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Constitutional Law Flashcards (Cases)


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Marbury v. Madison
Fight over delivery of commission to be justice of the peace
Martin v. Hunter's Lessee
Fight over land grants from England and Virginia. Virginia Court disobeyed Supreme Court's order
Cooper v. Aaron
Desegregation of Little Rock schools ordered. Governor refused to obey.
Ex Parte McCardle
Newspaper editor arrested for writing bad things about Reconstruction. He asked Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. Congress repealed the law that gave SC jurisdiction over habeas cases. So SC couldn't hear case.
McCulloch v. Maryland
Maryland tried to tax the Federal Bank. Issue is whether Congress had power to charter a bank
Gibbons v. Ogden
NY granted steamboat monopoly to Fulton and Livingston, who licensed Ogden. Gibbons opened up a competing business saying federal law allowed him to. SC said federal law trumped NY law.
Hammer v. Dagenhart
Child labor case. Law prohibited any products in interstate commerce made by violators of the child labor law. Unconstitutional because it violated the 10th Amendment
Wickard v. Filburn
Ohio farmer violates federal wheat quota. Act extends federal regulation to production, even for farmer's own consumption. The only significant checks on Congress’s commerce power are specific guarantees, such as those in the Bill of Rights.
US v. Lopez
Gun free schools act. Unconstitutional because the relationship to interstate commerce is too tangential and uncertain
US v. Morrison
SC held the civil remedy provision of the Violence Against Women Act unconstitutional. Provided a damage remedy for the victim against any person who commits a crime of violence motivated by gender. Gender motivated crimes are not economic activity.
US v. EC Knight
SC invalidated federal antitrust law (Sherman Act). Antitrust act could not be used to stop a monopoly in the sugar industry because the Constitution did not allow Congress to regulate manufacturing. Monopoly was in the production of sugar, not in its commerce.
Shreveport Rate Cases
SC upheld the ability of the Interstate Commerce Commission to set intrastate railroad rates because of their direct impact on interstate commerce. Set up Congress’s ability to regulate instrumentalities of interstate commerce.
Champion v. Ames
Upheld federal law prohibiting the interstate shipment of foreign lottery tickets. SC held it was within Congress’s commerce power to stop lottery tickets from being part of interstate commerce. Rejected argument that the law violated the 10th Amendment and intruded on state rights.
Carter v. Carter Coal
SC declared a federal law that provided for local coal boards to be determine prices for coal and wages was unconstitutional. Pre-commerce is outside the scope of Congress’s power under commerce clause.
NLRB v. Jones and Laughlin Steel
SC upheld a law that created right of workers to bargain collectively, prohibited unfair labor practices such as discrimination against union members. Court described how the steel business was apart of the stream of commerce and how labor relations affected commerce. Threw out idea that Congress couldn’t regulate production used in earlier cases like Schechter and Carter Coal.
US v. Darby
SC upheld act that prohibited the shipment in interstate commerce of goods made by employees who were paid less than the minimum wage. Rejected view that production was left entirely to state regulation. Expressly overruled Hammer v. Dagenhart. Rejected view that production was left entirely to state regulation.
US v. Perez
Court upheld a federal law prohibiting loan-sharking. There “a class of activities was held properly regulated by Congress without proof that the particular intrastate activity against which a sanction was laid had an effect on commerce.”
Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US
Court upheld Civil Rights Act that prohibited discrimination in places of public accommodation. Court said “the only questions are (1) whether Congress had a rational basis for finding that racial discrimination by motels affected commerce and (2) if it had such a basis, whether the means it selected are reasonable and appropriate.
Katzenbach v. McClung
Ollies BBQ case. Court upheld application of the Civil Rights Act to a small business. Power of Congress under the commerce clause is broad and sweeping. As long as the particular activity is deemed to affect commerce and if the particular restaurant either serves or offers to serve interstate travelers or serves food a substantial portion of which has moved in interstate commerce.
Garcia v. SAMTA
Expressly overruled National League of Cities, which found a law violated the 10th Amendment. SAMTA claimed it was exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act because it was state run and not a private business. It provided a traditional government function. The Court found that rules based on the subjective determination of "integral" or "traditional" governmental functions provided little or no guidance in determining the boundaries of federal and state power. The Court argued that the structure of the federal system itself, rather than any "discrete limitations" on federal authority, protected state sovereignty.
New York v. US
Invalidated a federal law as violating the 10th Amendment. Law created a statutory duty for states to provide for the safe disposal of radioactive waste generated within their borders. Congress can regulate radioactive waste, but can’t commandeer the state legislature to do so.
Printz v. US
Can’t commandeer state executive officials. Can’t make local sheriffs do background checks for gun permits.
Reno v. Condon
Court upheld a federal law that regulates the disclosure of personal information in the records of state motor vehicles departments. Court said it wasn’t commandeering because it doesn’t require the states in their sovereign capacity to regulate their own citizens. The law regulates the states as the owners of the databases.
Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer
Declared seizure of steel mills unconstitutional.
Dames and Moore v. Regan
Upheld executive agreement to lift a freeze on Iranian assets.
Myers v. US
Involved the firing of the postmaster of Portland in violation of a federal law that provided that postmasters could be removed during their 4 year terms only “with the advice and consent of the Senate.”
Buckley v. Valeo
Court held unconstitutional a federal law that empowered the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore to appoint 4 of the 6 members of the Federal Election Commission.
Humphrey's Executor v. US
Court upheld the ability of Congress to limit the removal of a Commissioner of the FTC. Distinguished from Myers by saying Myers dealt with a purely executive official.
Morrison v. Olson
Upheld the constitutionality of limits on the President’s ability to remove the independent counsel - independent counsel could only be removed by the Attorney General for cause.
State v. Post
SC of New Jersey rejected a claim that the state constitution abolished slavery because it talks about the freedom of men.
Dred Scott v. Sandford
SC declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and held that slaves were property, not citizens.
Plessy v. Ferguson
Upheld laws that mandated that blacks and whites use “separate but equal facilities.”
McCabe v. Atchison
Upheld OK law that required separation of the races on railroads, but ruled that if there was a dining car for whites, one also had to be available for blacks.
Cumming v. Board of Education
Black families challenged their tax assessment when those funds were used to operate a high school for whites. Upheld the government’s operation of a high school only for whites while none was available for blacks. Local authorities had discretion in allocating funds.
Berea College v. Kentucky
Affirmed conviction of a private college that had violated a Kentucky law that required separation of races in education because the college was a corporation and not afforded all the rights of individuals.
Missouri Ex Rel Gaines v. Canada
Held it was unconstitutional for Missouri to refuse to admit blacks to its law school, but instead to pay for blacks to attend out-of-state law schools. Doesn’t matter what facilities other states provide, but what opportunities Missouri furnishes for whites and denies to blacks solely because of color.
Sweatt v. Painter
SC for the first time ordered that a white university admit a black student. Court found the black and white law schools were not equal.
Brown v. Board of Education 1
Held that separate but equal doctrine is no good.
Brown v. Board of Education 2
Have to desegregate with all deliberate speed
Bolling v. Sharpe
Court held that school segregation in DC is unconstitutional. Since 14th Amendment applies only to the states, they could not use the Equal Protection Clause. Court held that discrimination may be so unjustifiable as to be violative of the due process clause of the 5th Amendment.
Keyes v. School District No. 1
Not a case where schools were segregated by statute, but nevertheless plaintiff proved that the school authorities have carried out a systematic program of segregation. When laws aren’t present, plaintiffs must prove intentional segregative acts affecting a substantial part of the school system. Drew a line between de jure segregation in the South and de facto segregation in the North. Need proof of discriminatory purpose in de facto.
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District
Addressed federal courts’ power to issue remedies in school desegregation cases. District Courts have broad authority.
City of Richmond v. Croson
City had a program in which prime contractors on city projects were required to subcontract at least 30% of the contract amount to minority businesses. States do have authority to eradicate the effects of private discrimination. Strict scrutiny is applied.
NYC Transit Authority v. Beazer
Upheld a city’s regulation that prevented those in methadone maintenance programs from holding positions with the Transit Authority. Overinclusive/underinclusive is usually tolerated in rational basis analysis. Rational basis - any alternative rule is likely to be less precise.
Railway Express v. NY
Upheld an ordinance that banned all advertising on sides of trucks unless ad was for business of truck’s owner. Was argued that distinction was irrational to achieve government’s purpose of decreasing distractions and promoting traffic safety. “It is no requirement of equal protection that all evils of the same genus be eradicated or none at all. Underinclusive.
Williamson v. Lee Optical
Upheld OK statute that prohibited an optician to fit or duplicate lenses without a prescription from an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. Stressed need for judicial deference to legislative choices. Shows that so long as the Court can conceive of some legitimate purpose and so long as the law is reasonable, it will be upheld.
Minnesota v. Cloverleaf Creamery
Minnesota law prohibited the sale of milk in plastic disposable containers, but allowed its sale in paper disposable containers. Discriminatory effect favoring in-state business and disfavoring out of state business because Minnesota had a large paper industry. Court held law nondiscriminatory. It prohibits all milk producers from using plastic, whether in state or out of state. It did not burden interstate commerce because it helped out of state paper manufacturers as well. Balancing test - environmental factors outweighed discriminatory effect. Where there was evidence before the legislature reasonably supporting the classification, litigants may not procure invalidation of the legislation merely by tendering evidence in court that the legislature was mistaken.
City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center
Court used rational basis review to invalidate a zoning ordinance that prevented the operation of a home for the mentally disabled. Can’t use irrational prejudice as a basis for treating mentally disabled home differently from other group homes.
US Dept. of Agriculture v. Moreno
Struck down law prohibiting access to food stamps if you lived with someone who you are not related to. Supposed government purpose was to raise levels of nutrition among low-income households. But this had no rational relation to this law. Legislative history suggested that Congress meant to prevent hippies from using the food stamp program. Congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot be considered a legitimate governmental interest.
Romer v. Evans
Voter initiative in Colorado that repealed laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and that precluded the adoption of new protections failed rational basis review. No legitimate purpose in singling out a particular group and precluding them from using the political process.
Strauder v. West Virginia
Declared unconstitutional a law that limited jury service to white males 21 and over who are citizens of Virginia.
Korematsu v. US
Last situation in which the Court expressly upheld racial classifications burdening minorities. Enormously overinclusive - Not all Japanese-Americans were disloyal. Needed compelling government interest and narrowly tailored means/ends fit. - Laid out strict scrutiny. Underinclusive as well - What about disloyal Germans and Italians?
Carolene Footnote
Court would defer to the government; uphold laws so long as they were reasonable. But this deference would not extend to laws interfering with fundamental rights or discriminating against discrete and insular minorities.
Palmore v. Sidoti
Custody battle between white divorced parents, when the mother remarried a black man. Court said that the law does not consider private biases that may hurt the child when looking at custody.
Washington v. Davis
Policy literacy test - more blacks failed, so it had a discriminatory impact. Statute was facially neutral. For facially neutral statute, you need proof of discriminatory purpose/intent. Otherwise, you use rational basis review.
Yick Wo v. Hopkins
Chinese laundromat case. Facts established discriminatory intent of the administrators, even though law was facially neutral. So strict scrutiny is applied.
Gomillion v. Lightfoot
Government redrew city boundaries in Tuskeegee to prevent blacks form participating in elections. Proved discriminatory purpose, so strict scrutiny applied.
Palmer v. Thompson
City council closed the municipal swimming pool rather than integrate it. Court held that closing it did not violate equal protection. Can’t invalidate just because of the motives of the lawmakers. Have to look at the effect as well.
Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing
Request denied to build low-income housing in the village. Plaintiff couldn’t prove discriminatory purpose. Cautioned that cases like Yick Wo and Gomillion are rare - there’s usually not so obvious a pattern of discriminatory intent. Absent a stark pattern, look at historical background of the decision.
McCleskey v. Kemp
Plaintiff challenged death penalty, citing a study showing that blacks were more likely to receive the death penalty than whites and therefore it was racially discriminatory and a violation equal protection. Court held that proof of discriminatory impact is not enough, he needed to prove discriminatory intent of the legislature when enacting the law. Not even good enough if they thought it might be discriminatory or hoped that it would, that has to be their main goal in enacting the law.
Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney
Involved a challenge to Massachusetts law that gave preference in hiring for state jobs to veterans. Took a narrow definition of intent “more than intent as volition or intent as awareness of consequences. It implies that the decision maker [selected] or reaffirmed a particular course of action at least in part because of not merely in spite of its adverse effects upon an identifiable group.”
Loving v. Virginia
Supreme court declared unconstitutional a state’s statute that made it a crime for a white person to marry outside the Caucasian race.
Washington v. Seattle School District No. 1
Declared unconstitutional a law adopted by initiative that prevented school boards from requiring students to attend schools not nearest or next nearest to their residence
Even though it doesn’t mention race, the law “removes the authority to address a racial problem-and only “racial problem from the existing decision making body, in such a way as to burden minority interests.
Grutter v. Bollinger
Example 1 (valid): the univ of mich law school evaluates each applicant’s entire file, weighing such variables as undergraduate GPA, LSAT scores, and the contribution the applicant will make to diversity in the student body. The school treats as a major plus factor an applicant’s membership in one of three historically discriminated against groups, blacks, Hispanics, and native Americans. The school does do to create a critical mass of these minority students, so that they will participate without feeling isolated.
Held: this form of affirmative action is constitutional. The interest in a diverse student body is a compelling one, and the approach here- in that it relies on an individualized, non-mechanical evaluation of each applicant-is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.
Gratz v. Bollinger
Example 2 (invalid): the univ of mich undergraduate college awards pre-measured points to applicants for various attributes (e.g. up to 5 points for being an outstanding artist or student leader). Every black or Hispanic applicant automatically gets 20 points for diversity. 100 points are needed for admission. The extra 20 points for minority group status has the effect that virtually every minimally qualified black or Hispanic applicant is admitted, whereas many well qualified non-minority applicants are rejected.
Held: this form of affirmative action is unconstitutional, because it is not narrowly tailored to the achievement of the compelling interest in student body diversity. The scheme here is a mechanical one that is equivalent to a quota, not an individualized evaluation scheme like the one approved in grutter. And the fact that near misses can be flagged for individualized review does not save the scheme.
Regents of UC Davis v. Bakke
First affirmative action case. UC Davis Med School set aside 16 of 100 slots for minorities. Ratios not okay but affirmative action is.
Adarand Constructors v. Pena
All racial classifications must be analyzed using strict scrutiny. Must serve compelling govt. interests or must be narrowly tailored to further the interest. Federal highway project gave company additional compensation if they used certified minority subcontractors.
Bradwell v. Illinois
Upheld Illinois law that prohibited women from being licensed to practice law
Minor v. Happersett
Court acknowledged that women were persons and citizens within the meaning of the 14th Amendment, but held that the right to vote was not a privilege of US citizenship and therefore that women could be denied the franchise.
Muller v. Oregon
SC upheld an OR statute prohibiting the employment of women in factories for more than 10 hours per day. It distinguished the case from Lochner which had upheld the right to contract, saying there was an inherent difference between the 2 sexes.
Goesaert v. Cleary
Court held that a MI law prohibiting a woman from working as a bartender unless she was the wife or daughter of a male owner did not violate the equal protection clause.
Hoyt v. Florida
Court upheld as “rational” a jury selection system excluding women who did not affirmatively indicate a desire to serve.
Reed v. Reed
For the 1st time invalidated a gender classification. But used only rational basis review (at least it claimed to). Idaho law that specified hierarchy of those to be appointed administrators of an estate-male preferred over female. Gender had no rational relationship to ability to administer an estate. Really was more heightened scrutiny.
Frontiero v. Richardson
Fed law automatically allowed a man to claim his wife as a dependant thereby receiving a greater allowance for quarters and medical benefits but woman could not claim husband unless she proved her spouse was dependant on her for over half his support. Plurality suggested application of strict scrutiny to gender. Because of no majority - level of scrutiny for gender left unclear.
Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur
Court declared unconstitutional a school board regulation that required that pregnant women take maternity leave at a fixed point in their pregnancies. Said it created an impermissible irrebuttable presumption that women could not perform adequately after that point of their pregnancy.
Craig v. Boren
Supreme court finally agreed on intermediate scrutiny. Law with alcohol 3.2 beer.
Need important government interest and substantial relation. The most important single rule to remember in the entire area of middle-level scrutiny is that sex-based classifications get middle level review. So if government intentionally classifies on the basis of sex, it’s got to show that it’s pursuing an important objective, and that the sex-based classification scheme is substantially related to that objective.
US v. Virginia
Exclusion of women was found unconstitutional because it was based entirely on gender stereotypes. Stereotypes: be on the lookout for stereotypes: if the legislature has made a sex-based classification that seems to reinforce stereotypes about the proper place of women it probably cannot survive middle level review. Virginia maintains Virginia Military Institute as an all-male college, because of the state’s view that only men can handle the school’s harsh, militaristic method of producing citizen soldiers. Held: this sex based scheme does not satisfy mid-level review because it stems from traditional ways of thinking about gender roles; there are clearly some women who are qualified for and would benefit from the VMI approach, and these women may not be deprived of the opportunity to attend VMI. Exceedingly persuasive justification: although the supreme court still gives gender based classifications only mid-level, not strict, scrutiny, the court now applies that scrutiny in a very tough way. The court now says that it will require an exceedingly persuasive justification for any gender based classification and will review it with skeptical scrutiny.
Lochner v. New York
Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a NY law that set the max hours that bakers could work. Violated due process clause of 14th amendment because it interfered with freedom of contract and because it did not serve a valid police purpose: protect public safety, health or morals. A law that infringes on freedom in the marketplace and freedom of contract is unconstitutional if it does not bear a reasonable relation to a legitimate governmental purpose. The general right to make a contract in relation to a person’s employment is an individual liberty protected by the due process clause of the 14th amendment.
Nebbia v. New York
Upheld law that set prices for milk. Seems to question Lochner.
West Coast Hotel v. Parrish
Upheld state law that required a minimum wage for women employees. Made it clear it was abandoning Lochner. Government not limited to regulating for public health, morals and safety - can regulate for any legitimate purpose.
Ferguson v. Skrupa
Upheld KS law that made it unlawful for a person to engage in the business of debt adjusting, except as incident to the lawful practice of law. Shows the court no longer interpreted the due process clause to protect a right to practice a trade or profession or even freedom of contract.
Griswold v. Connecticut
Declared unconstitutional a state law that prohibited the uses and distribution of contraceptives and also to assist, abet, or counsel such a violation. Right of privacy is a fundamental right. Right to privacy found in 1st,3rd,4th,and 5th amendments. Avoided addressing it as a due process issue but really is one since bill of rights is applied to the states through the due process clause of the 14th amendment. The state may prevail only upon showing a compelling interest and the law must be necessary to accomplish that interest. Connecticut has not met this strict test.
Roe v. Wade
Upheld right to have an abortion. A pregnant woman has the constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy in its early stages, even when the abortion is not necessary to save the woman’s life. The right of privacy is fundamental stemming from the 14th amendment’s concept of personal liberty and is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Right to abortion is not absolute and must be balanced against state interests in protecting prenatal life. State had a compelling interest in protecting maternal health for 1st trimester because then abortions more dangerous than childbirth. Compelling point for baby is at viability.
Planned Parenthood v. Casey
Reaffirmed that states cannot prohibit abortion prior to viability. Overruled trimester distinctions in Roe. A woman has a constitutionally protected privacy interest in choosing to have an abortion before viability. However, the state has a somewhat countervailing interest in protecting potential life even before viability. This conflict seems to yield the following results:
a) no right to ban
b) regulation: the state has a far greater ability to regulate the abortion process than it did before Casey. The state may regulate only if it does not place an undue burden on the woman’s right to choose a pre-viability abortion. A regulation will constitute an undue burden if the regulation has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking a pre-viability abortion.
c) not a fundamental right that will be strictly scrutinized: apparently abortion is no longer a fundamental right and restrictions on it are no longer to be strictly scrutinized.

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