Thursday, May 28, 2009

8 Landmark SC Cases

1) Weeks v. U.S. (1914) - Weeks was subject to a warrant less search and seizure in which the police discovered contraband (lottery tickets) in his mail. He was arrested for the illegal transport of gambling items and so he appealed to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in his favor, stating, “...if letters and private documents can thus be seized and used as evidence...his right to be secure against such searches... is of no value, and...Might as well be stricken from the Constitution." This was the first use of the exclusionary rule, thus creating a major precedent in our justice system.

2) Schenck v. U.S. (1919) - Charles Schenck mailed leaflets to draftees and soldiers urging them to resist the draft. This was a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 and therefore Schenck was arrested. He took his case to the Supreme Court, where they upheld his conviction. They ruled that his arrest and the Espionage Act were not violations of the First Amendment, because his leaflets showed a “clear and present danger.” This case is significant for two reasons: 1) It created the “clear and present danger” rule. 2) It demonstrates how during wartime, free speech rights were and can be curtailed.
3) Gitlow v. New York (1925) - Benjamin Gitlow, a prominent Socialist, violated the New York Criminal Anarchy Law of 1902 by publishing manifestos advocating overthrowing the government through mass strikes and installing a Socialist system. Gitlow was tried and convicted, so he appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming his First Amendment rights had been violated. Unlike in the Schenck case, the court ruled in favor of Gitlow, deciding that "for present purposes, we may assume that freedom of speech and of press...are among the fundamental personal rights and liberties protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from impairment by the State." This case is important, because it differentiates what is considered “clear and present danger” and what is not. The court decided that advocating overthrowing the government did not fit under the rule. Specific plans and people must be mentioned to make such speech criminal.
4) Mapp v. Ohio (1961) - Dolly Mapp’s house was searched and the police found “obscene” material (at the time possession of such was illegal). She was tried and convicted, then appealed to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor because the police failed to produce a search warrant. They incorporated the Fourth Amendment into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and executed the exclusionary rule. The case is significant for making the exclusionary rule and even greater standard, than any other Supreme Court case had before.
5) Fay v. Noia (1963) - Noia was convicted of murder in New York and his confession was used as evidence during the trial. He then filed a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court, but the law stated, “A person must exhaust all state courts before appealing to a federal court.” The state of New York confessed that Noia’s confession had been coerced because an appeal would be inadmissible. The court ruled in favor of Noia, maintaining that the government must protect citizens’ right to habeas corpus.
6) Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) - Clarence E. Gideon was arrested for an attempted break in. He was illiterate and poor; therefore he could not afford an attorney of his choosing. At the time, council was only reserved for those facing capital punishment. The trial judge ruled that Gideon could defend himself. He was then tried and convicted. When he appealed to the Supreme Court, they ruled in his favor, declaring that all defendants in felony cases had the right to an attorney. This case strengthened the right to council, a cherished right to this day.
7) Sheppard v. Maxwell (1966) - Dr. Sam Sheppard’s arrest and trial for the murder of his wife received considerable media coverage. Sheppard argued that the media’s biased coverage was so extensive that it resulted in an unfair trial. The Supreme Court agreed with him and overturned his conviction, claiming “the judge failed to minimize the prejudicial impact of massive publicity." The case created the precedent for the use of the “gag” order to limit pretrial publicity.
8) Texas v. Johnson (1989) - Johnson burned an American flag outside the Republican National Convention. This violated a Texas law stating that desecration of the flag was a crime. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison and a two thousand dollar fine. The Supreme Court overturned this conviction, claiming that flag burning was protected by the First Amendment. The case helped secure symbolic speech as a protected First Amendment right.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are valued greatly. Please adhere to the decorum on the "First time here?" page. Comments that are in violation of any of the rules will be deleted without notice.

3/11 Update - No Moderation

*Non-anonymous commenting is preferred to avoid mix-ups. Anonymous comments are, at the behest of management, more likely to be deleted than non-anonymous comments.