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Key Supreme Court Decsions

McDonald v. City of Chicago

McDonald v. City of Chicago

In 2010, a custodian filed lawsuits against Chicago and Oak Park challenging their gun bans. Shortly after NRA and multiple citizens did the same thing. They argued how the 2nd amendment applies to both state and federal government. The suits were dismissed by the district court. In the Court of Appeals, the seventh circuit affirmed so it went to the supreme court. The supreme court decided that because of the Fourteenth Amendment, the second amendment for self-defense applicable to states. Because of what beliefs our country was founded on with less government and the right to bear arms. They found it best if the 2nd amendment was applied to both state and federal so they couldn’t overrule each other. The precedent of this case was who gets to decide gun laws. The supreme court stated that it must be up to both the state and federal government. They did this so chicago had to abide by the 2nd amendment along with the rest of the United States

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United States v. Lopez

United States v. Lopez

In 1995, a 12th grade student by the name of Alfonzo Lopez, carried a concealed weapon into his San Antonio high school. He was charged with possession of a firearm on school property. However, the charges were dropped. The federal agents said Lopez was a violating a federal criminal statute, the Gun-Free Zones Act of 1990. The act states that no one can possess any form of firearm in a gun free zone (school). He was sentenced to six months of prison and two years of probation. He claims that Act is unconstitutional because it allows congress to be to powerful under the commerce clause. The supreme court took the side of Alfonzo stating that the possession of a gun in a local school zone is not an economic activity. Therefore, he cannot be prosecuted by the government under the commerce clause because it has nothing to do with interstate commerce. The precedent of this decision was the amount of interference the government is allowed to have with instate laws and that because of the commerce clause they can't get involved in these types of situations.

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Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade

A texan by the name of Roe, tried to get an abortion. However it was against the law in texas to have an abortion unless the life of the mother is at risk. She argued that this law was unconstitutional. She claimed it violated her right her 1st, 4th, 5th and, 14th amendment and most importantly a right to privacy. The supreme court heard her case and decided to allow abortion in all states for the 1st 20 weeks. However, after the first weeks it’s against the law to get an abortion. The supreme court stated that a woman’s right to get an abortion went along with a right to privacy. The precedent of this case is that woman have the right to do what they please with their bodies because of there right to privacy.

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Wisconsin v. Yoder

Wisconsin v. Yoder

In 1972, 3 men who were all Amish, were prosecuted under a Wisconsin law. A law that required all children to attend public school until the age of 16. They refused to send their kids to high school claiming that it was contrary to their religious beliefs. They claimed that Wisconsin’s requirement that all kids must attend public schooling until the age of 16 violates the 1st amendments of religious freedom. The supreme court agreed with the Amish men. Stating that there religious beliefs under the first amendment are more important than the state's mandatory school attendance. They said it was unconstitutional to criminalize the parents who refused to let their kids go to school because of their religion. This case created the precedent of church v. state and how religious parenting shall have to be accepted by the government and should not be getting involved with.

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New York Times v. United States

New York Times v. United States

Back in 1971, the New York Times and Washington Post wanted to publish materials regarding the history of the United States activities in Vietnam. The problem was that this information was classified under the Defense Department. The Nixon Administration tried to prevent the New York Times from doing so by putting a prior restraint on all classified documents that were stolen. They argued that the secrecy of these documents was necessary to protect national security and troops. The New York times argued that it would not affect national security and by putting a prior restraint on these documents goes against the 1st amendment. The supreme court agreed with the washington post saying that what the government is doing is unconstitutional. They believed that since the publication of these documents would not violate the safety of american forces that the prior restraint was not justified. The precedent set by this case is that the government cannot prevent you from spreading information as long as it doesn’t violate national security.

billofrightsinstitute.org
Tinker v. Des Moines

Tinker v. Des Moines

A group of students in Des moines public school system protested the vietnam war at their school by wearing black armbands. The school claimed that these armbands were a distraction the learning environment and were against school policy. The school administration said that if anyone would be caught wearing these and refuse to remove them would be suspended. 2 kids were later suspended that week. They then proceeded to take the school district to court (the parents of the kids). The students argued that there constitutional rights were being violated such as there 1st amendment. It went to the 8th circuit and was affirmed without opinion. It then proceeded it’s way to the supreme court where they decided that it was a violation of the students first amendment rights. Because it’s a public school and run by the government, students have the right to exercise there 1st amendment. This case created the precedent that as long as your freedom of speech is not creating conflict, you shall be allowed to take part in peaceful protest.

aclu.org
Gideon v. Wainwright

Gideon v. Wainwright

A man by the name of Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in florida state court with a felony. He appeared in court without a lawyer he asked that the court give him one because his basic rights as a citizen. However, in the state of Florida an attorney may only be given to the poor or someone who is unable to pay for one. He then was tried without an attorney and sentenced to 5 years in prison. He then filed a habeas corpus allowing him to go in front of a judge while in prison. He argued that his constitutional rights had been broken. However, the court still denied his habeas corpus attempt. He then proceeded to take his case to the supreme court. who took the case and decided that not giving him a lawyer was a violation of his constitutional rights. The precedent set by this case is that all states must appoint an attorney for defendants in the court of law.

uscourts.gov
Engel v. Vitale

Engel v. Vitale

New york allowed a short, voluntary prayer at the beginning of each school day. It was an attempt to keep certain communities to share and force their beliefs upon others. However the prayer was not loved by many. The prayer started off with "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country.". People still argued that it was a violation of the Establishment of Religion clause out of the 1st amendment. They believe it leaned to much towards the support of christianity. The supreme court ruled that this was true and even if it was voluntary or not it still violates the constitution. Engel v. Vitale is considered a very important case in US. history because it the set the precedent of separation church and state and that religious beliefs come before the states interests.

uscourts.gov
Brown v. Board of Education

Brown v. Board of Education

Brown v. The board of education was a combination of four separate cases. All arguing against segregation of public schools because of race. In all 4 cases African American minors applications had all been turned down to certain public schools because of laws that allowed education to be segregated by race. Each one argued that this form of segregation violates the 14th amendments equal protection clause to be segregated because of the color of their skin. They case was turned down originally by the US. district court based on the the precedent set by Plessy v. Ferguson. It stated that the schools could stay segregated as long as the facilities were substantially equal. After hearing this the plaintiffs appealed to the supreme court. The supreme court decided to reverse the ruling saying that it violated the 14th amendment deeming it unconstitutional allowing segregation. It created the precedent that this form of segregation violated the constitution.

uscourts.gov
Gitlow v. New York

Gitlow v. New York

A socialist by the name of Gitlow, was caught distributing “left-wing manifesto”. It promoted the establishment of socialism and for people to overthrow the government. He was convicted for criminal anarchy for attempting to get people to overthrow the government. He argued that since no one took any action from his work that this was a violation of his 1st amendment. The supreme court decided that since he publicated his work and even though it didn’t cause harm to anyone. It may have a tendency to result in action dangerous to public security, even though no one yet had created no clear or present danger. The precedent of this case is if any form of speech may have the tendency to result in action dangerous to the public security, a state has the right to abolish both speech and publication.

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