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Supreme Court Decisions

By robconsolo Sep 20, 2012 937 Words
Supreme Court Decisions

Decisions of the United States Supreme Court have had a significant impact on the nation. Multiple cases that have been brought upon the Supreme Court have huge impacts on the nation. A lot of these cases have had such an impact on American society that they’ve left a permanent mark. Marbury v. Madison, a Supreme Court case in 1803 that is considered one of the first major cases is very important to the way our government is structured. Also Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 played an important role in history.

There were many factors that led to Marbury v. Madison evolving into the case that it did. One might consider Thomas Jefferson’s election in 1800 to be the starter. Jefferson was an advocate of a weak national government, as opposed to the federalists who had been in control before 1800. So while John Adams was on his way out of the presidency, he and the federalists appointed more judges to newly created federal courts. So Jefferson went after these federal courts, ordering James Madison to not deliver the paper that would officially give Marbury his position as judge for one of these courts. So Marbury took this to court. Chief Justice John Marshall gave a remarkable ruling because he assumed a new power for the judiciary. He was able to avoid deciding on the issue directly. He said that while Marbury should have been given his appointment papers, the law granting the power to the Supreme Court to order Madison to deliver the papers was itself unconstitutional. This started the thought of judicial review. This was the part of the decision that proved the most influential on American history. Marshal greatly strengthened the Supreme Court giving the judicial branch its foundations as an equal part in the system of checks and balances. Although the Supreme Court rarely declares a law unconstitutional, judicial review remains its greatest weapon to counteract the executive and legislative branches.

Plessy v. Ferguson, in 1869 is a landmark supreme court decision in the legal system of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities under the doctrine of “separate but equal.” On June 7, 1892, Plessy boarded a car of the East Louisiana Railroad in New Orleans, Louisiana that was designated for use by white people only, as by state law. The railroad company had been informed already to Plessy's racial background, and after Plessy had taken a seat in the whites-only railway car, he was asked to vacate it and sit instead in the blacks-only car. Plessy refused and was arrested immediately. Plessy was remanded for trial in New Orleans, despite his objections that the Louisiana law was in violation of the Constitution of the United States. He was convicted and sentenced to pay a $25 fine. In his case, Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Louisiana, Plessy argued that the state law that required East Louisiana Railroad to segregate trains had denied him his rights under the 13th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution. However, the judge presiding over his case, John Howard Ferguson, ruled that Louisiana had the right to regulate railroad companies as long as they operated within state boundaries. The Committee of Citizens took Plessy's appeal to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, where he again found an intolerant ear, as the state Supreme Court upheld Judge Ferguson's ruling. The Committee than appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1896. Two legal briefs were submitted on Plessy's behalf. Albion W. Tourgée and James C. Walker and the other by Samuel F. Phillips and his legal partner F. D. McKenney signed one. Oral arguments were held before the Supreme Court on April 13, 1896. Tourgée built his case upon violations of Plessy's rights under the Thirteenth Amendment, prohibiting slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees the same rights to all citizens of the United States, and the equal protection of those rights, against the deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Tourgee argued that the reputation of being a white man was "property," which, by the law, implied the inferiority of African-Americans as opposed to whites. In a 7 to 1 decision handed down on May 18, 1896, the Court rejected Plessy's arguments based on the 14th amendment seeing no way in which the Louisiana statute violated it. In addition, the majority of the Court rejected the view that the Louisiana law implied any inferiority of blacks, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, it contended that the law separated the two races as a matter of public policy. The case helped cement the legal foundation for the doctrine of separate but equal the idea that segregation based on classifications was legal as long as facilities were of equal quality. However, Southern state governments refused to provide blacks with genuinely equal facilities and resources in the years after the Plessy decision. The states not only separated races but also, in actuality, ensured differences in quality.

So supreme court cases can have a great impact on the United States of America. Some of them contribute to the escalation of a controversial issue. Others change the structure of government, providing a power that’ has been used repeatedly for over two hundred years. With all of the Supreme Court cases you can see that all these points are valid and it proves that the Supreme Court is not only an extremely important part to the system we have going but, that it has one of the greatest impacts on our nation.

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