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Bill of Rights and Supreme Court

By nir109 Apr 02, 2013 968 Words
The Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court

On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States therefore proposed to the state legislatures 12 amendments to the Constitution that met arguments most frequently advanced against it. The first two proposed amendments, which concerned the number of constituents for each Representative and the compensation of Congressmen, were not ratified. Articles 3 to 12, however, ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures, constitute the first 10 amendments of the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

The first Congress divided the nation into districts and created federal courts for each district. Our present structure evolved from that: the Supreme Court, 13 courts of appeals, 94 district courts, and two courts of special jurisdiction. Congress today retains the power to create and abolish federal courts, and to determine number of judges in federal judiciary system. Second, the civil-commitment statute before us constitutes a modest addition to a set of federal prison-related mental-health statutes that have existed for many decades. We recognize that even a longstanding history of related federal action does not demonstrate a statute's constitutionality. A history of involvement, however, can nonetheless be helpful in reviewing the substance of a congressional statutory scheme and, in particular, the reasonableness of the relation between the new statute and pre-existing federal interests.Third, Congress reasonably extended its longstanding civil-commitment system to covermentally ill and sexually dangerous persons who are already in federal custody, even if doing sodetains them beyond the termination of their criminal sentence. For one thing, the FederalGovernment is the custodian of its prisoners. As federal custodian, it has the constitutional powerto act in order to protect nearby (and other) communities from the danger federal prisoners maypose. In operating an institution such as (a prison system), there are occasions in which it is necessary for the State to restrain the movementof residents-for example, to protect them as well as others from violence. If a federal prisoner is infected with a communicable disease that threatens others, surely itwould be necessary and proper for the Federal Government to take action, pursuant to its roleas federal custodian, to refuse (at least until the threat diminishes) to release that individualamong the general public, where he might infect others (even if not threatening an interstateepidemic.

The 14th Amendment has vastly expanded civil rights protections and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In an extremely narrow reading of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court rejected the butchers' argument. The Court held that the Privileges and Immunities Clause protects only rights derived from U.S. citizenship, such as the right to Habeas Corpusand interstate travel and not rights derived from state law, such as the common-law rights of tort and property asserted by the New Orleans butchers. The Supreme Court has neither overruled its decision in the Slaughter-House cases nor expanded its narrow interpretation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Most constitutional scholars have since pronounced this clause a dead letter.

The Supreme Court ruled that the doctrine of "separate but equal," in which the black and white races were segregated in public schools and other places of public accommodation, was "inherently unequal" and denied African Americans "equal protection of the laws." The ambit of the Equal Protection Clause was later enlarged by the Supreme Court beyond racial Segregationto cover an assortment of gender discrimination claims asserted by women.

The Court made these rulings in spite of evidence that racial segregation was prevalent at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted and that women were treated like second-class citizens during most of the nineteenth century. In 1868, for example, racial segregation of public schools was permitted throughout the South and in eight northern states. The gallery of the U.S. Senate was itself segregated by race during the debate of the Equal Protection Clause. During the first half of the nineteenth century, every state proscribed married women from devising a will, owning or inheriting property, entering into a contract, or exercising almost any other basic civil right afforded to women in the modern United States. Indeed, the Common Law recognized no existence for married women independent from their husbands. By marriage, the Husband and Wifebecame one person in law, and that person was the husband.

The Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment to the United StatesConstitution promises that no one can have their life, liberty or property taken away without Due Process. In short, it means that people must be treated fairly in the legal system. This important 5th Amendment clause reads like this:"No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."The Due Process Clause also means that the government cannot arbitrarily punish people without acting on the authority of some written law. So the policeman cannot put you in jail just because he doesn't like you, he has to have evidence that you violated a written law and he can only punish you to the degree that the law specifies.Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses have given rise to a panorama of legal claims such as the sobriety checkpoint cases; the privileges and immunities clause has produced only a few lawsuits since the end of the 1800s. Like most other legal terms in the Bill of Rights, the phrase privileges or immunities are not defined in the Constitution.

Works Cited

Hickok, Eugene W, Jr. The Bill of Rights. Virginia: The University Press of Virginia, 1991. Original meaning and current understanding.
Mckeever, Robert J. The United States Supreme Court: A political and Legal Analysis. New York and Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997.
"United States Bill of Rights." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 July 2013. Web. 08 Mar. 2013. .

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