Monday, October 6, 2014

Landmark United States Supreme Court Cases

Landmark United States Supreme Court Cases

Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

Issue: Does the First Amendment prohibit public school officials from barring students’ from wearing black armbands to symbolize anti-war political protest?

Result: According to the Court, yes. The Supreme Court held that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech…at the schoolhouse gate.” Consequently, the Court found that the students’ speech could only be prohibited if it actually disrupted the educational process. Because there was no evidence of such a disruption, the school was in violation of the First Amendment freedom of speech.

Roe v. Wade (1973)

Issue: Does the Constitution prohibit laws that severely restrict or deny a woman’s access to abortion?

Result: Yes. The Court concluded that such laws violate the Constitution’s right to privacy. The Court held that, under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, states may only restrict abortions toward the end of a pregnancy, in order to protect the life of the woman or the fetus.

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Issue : Can an institution of higher learning use race as a factor when making admissions decisions?

Result : The Court held that universities may use race as part of an admissions process so long as “fixed quotas” are not used. The Court determined that the specific system in place at the University of California Medical School was “unnecessary” to achieve the goal of creating a diverse student body and was merely a “fixed quota” and therefore, was unconstitutional. The decision started a line of cases in which the Court upheld affirmative action programs. In 2003, such academic affirmative action programs were again directly challenged in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger. In these cases, the Court clarified that admission programs that include race as a factor can pass constitutional muster so long as the policy is narrowly tailored and does not create an automatic preference based on race. The Court asserted that a system that created an automatic race-based preference would in fact violate the Equal Protection Clause.