Stanley v. Illinois (1972)

Key Facts– Under Illinois law, the children of unwed fathers became wards of the state upon the death of their mother. This happened to Peter Stanley’s children when Joan Stanley died.

Issue– Is a regulation automatically taking children from their parents constitutionally permissible?

Holding– Of course not.

Result– Law overturned.

Reasoning– The integrity of the family is protected by Due Process. There is no way of categorically saying all unwed fathers are unfit to have custody of children. This statute runs roughshod over family rights, and it cannot stand.

Zablocki v. Redhail (1978)

Key Facts– Wisconsin had a law requiring that people who fell into some category (being behind on child support) get a special court order prior to getting a marriage license. It essentially made it impossible for Redhail to get married.

Issue– Is this sort of regulation constitutionally permissible?

Holding– No

Result– Law overturned.

Reasoning– Marriage is a fundamental right, and laws that make it more difficult to get married should be strictly scrutinized. This law effectively makes it impossible for some people to marry, particularly the indigent.

Loving v. Virginia (1967)

Key Facts– Virginia had a law that prohibited interracial marriage. Loving and his wife married outside of the state and then returned to Virginia.

Procedural History– Trial court sentenced the couple to one year in jail, suspended for twenty-five years. Trial judge noted “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Supreme Court of Appeals upheld constitutionality of the law, but modified the sentence. Supreme Court grants well-deserved certiorari.

Issue– Is a law prohibiting interracial marriage constitutional?

Holding– No.

Result– Law overturned.

Reasoning– This violates the Equal Protection Clause. Marriage is a basic civil right. This law should not still exist in 1967, especially given that Heart of Atlanta was three years before this case (my reasoning).

Interracial marriage, back when it was a novel concept (depiction of Othello)
Interracial marriage, back when it was a novel concept (depiction of Othello)

Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (1925)

Key Facts– Oregon required that all youths attend public school, and parents and guardians obtained orders of restraint against this.

Issue– Can a state compel all youths to attend public schools?

Holding– No

Results– Law overturned

Reasoning– The state is not acting under exigent circumstances here. Also, children are not “mere creature[s] of the state.” Their families have a right and a duty to nurture them, which includes providing an education.

Meyer v. Nebraska (1923)

Key Facts– In Nebraska, a law was passed making it illegal to teach languages other than English to students before 8th grade. Meyer was tried for teaching German to a ten-year-old.

Issue– Does this law violate Nebraskans’ rights?

Holding– Yes

Result– Law overturned

Reasoning– Though states have the power to enforce educational requirements generally, it is primarily a matter for family concern. Thus, it is protected from too much interference by the state, other than where needed for compelling reasons.

United States v. Carolene Products Co. (1938)

Key Facts– Congress’s “Filled Milk Act” prohibited shipment in interstate commerce of milk compounded with fat or oil other than milk fat. Carolene Porducts Co. challenges the constitutionality of the statute.

Issues– Does this law violate the Fifth Amendment? How about the Fourteenth?

Holding– No and no.

Result– Law upheld.

Reasoning– The Fifth Amendment does not prohibit Congress making this regulation. The states were held to be able to make a similar regulation in Hebe Co. v. Shaw, which means it is not forbidden under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plus, there is evidence that regulation of milk might be helpful for public health reasons. The Court here essentially commits to respect Congress’s factual judgment on such matters into the future.

Nebbia v. New York (1934)

Key Facts– A law was passed in New York, establishing a Milk Control Board that could fix milk prices. Someone sold milk at below the set price.

Issue– Is this regulation constitutional?

Holding– Yes.

Result– Regulation affirmed.

Reasoning– Milk is a public necessity, which is why it’s highly regulated in New York. Here, unrestricted competition was perceived as having the possible effect of aggravating existing problems and reducing the stability of the milk market. Thus, this policy might have the effect of promoting the public welfare, and is within the state police power.

Lochner v. New York (1905)

Key Facts– A law was passed, limiting the number of hours people working in bakeries and certain related jobs could work to sixty per week and ten per day.

Issue– Is such a law, restricting employer-employee conduct, constitutional?

Holding– No.

Result– Law overturned

Reasoning– The statute interferes with the right to contract, which is a liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. This is also not something that can be regulated under state police power, which is construed as referring to safety, health, morals, and general welfare of the public only. In different areas of employment, limiting working hours to a certain number might make sense. In mining, it might make sense that hours be limited by the government for safety reasons. Here, the court rules that there is no such reasonable ground for interference in baking. Public safety is not benefited by the statute, and they suggest that should be the criteria used to examine a statute purporting to promote public health.

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (1989)

Key Facts– DeShaney was beaten and permanently injured by his father, and he now sues the Department of Social Services for failing to act on his behalf and thereby depriving him of liberty in violation of the Due Process Clause.

Issue– Does the Due Process Clause impose a possible duty on state actors to protect people’s life, liberty, and property?

Holding– No

Result– Suit dismissed

Reasoning– Due Process is nowhere implied to create positive duties for the states. Rather, it protects from state action encroaching in certain areas. Further, Social Services had no affirmative duty to help the child, since Wisconsin law established no such tortious liability.

Reitman v Mulkey (1967)

Key Facts– California passed Proposition 14 in 1964, permitting people to refuse to lease, sell, or rent property to anyone for whatever reasons they choose. Reitman refused to rent a property to the Mulkeys, apparently based on their race.

Issue– Can a California law permit racial discrimination in private affairs such as renting property?

Holding– No

Result– Ruling by California court, preventing this discrimination,is affirmed.

Reasoning– Proposition 14 is a state permitting legal discrimination, even if the rule does not say so overtly. It also seems this was the lawmakers’ intent; this makes the law directly contradictory of the Fourteenth Amendment.