Constitutional Amendments & Major Supreme Court Decisions

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1st Amendment
This amendment spells out the many freedoms we have such as Freedom of speech, Freedom of press, No established religion, Right to peaceably assemble, And freedom to petition the government for redress of grievences. It all means pretty much exactly what it says.

2nd Amendment
Right to bear arms. The meaning of this amendment is debated. Some believes it means that we should have a militia. Others think it refers to an individuals right to bear arms.

3rd Amendment
No soldier, shall, in times of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner. This comes from an old british military tradition in which their soliders would come into the colonists houses and stay there whenever they needed somewhere to stay. The colonists did not like this.

4th Amendment
Rights of the People. This admendment has to do with searches and seizures. All search warrants and arrest warrants can only be judicially sanctioned and must be based on probable cause. A warrant must specifically state what or who is being searched. No search may be unreasonable.

5th Amendment
self-incrimination. No person will be held accountable for any crime (capital or infamous) without a grand jury, except for those in the armed forces in a time of war or public danger. No one can be tried for the same crime more than once nor will they ever be forced to be a witness against themselves. Cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due proccess of law. Private property cannot be taken for public use without fair payment.

6th Amendment
In all trials, the accused shall have to the right to a speedy and public trial, by an unbiased jury in the state and district the crime was committed. The accused has the right to be informed of the reason why they are being accused, and for what. they also have the right to confront the witnesses against them and have witnesses in his favor. The accused also has the right for Assistance of Counsel for his defense, which is like a defense attorney.

7th Amendment

This is about civil, not criminal trials. It says that if any accused person stands to lose money ($20), they are granted the right to demand a trial by jury. It also means that once this type of case is decided by a trial, it cannot be changed unless the rules of common laws are upheld.

8th Amendment
No bail or fine shall be set too high for the accused to pay. Also, no cruel or unusual punishment should be inflicted. Cruel and unusual punishment is not easily defined, as it changes with the generations.

9th Amendment
This amendment is basically saying that just because a right is not listed in the constitution does not mean that it does not exist.

10th Amendment
This amendment says that any power not given to the federal government is reserved to the state or the people.

Marbury v. Madison
When President Adams was defeated in the 1800 elections, he appointed a lot of Federalists to the federal courts. James Madison, who was the new secretary of state, would not deliver the commissions. An appointee, William Marbury asked the Supreme Court to deliever the commission. The court denied his request because the Judiciary Act he based his case on was found to be unconstitutional. This case established judicial review, or the power of the Supreme Court to decide the constituionality of a federal law.

McCulloch v. Maryland
A law in Maryland required federal banks to use a special paper to print their money one, whcih imposed a tax. James McCullch, a cashier in a Baltimore branch, would not use the paper. He would not use it because he believed that a state government had no right to tax the federal government. The Supreme Court agreed with him, stating that the law was unconstitutional.

Gibbons v. Ogden
This Supreme Court case involved the re-examination of the Congress's power to regulate interstate commerence. Aaron Ogden had a liscense for his New York ferry to operate steamboats to and from New York. He believed that Thomas Gibbon's federal coasting license didn't include landing rights. The Court concluded that New Yorks regulation laws were invalid and held that federal regulations took precedence because of the Supremacy clause. This ended up allowing the Federal government more power to regulate interstate business.

Plessy v. Ferguson
A Louisiana law require segregated seating for white and African American people on the public railroads. Herman Plessy believed that his "equal protection of the law" rights had been violated. The Court ruled that as long as the facilities were equal, it was allowed. They interperted the 14th Amendment as only meaning Negros were politically equal, thus "Seperate but Equal" was established.

Brown v. The Board of Education
This Supreme Court decision was the case that most dramatically changed life in the United States. It was about a 10-year-old girl who lived in Topeka named Linda Brown. She was not permitted to attend a school in her own neighborhood because it was segregated and she was African American. The Court heard both arguments, trying to decide if the claus of "Seperate but Equal" had been violated The Court finally decided that the claus had no place in public education and it denied the equal protection of laws.

Roe v. Wade
A Texas woman believed that a State law forbidding the artificial termination of a pregnancy violated her privacy rights. The Court supported the woman's right to make her own decision, but noted that the State had an "important and legitimate interest" in trying to protect the potential for human life. It established that the State could not regulate abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.

Mapp v. Ohio
This case involved an illegal search of Dollree Mapps house that was used to obtain evidence. Some State constitutions allowed this before. She appealed her convictions, saying that her 4th and 14th amendment rights had been violated. The Court agreed with her, saying that searches without a warrant and that were unreasonable had no meaning unless the searches were excluded. This also helped develope the concept of "incorporation."

Miranda v. Arizona
After Ernesto Miranda was arrested for kidnapping and sexual assault, he signed a confession, which also included a statement saying that he understood his leag rights. After he was convicted, he appealed, saying that withough counsel or warning, the confession was not legally gained. The Court agreed with him, establishing that suspects must be told their rights at the time of their arrest.

Gideon v. Wainwright
A court in Florida found Clarence Earl Gideal guilty of breaking and entering in 1961. He was sentenced to five years in prison. He appealed his case to the Supreme Court, saying he had been unconstitutionally denied counsel during his trial because he could not pay for one, and because it was not a capital crime, the court would not appoint one. Gideon got a new trial and won with his court appointed lawyer. This established that even poor people have the right to counsel when facing a felony charge.

Tinker v. Des Moines
This established that students do not shed their freedom of speech right when they are at school. The Court said that schools must be ready for the possibility of substancial disruption before the schools can limit free speech. They said that students can display their own opinions as long as they do not disrupt classwork, create a lot of disorder, or interfere with the rights of others.Thus, wearing an armband silently expresses an opinion and generates none of the earlier stated effects.

Engel v. Vitale
The State Board of Regents of New York used to require that a 22-word pray was said at the beginning of each school day. Some parents filed a suit because of this, saying that it went against 1st amendment rights. The Court agreed that it was unconstitutional, because the prayer definitely had religious beliefs in it.

Texas v. Johnson
After burning a flag, Johnson was put on trial for desecrating an American flag. The case was centered around trying to decide if the action of expression was protected under the 1st Amendment's freedom of speech clause. It was ultimately decided, by close vote, that his expression was protected, like that of Tinker v. Des Moines.

Furman v. Georgia
There are three different cases that contributed to th is Court decision. There was a question of racial imbalance in the use of the death sentence by State Courts. In Georgia, Furman was convicted and sentenced to death. The Court decided to overturn the already-existing State laws regarding the death penalty. Because of this, many States re-wrote their death penalty laws.

Korematsu v. United States
This case was centered around the Executive order to place all Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. The Court supported the military order because of the circumstances surrounding WWII. The Court also added that restrictions were never legitimate on the basis of racial antagonism itself.

Employment Division v. Smith
The Court ruled the the Oregon unemployment division could deny benefits to someone who was fired for using illegal substances during a religious ceremony, during which Smith ate peyote. Peyote is used by American Indians during rituals and it is illegal in Oregon. This established that the State could deny anybody who was fired for doing anything illegal unemployment benefits.

New Jersey v. T.L.O.
T.L.O, a New Jersey High School student, was suspected of smoking in the school lavaratory, but she denied the claim. The vice-principal conducted a search of her purse and found cigarettes, marijauna, and evidence that she had been involved in marijauna dealings that occured at the school. Because of this, T.L.O. was sentenced to probation by a juvenile court. She appealed, saying that the evidence had been obtained during an unreasonable search, without a warrant. The Court did not agree with T.L.O. saying that the school had a good reason to conduct the search in order to secure a safe learning environment. They also stated that easing of some restrictions must take place at school on grounds of "reasonable suspicion, like "probable cause" is needed for wider society.