogden had been running his fairy between New York and New Jersey. New York can not have any control over the affairs of New Jersey, and anything involving both states is directly a federal affair.
Korematsu v. United States (1944)
1. The Supreme Court had to decide if the President and Congress overreached their war powers by restricting the rights of Japanese-Americans with Executive Order #9066 and Military Order #39.
2. President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order #9066 during World War II to force all Americans of Japanese decent to be sent to internment camps because they posed a threat to the United States. Korematsu, a man born on American soil, refused to go to an internment camp because he believed that he was an American citizen, and should be treated as one.
3. The Supreme Court decided that even though the executive order was on the shady side of the Constitution, it was justified because they were in a time of “emergency and peril”.
4. I disagree with this court decision because I think this was a violation of the fourteenth amendment made by the Supreme Court. I understand why the justices decided as they did, but their duty was to protect the Constitution, not to protect people from possible threats. This case also set a precedent which allows the president to do whatever is necessary to protect his people, even if it may be somewhat unconstitutional.
McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
1. The Supreme Court had to decide if Congress had the authority to establish banks under Article I Section 8 and if Maryland’s law was unconstitutionally interfering with Congress’ constitutional power.
2. In 1818, Maryland started posing state taxes in Congress’ Second Bank of the United States that was chartered in 1816. The teller, James McCulloch, refused to pay the tax imposed upon his bank.
3. The Supreme Court unanimously decided that Congress had certain implied powers that were not written into the Constitution, but were necessary to uphold the law. This way, Congress had the power to establish banks so that they could uphold their constitutional duty to coin and regulate money.
4. I agree with this decision because implied powers are a necessary part of the Constitution because they’re needed by Congress to uphold their duties. Congress had to build a federal bank in New York to exercise its power to coin and regulate money.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
1. The Supreme Court had to deicide is Louisiana’s train seating discrimination laws were unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.
2. Homer Plessy, a 7/8 Caucasian man, refused to move from his seat in a train station, directly violating Louisiana’s train discrimination law, which required every black must give up his train seat to a white man if asked. He was arrested and sent to jail for doing so.
3. The Supreme Court decided that this was not a violation of the 14th Amendment because the 14th Amendment only requires that all citizens of the United States must be treated equally. This meant that separate facilities could be made for people of other races or colors as long as they were equal to everyone else’s.
4. I think that the Supreme Court at this time was being a strict constructionist by taking the words of the Constitution literally by taking the word “equal” literally. Even though I morally don’t agree with this case, I think that the judges played their card right and had the Constitutional backing to get what they wanted.
Gitlow v. New York (1925)
1. The Supreme Court had to decide if advocating overthrowing the government was a form of speech that was protected under the First Amendment, and if it was constitutional for New York to arrest someone for doing so.
2. Gitlow was a socialist man that was distributing “left-wing manifestos” to the people in New York. These manifestos encouraged using strikes and class action to encourage socialism in the government, which made the state of New York arrest him for trying to overthrow the government.
3. The Court decided that every state had to follow the First Amendment, and that it should treat its citizens equally as stated in the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court also stated that free speech was protected, but when the speech was harmful towards the nation’s security, even if there was no resulting action, it is within the states’ rights to stop it.
4. I don’t agree with this decision because this government is of the people, and deliberately trying to oppress their view on how the government should be run is clearly violating the First Amendment. If the people are dissatisfied with their government, they have the right to change it, and voting for legislators won’t help with something like this, since they work for the government. Since there was no action being taken against the government anyways, this was a pure form of speech, and nothing else, and so it should be protected by out freedom of speech.

Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka (1954)
1. The Court had to decide if segregating based on race and gender in public schools didn’t allow the minority equal protection under the 14th amendment.
2. Brown was among some of the African-American kids in Topeka, Kansas that were not given admission into the school, and discriminated against because of their race. The NAACP along with some concerned parents decided to file a class action suit against the Topeka Board of Education, and ended up taking their case to the Supreme Court.
3. The Court turned back the Dred Scott case, and decided that “separate but equal” was not constitutional under the 14th Amendment, and that racial segregation had to be stopped because it violated the constitutional requirement to treat all citizens of the United States equally.
4. I agree with this decision because it was clear that the 14th Amendment was being violated with segregation based solely on race. I agree with the legal and moral forces reasoning of this decision, and apparently the whole Supreme Court did too.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
1. Was being in possession of obscene material protected by the First Amendment? Was the unwarranted police search a violation of the Fourth Amendment?
2. Dolree Mapp was arrested for possessing obscene materials after they were found via an illegal police search. She believed that her freedom of expression allowed her to be in possession of obscene material.
3. The Court decided that they weren’t going to worry about the issue with the First Amendment, and instead decided there could not be a case because the evidence was obtained without a warrant or probable cause and could not be used in a court of law. This in turn, established a precedent in which any illegally obtained evidence was dismissed from court, and could not be used against the prosecutor or defendant.
4. I agree with this decision, and I find it quite admirable that the Supreme Court decided to completely ignore the actual case and instead focus on the issue of using unconstitutionally obtained evidence in court. I think this decision is a really good supplement to the Fourth Amendment because it clarifies what happens when evidence is obtained without a warrant or probable cause.

Engle v. Vitale (1962)
1. Is it constitutional to provide for a voluntary nondenominational prayer at the beginning of each school day under the freedom of religion in the First Amendment?
2. The New York Board of Regents authorized a short voluntary prayer to be recited at the beginning of each school day. One of these prayers involved begging God for blessings and acknowledging their dependence of God.
3. The Supreme Court decided that although the prayers were nondenominational and voluntary, they still established religion, which was prohibited by the First Amendment. By allowing provisions for the prayers, they were approving of religion, and therefore establishing it. The Court continued to use this case to eliminate religious activities form other public events, which has made it somewhat unpopular.
4. I somewhat agree with this decision. I understand the judges’ reasoning, but given that the prayers weren’t associated with any particular religion and were voluntary, I don’t really see it as an endorsement of religion. The constitutional reasoning behind it was fine, and I don’t really see how this would have affected my life in a big way, so I’m completely fine with the decision.
Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
Did the Florida courts’ refusal to provide an attorney for Gideon violate his 6th Amendment right to be given a fair trial and to follow the due process of law, and did the
Gideon was charged in a state court of Florida for breaking and entering, but he didn’t have enough money to hire a lawyer. He asked the court of they would provide an attorney for him, but was refused because his case wasn’t indigent or capital. Gideon lost his trial and was charged with 5 years of state prison.
The Court decided that Gideon had a right to a lawyer because the Sixth Amendment allowed for a right to counsel and to a fair trial, and that couldn’t happen without an attorney. This law was applicable to the states because of the due process clause in the 14th Amendment.
I agree with this decision completely because it was pretty obvious that the trial was unfair when someone unversed in law had to defend himself against a professional attorney. This Florida court denied him an attorney because his case wasn’t capital, but the 14th Amendment makes constitutional laws apply to states as well.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
1. Is a violation of the 5th Amendment if a police officer interrogates someone without informing them of their right of counsel and protection against self-incrimination?
2. Miranda was interrogated and put through several court cases without ever being informed of his right to counsel and protection against self-incrimination. The FBI and Arizona police all made him go through many processes in which Miranda was never told that he had a right to request counsel.
3. The Court decided that any evidence gained from custodial interrogations in which the defendant was not informed of any of his rights could not be used in court and was gained unconstitutionally. They established that every person under arrest must first be informed of their rights for the 5th Amendment to be successfully executed,
4. I agree with the legal reasoning for this court case, and it’s pretty strange thinking about being interrogated without knowing what’s going on. This court case seems like an important supplement for the 5th Amendment because it helps clarify how it should be implemented to allow everyone to know his or her rights. The constitutional and moral arguments for this case are pretty sound, and I don’t understand how four of the justices were against this decision.
Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)
1. Is wearing armbands for protesting something a violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech?
2. John Tinker, Mary Beth Tinker, and Christopher Echardt, along with their parents decided to protest the war in Vietnam by wearing black armbands. The principals of the Des Moines school system decided that the armbands would cause discomfort and might lead to conflicts, and decided to suspend them for a few days.
3. The Supreme Court ruled that using armbands as a symbolic form of protest was almost a pure form of speech, and that the students’ protest was protected under the 1st Amendment under free speech. They also noticed that the principal couldn’t prove that continued usage of the armbands would cause disturbances in the school.
4. It’s pretty obvious that the Tinkers should have won because they weren’t doing anything to harm anyone, and neither were the promoting anything radical (such as Gitlow v. New York). The constitutional reasoning was obvious, and the principal couldn’t prove how wearing an armband would cause disturbances in the school.
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1973)
Did Pennsylvania and Rhode Island statutes that allocated funds to church-related private school programs violate the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause?
Pennsylvania and Rhode Island established statues that provided extra funds for teacher salaries, textbooks, and educational material in private schools, specifically for “church-related educational institutions”. This case was held alongside Early v. DiCenso and Robinson v. DiCenso.
The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment didn’t allow for the entanglement of religion and government (separation of church and state), and that the states’ statues were too far into advocating a religion and weren’t fairly funding other religious/public schools similarly.
I agree that the Supreme Court made the right decision here because it closes loopholes that a state might exploit to promote religion. This promoting of religion via funding was just a way that the church and state was getting entangled, so it was unconstitutional and unfair to public school of various religions.
Roe v. Wade (1973)
Does the Constitution give a woman the right to have an abortion to terminate her pregnancy under the implied right to privacy in the 14th Amendment?
Jane Roe, the pseudonym used by a woman who wanted to get an abortion in Texas, was denied her abortion because Texas law prohibits abortions except when used to save the woman’s life. She believed that she had a right to privacy because of the 14th Amendment.
The Court established that a woman has the right to privacy as recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut, and that the woman had control over the abortion in the first trimester, and individual state laws could choose what to do in the other two trimesters. This case officially established the right to privacy, something that was recognized in the previous case.
I can see the justices’ reasoning, but I have to agree with Justice White’s dissenting opinion. The Supreme Court based this whole case on a right that isn’t in the Constitution, and all the while they were ignoring the rights of the baby inside of Roe. This case could have used a better argument than a right to privacy that was slightly implied by the 14th Amendment. On the other hand, there is a certain right to privacy as recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut when you combine a bunch of amendments together.
US v. Nixon (1974)
Does the President have the right to use his executive privilege to withhold evidence that could be used in court for judicial review under Article II of the Constitution?
In the Watergate scandal, President Nixon was asked for tapes that contained crucial evidence to be used against him in court. He chose not to give the tapes over because his “executive privilege” allowed him to withhold information from others.
The Court decided that the president doesn’t have the privilege to withhold information from judicial review and that the power to do so would give the President too much power in checks and balances. The Court held that the president had some privileges in diplomatic and military affairs, but unqualified privileges to the extent where he could choose to withhold information from the court was overdoing it.
I agree that Nixon was overextending his powers of executive privilege, and that the court had to interfere to keep checks and balances intact. Executive privilege isn’t in the Constitution and can be taken away, just like any other privilege.
Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
Do restriction on campaign contributions as imposed by the FECA and Internal Revenue Code violate the First Amendment’s freedom of speech?
After the Watergate scandal, Congress tried to get rid of other corruptions that may be occurring in political campaigns by imposing limits on the amount of donations and spending on a political campaign with the Federal Election Campaign Act and the Internal Revenue Code. Some people viewed this as a restriction on the First Amendment.
The Court decided that the limitations enforced by the FECA were not a violation of the First Amendment because they were used to help protect the “integrity of our system of representative democracy”. However, they also decided that limitations set upon total campaign expenditures were a violation of the First Amendment since they didn’t necessarily mean that the candidate had a higher chance of being corrupt.
I do not agree with the constitutionality of the first decision, but I understand that the Supreme Court made the right decision for its time. They have already repealed this decision with Citizens United v. FEC because now they aren’t in the same hostile environment as before. The uncertainty at the time of the Watergate scandal made the Supreme Court think more about the consequences that such a practice might have on the nation, whereas they were more concerned with the constitutionality in the Citizens United case.
Gregg v. Georgia (1976)
The Supreme Court had to decide if the death penalty violated the 8th and 14th Amendments by being “cruel and unusual punishment”.
Gregg was found guilty of armed robbery and murder by a jury in Georgia and was sentenced to death. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence, but excluded armed robbery from its reasoning. He continued to argue that he shouldn’t be given a death sentence because it was “cruel and unusual punishment”.
The Supreme Court decided that the death sentence wasn’t cruel and unusual punishment as long as it was given out carefully and the procedures involve the trial and sentencing to occur separately. They also agreed that it helped deter criminals from committing capital crimes and was a good form of justice for people that deserve it.
I somewhat agree with the Court’s decision. I kind of see the moral reasoning that this argument holds because people that commit capital crimes must be punished harshly, but I believe that letting them live would actually give them a chance to learn their lesson and become better people. Maybe the death penalty should be given to those who don’t learn their lesson and repeatedly commit capital crimes. The constitutional argument is really weak, and I don’t see how killing someone doesn’t fall under “cruel and unusual punishment” because it’s pretty cruel.
Regents of California v. Bakke (1978)
The Court had to decide if college admissions made solely on race were a violation of the 14th Amendment because they didn’t provide equal protection.
Allan Bakke was denied admission to the University of California Medical School at Davis twice. The school held 16 special slots in their 100 total admissions for qualified minorities in order to make things better in terms of civil rights. Bakke had better qualifications than any the minorities that were entered into the school, so he felt that the only reason he couldn’t get in was because of his race.
The Court had two majority opinions. In the first one, they decided that the rigid usage of race to determine whether someone can get in is unconstitututional, and that Bakke should be admitted into the college. The other opinion was that it was constitutional to use race as one of the criteria in determining who can enter a college, as long as it isn’t solely because of race.
I think that this case was handled pretty well because the Court found a way to support the minority, as well as making sure that the Constitution was correctly upheld. This was probably one of the strangest cases since Justice Powell was the tiebreaker, and he chose to go with both sides.
Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988)
Was censorship in school newspapers a violation of the First Amendment’s provisions for speech, press, and assembly?
Hazelwood East High School’s student-written newspaper, the Spectrum, had published some articles that the principal, Robert E. Reynolds, found to be inappropriate. He ordered the publishers that the pages that contained the inappropriate material be removed from publication. Cathy Kuhlmeier, along with her buddies, decided to take this case to court.
The Court ruled that choosing to remove articles from a school newspaper to maintain the integrity of the school and to maintain “the shared values of a civilized social order”. They also said that the school’s actions were not a violation of the First Amendment as long as their concerns were legitimately related to teaching and the school’s environment.
I don’t agree with the constitutional arguments for this case at all. What the Supreme Court basically did was add a lot of restrictions as to how students can express their freedom of speech and the press, as if students are not included in the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. As long as whatever was published in that newspaper was not libel and it wasn’t talked about slanderously, than it should have been be perfectly constitutional. I can see that the Court wanted to protect the integrity of the school and of its students, so I respect that they were at least trying to be morally right.
Texas v. Johnson (1989)
Is the desecration of the American flag protected under the freedom of expression/speech under the First Amendment?
Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag in front of Dallas City Hall as a form of protest against Reagan’s policies. He was convicted of violating a Texas law against flag desecration, and was fined $2,000 and sent to jail for 1 year. When the Texas Court of Appeals released Johnson and reversed his conviction, the state of Texas decided to bring it to the Supreme Court.
The Court decided that, no matter how unpopular it was, flag burning was protected under freedom of speech. The decided that the purpose of the First Amendment was to be able to allow someone to express his or her ideas, no matter how offended others by that idea.
This Court case I agree with morally and constitutionally. The burning of the flag wasn’t harming anyone, but it was being used to convey a message, which was basically pure speech. The Supreme Court was insulated from public pressure for the exact reason that it could defend the Constitution without being influenced by public opinion, and it did the job fantastically here.
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)
The Court had to decide if it was legal for a state to require a woman to have informed consent from a spouse, or a parent if a minor, 24 hours before an abortion was legal under the right to an abortion as granted by Roe v. Wade.
The legislature of Pennsylvania passed a law that required that any women seeking an abortion had to wait 24 hours before doing so, and that they required informed consent from their spouse, or their parents if she was a minor. This angered many abortion clinics in Pennsylvania, and they challenged it. One federal appeals court allowed for all the provisions in the law to be kept, except for the part about having the husband’s consent.
The Court decided that the Pennsylvania legislature’s decision was legal, and they also upheld the Roe v. Wade decision. They agreed that requirements that didn’t substantially interfere with the process of the abortion were perfectly legal under Roe v. Wade. They also said that the requirement to inform your spouse of the abortion might be a bit too much work and that it did interfere too much with the process to be legal.
I think that the Supreme Court approached this case correctly and their decision to uphold their precedent while upholding some restrictions was pretty good. I still don’t see how this case had anything to do with the Constitution because now the Court was focusing on an issue completely out of its context, so I don’t really see how I can judge the constitutionality/unconstitutionality of this case.
U.S. v. Lopez (1995)
Did the federal government overstep the constitutional rights given to it by the commerce clause by imposing gun-control laws on school grounds with the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990?
Alfonzo Lopez, a senior in a high school in San Antonio, Texas, was found concealing a gun in school. He was charged with being in possession of a firearm in school under a Texas law. The state dismissed its charges when the federal government took over and charged him for violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, and charged him with 6 months of imprisonment and a 2-year supervised release.
The Court decided that the federal government had overstepped its rights by imposing a criminal statute by using its control over commerce. They also ruled that possession of a firearm on school grounds would not have any substantial effect on interstate commerce.
I agree with the Court’s decision both morally and constitutionally. They chose to impose a limit on the commerce clause. They also clarified the distinction between criminal statutes involving commerce and commerce statutes.
Barron v. Baltimore (1833)
Does the 5th Amendment require that the state and/or national government compensate for the private property taken from Barron’s business?
John Barron was the co-owner of a portable wharf that he used for a very profitable business at Baltimore’s harbor. After a period of time, sand slowly drifted into the harbors and made the water more shallow, which made Barron’s business much less profitable. Barron decided to sue the city of Baltimore to compensate for the loss of his private property under the 5th Amendment.
The Court flatly declined Barron’s argument. They said that the 5th Amendment did not apply to the states and that the Supreme Court had no rule over the states.
I believe that this a pretty stupid decision from the Supreme Court because it defined a clear line between the state and federal governments, which didn’t really help with the whole federalism “marble cake” idea. The 14th Amendment eventually took care of the problem of the separation of the state and federal governments, so this case is kind of irrelevant.

Clinton v. New York (1998)
Did the President violate the presentment clause of Article I Section 7 by making the Line Item Veto Act?
President Clinton used his Line Item Veto Act to get rid of certain provisions that were provided in bills involving Medicaid and Taxpayer relief. A district court held that the Line Item Veto Act was unconstitutional, and this continued to the Supreme Court.
The Court ruled that the Act was unconstitutional and that the Constitution strictly only gave the President the choice to either fully veto or pass a law. They also agreed that the line-item veto would ruin checks and balances and give the executive branch too much power.
I agree with the Supreme Courts’ decision to uphold the integrity of the system of checks and balances. This helps keep sure that the executive branch can’t just get anything it wants by ignoring what Congress wants, and essentially what the people want.
Schenck v. U.S. (1919)
Are Schenck’s words that rally people to peacefully try to avoid being drafted into the army protected by the First Amendment?
Schenck mailed advertisements to American draftees in World War I telling them to peacefully deny being drafted because he believed that drafting was a monstrous thing. He was charged with conspiracy violating the Espionage Act because he was trying to cause insubordination in the military and obstruct recruitment.
The Court unanimously ruled that the First Amendment did not protect Schenck. They said that the war situation that they were in allowed for Congress to try and protect the nation as best as possible, and that things that may excusable in a time of peace were much more punishable in times of war.
I don’t agree with this ruling because the Supreme Court basically ruled that the Constitution meant something else just because they were in war. I believe that the First Amendment should have protected Schenck’s rights as any other person’s rights at any other time. Schenck wasn’t even forcing anyone to do anything, all he was doing was telling others about his ideals and why he believes what he does. This case could be used in the future as a precedent to start putting censorship everywhere just because it isn’t making the government looked upon favorably.
Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
Does the University of Michigan Law School violate the 14th Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by using race as a factor in determining whether or not someone may be admitted?
Barbara Grutter, a white woman with decent grades and scores, wasn’t accepted into the University of Michigan Law. One of the factors that determined her entrance was race because they wanted to keep a diversity of students in the school and gives minorities a chance. The district court supported Grutter, but the Court of Appeals chose to reverse that decision and upheld the Regents of California v. Bakke argument.
The Court upheld the Regents of California v. Bakke decision and said that as long as race wasn’t a major factor in choosing the people that can make it in, it was constitutional. They decided that the school doesn’t accept or reject students based solely on race because it takes in many other factors.
I agree with this decision because it states that the school’s looking at race doesn’t hurt the chances of nonminority students, so alongside affirming its stand on the issue, the Supreme Court decided to uphold it previous precedent.
Near v. Minnesota (1931)
Did the Minnesota law prohibiting the constant publishing of “malicious, scandalous, and defamatory” material just because it was a nuisance violate the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and the press?
Jay Near published a sheet in Minneapolis that accused many local officials of being involved with gangsters. The Minnesota officials got an injunction to stop the publishing of these periodicals because of the state’s law, which allowed the state government to stop the printing of anything it found offensive.
The Court held that the statute that allowed the injunction was unconstitutional. They ruled that the government was not allowed to censor or prohibit the publication of something before it was published, and as such could not use that statute to stop the publication of the periodical.
I agree with the Court that a state shouldn’t have the power to issue a broad censorship over certain subjects. If such as statute were constitutional, then there would be tons of censorship everywhere because topics that the state didn’t want people to find out about would never be able to be published.
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
Does the Constitution protect the right to privacy against state restrictions on counseling under Due Process?
Griswold was a woman who was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. They gave instructions to married couples about birth control, but a Connecticut law made counseling and giving medical treatments to married people illegal.
The Court decided that even though the Constitution doesn’t explicitly state that there is a right to privacy, the First, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments allow for an implied right to privacy. They acknowledged that there were zones in the Constitution where certain amendments’ rights put together would allow for another constitutional right to be present. The Connecticut laws violated this right and were unconstitutional.
This decision by the Supreme Court is truly amazing. Here, the Court used its mind and allowed for a lot of flexibility in the Constitution. Also, the Court used multiple amendments to create the existence of an unmentioned right, which is truly amazing. Obviously this decision was constitutional.

Reynolds v. Sims (1964)
Did Arizona’s law allowing for forcing that there be one representative per county and that there be as many senatorial districts as senators (no matter the population) violate the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment?
M.O Sims challenged the apportionment of his state legislature in Arizona. The Constitution of Alabama made every county in the state have at least one representative, and that there be as man senatorial districts as senators, regardless of population in each district.
The Court held that both houses of Congress had to be based on population because then people wouldn’t have an equal representation in government, which the key point of Democracy. They ruled that states were supposed to try and build equally proportional state districts and keep them equal to others.
I agree with this decision because it helped make sure that every person had an equal chance to participate in politics and that people couldn’t manipulate districts to get more representation than others.
Reynolds v. U.S. (1879)
Does the freedom of religion in the First Amendment allow for bigamy to be practiced if its part of the Mormon religion?
George Reynolds was a secretary to a Mormon church that wished to get rid of the federal anti-bigamy statute. He was convicted in a Utah district court for challenging the statute and the Utah Supreme Court affirmed the decision.
The Supreme Court unanimously decided that bigamy could not be allowed under the freedom of religion because the freedom of religion only allows for one to have the freedom to express their beliefs, but doesn’t provide for all religions to be practiced.
I agree with the court on this one. If the United States allowed for the freedom to practice any religion, then we would have cannibals and people doing other gruesome things that violate the law under the pretense of their freedom to practice religion.
Baker v. Carr (1961)
Does the court system, especially the Supreme Court, have any jurisdiction over the apportionment of legislators?
Charles W. Baker, along with other Tennessee citizens, did not like how a 1901 law about reapportioning the seats for the General Assembly had been ignored recently, and decided to take it to court. Most courts weren’t willing to make a decision on this since it could be a political issue, and they couldn’t find a reasonable argument over how it defied a federal or constitutional law.
The Court decided that as long as there wasn’t a political question to be answered and that there was something against a federal or constitutional law going on then the courts had jurisdiction over the case.
I think that this was an important decision by the Supreme Court that sets limits on what kind of cases that the courts can take, and all the while they retain the courts’ nonpartisanship by making sure that they don’t decide in politics.
New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)
Is Alabama’s policy on libel unconstitutional seeing that it doesn’t require the defendant to prove that they were personally harmed in any way while dismissing factual errors as deliberately false statements?
There was a full-page ad in the New York Times that said that the arrest of MLK Jr. was as effort to stop the integration of public facilities and help black people vote. The Montgomery commissioner, L. B. Sullivan, filed the advertisement as libel in a suit, and won $500, 00 from the case, even though he couldn’t prove that the ad had personally harmed him in any way while he accused a few factual errors to be purposefully printed lies.
The Court held that the freedom of the press allowed people to publish anything they want, even if it’s false, as long as it wasn’t made with the intent of being false just to hurt someone.
I agree with this decision because this expresses the limitations to the freedom of speech. If we didn’t have limitations against slander or libel, we wouldn’t be able to control all kinds of false stories or misleading information getting out to the public. Imagine if tomorrow’s headline were talking about how a justice was impeached last week for murder, even though he or she really didn’t do anything at all.
Bush v. Gore (2000)
Do the new election laws created by the Florida Supreme Court violate Article II Section 1 Clause 2 of the Constitution? Do the unlimited recounts violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses?
The Florida Supreme Court, on the December of 2000, ordered the recounting of all the votes cast for president, along with the tabulation of 9000 contested ballot votes and to recount all unsure ballots in Florida. President Bush and VP Cheney decided to ask the Supreme Court to review this decision.
The Court ruled that the Florida law for recounting ballots was unconstitutional because the Equal Protection Clause guarantees us that our ballots won’t be devalued by “later arbitrary and disparate treatment”. It was also unconstitutional because only the state legislatures are allowed to make new election laws, which was something that the Florida Supreme Court decided to take into its own hands.
I agree with the Supreme Courts decision. They decided to stick with the constitutionality of the Fourteenth Amendment by making sure that their was nothing that could affect the way that people’s votes were regarded, and all the while making sure that the Florida Supreme Court kept to its own business. I also appreciate how the Supreme Court stuck with the electoral college on this case because it is obviously in the Constitution, and they weren’t allowed to just randomly choose to get rid of it.
Kelo v. City of New London (2005)
Is the city of New London violating the 5th Amendment’s taking clause by taking private property and selling it for private development if the private development had some hope of fixing the city’s bad economy?
New London, Connecticut was seizing private property and selling it to private developers by using its power of eminent domain. Kelo Susette, along with others whose homes were taken, demanded just compensation for their private property under the 5th Amendment’s taking clause. The Connecticut Supreme Court sided with New London.
The Supreme Court ruled that the city did not violate the 5th Amendment because using the private property to sell for private development was still considered public use under the taking clause because it was being used to help the economy of the area. They argued that by “public use”, the Constitution meant for the use to serve a purpose that will help the public.
I can see how the justices arrived at this decision, but I still don’t agree with them. I believe that with this as a precedent, any city can define anything they do to be for “public purpose” if they so wished. I believe that the city should at least have justly compensated for the land that they took because without that being done, they might as well take the 5th Amendment out of the Constitution.

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