Regents Review Supreme Court Cases
Background • On June 7, 1892, a 30 year old black shoemaker named Plessy was jailed for sitting in the “White” car on the Louisiana Railroad train. • He was only 1/8 black, but under Louisiana law he was considered black. • Jim Crow laws established in the South after Reconstruction. Forbade blacks from sharing facilities.
Background (continued) • Plessy sued the railroad company claiming that the Separate Car Act violated the 13th and 14th amendments. • 14th amendment- equal protection under the law.
The Decision • States can regulate railroads within their state. • Set precedent that separate facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional. • “Separate but Equal” doctrine applied to restaurants, theatres, restrooms, schools. • Lasted for 58 years until Brown v. Board of Ed.
Impact of Plessy • Court went beyond decision. • Civil Rights Acts unconstitutional. • Legal justification for Jim Crow Laws. • Reconstruction failed socially
Background • Linda Brown a young black student wanted to attend an all white school in Topeka, Kansas rather than the black school further away. • Based on Plessy case- refused Brown’s request. • NAACP appealed her case to the Supreme Court.
Decision • Warren Court • Unanimous decision reversed Plessy. • Separate is not equal- separate facilities are inherently unequal and violate the 14th amendment’s clause to equal protection.
Impact • African Americans began to take direct action to end segregation. • Boycotts and sit ins: restaurants, buses, schools. • Rosa Parks- Montgomery Bus Boycott • Little Rock, Arkansas- 1957 • Martin Luther King Jr.: passive resistance and civil disobedience.
New Jersey v. T.L.O. 1985
Background • A teacher found 14 year old TLO smoking in a school bathroom. • TLO was taken to the Assistant Principal’s office. • TLO denied she had been smoking. • The Assistant Principal then searched her purse. • Found- cigarettes and drug paraphernalia. • Parents said the search violated her 4th amendment rights because they did not have a warrant.
Decision • 4th amendment applies to school officials, but that the search of TLO was reasonable. • School officials do not have to meet the same standards as police officers when conducting searches. • Police officers need “probable cause” and school officials need the lesser standard of “reasonable suspicion.”
Impact • Became a precedent for future students rights cases (Bethel v. Frasier). • “reaffirmed that the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings. • Decision was used in cases to allow the use of metal detectors and protective searches in schools. • Court has linked such searches with airport scanning and highway checkpoints for drunk drivers.
Schenck v. U.S. 1919
Background • Espionage Act of 1917- harsh penalties for anyone who interfered with the draft. • Charles Schenck- General Secretary of the Socialist Party in the U.S. Outspoken critic of WWI. • Printed 15,000 copies of an anti-war/anti-draft pamphlet. Some mailed and some handed out. • Arrested under the Espionage Act. Argued his 1st Amendment rights were violated.
Decision • Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said the pamphlets posed a “clear and present danger” of causing draft resistance. • Threat to our national security.
Impact • Established limits on free speech. Right is not absolute, but depends on the circumstances. • Speech can be restricted during wartime. • Established “clear and present danger” precedent. • Cannot yell fire in a crowded movie theatre.
Roe v. Wade 1973
Background • Texas law made abortion a crime except when necessary to save the life of the mother. • Jane Roe an unmarried pregnant woman brought suit against District Attorney Wade of Dallas County. • Since her life was not in danger she had been unable to obtain an abortion. • Challenged the Texas law- rights of women.
Decision • 14th amendment rights of privacy encompasses a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. • 1st trimester- unrestricted right- government cannot interfere. • 2nd trimester- State can make reasonable regulations on how, when and where. • 3rd trimester- only to save the life of the mother.
Impact • Court has faced a number of challenges on Roe case. As court changes so do the rulings. • Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)- Court upheld: • 24 hour wait • Mandatory counseling • Unmarried and under 18- parent consent • Doctors and clinics must keep detailed records. • Court did strike down another Pennsylvania law requiring a wife to have a husbands permission.