Nguyen v. Immigration & Naturalization Service

Key Facts– A US statute determining whether or not the child of one US citizen parent and one non-US citizen parent was a US citizen imposed different requirements depending upon whether the mother or father was a US citizen.

Issue– Does this violate Equal Protection?

Holding– No

Result– Law affirmed

Reasoning– It’s easy to be certain of who a child’s mother is. It is much more difficult to be certain of paternity, especially when the parents are unmarried. From a practical biological standpoint, there are very real reasons for a legal difference in treatment.

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Frontiero v. Richardson

Key Facts– The uniformed services permitted a husband to claim his wife as dependent, but did not allow a wife to claim her husband as such, for allowance and benefits purposes. Lieutenant Frontiero sues to obtain the ability to claim her husband as a defendant under the uniformed services’ rules.

Issues– Does gender constitute a suspect category of discrimination under the Constitution? Is it unconstitutional for a government organization to discriminate based on gender in allocation of benefits?

Holding– Maybe and yes.

Result– Policy scheme overturned

Reasoning– Women, like minorities, have faced significant discrimination through American history. Here, the law violates basic norms in allocating legal burdens in an unnecessarily discriminatory way. Not all justices (only four) join the opinion that sex-based discrimination requires strict scrutiny, however.

Palmore v. Sidoti

Key Facts– A Florida court made a ruling divesting a mother of custody of her infant child, because she remarried to a person of a different race.

Issue– Is private racial bias and the possible injury it might inflict on a child a permissible consideration in removing an infant from its mother’s custody?

Holding– No

Result– Mother’s custody restored

Reasoning– The Constitution does not tolerate prejudice. While it cannot eliminate private prejudices, the law must never give it effect.

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990)

Key Facts– Nancy Cruzan was rendered incompetent due to injuries sustained in a car accident, and remained alive on life support. Her parents sued to have life support withdrawn, on the grounds that this would reflect her wishes.

Issue– Do a person’s guardians have authority to have treatment withdrawn for them, when there is no clear evidence of patient’s wishes?

Holding– No

Result– Person kept alive.

Reasoning– There was insufficient evidence of Nancy’s wishes to permit refusal of treatment. While people do have the right to refuse treatment, the state’s interests in preserving life justify a requirement of evidence that the refusal, in a case like this, reflects the patient’s wishes. Frankly, this makes sense, because if the state doesn’t require this, the consequences are pretty irreversible.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)

Key Facts– The Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act regulated abortion by requiring women to give informed consent, be provided with certain information 24 hours prior, and notify her spouse, if she were married.

Issue– Are these conditions on abortion rights constitutional?

Holding– Yes regarding the first two conditions; no regarding spousal notification

Result– Law partially stricken.

Reasoning– The Court here rejects Roe’s trimester framework, because it undervalues the state interest in prenatal life, and it is not a necessary (or even particularly well-founded) perspective on prenatal life. The Court says only laws that create an “undue burden” on the right to choose should be struck down. However, people’s rights cannot change when they’re married, and the requirement to inform the spouse is therefore an undue burden.

Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972)

Key Facts– Massachusetts convicted Baird for distributing contraceptives to people not married, and without being a pharmacist or doctor.

Issue– Is Massachusetts’ distinction between married and unmarried couples based on rational grounds?

Holding– No

Result– Law struck down

Reasoning– The law cannot be intended to deter premarital sex, because that would make fornication punishable by pregnancy, and also because this would have barely any effect on the desired goal. Also, the right to contraceptive access must be the same for married and unmarried people. The right to privacy belongs to everyone.

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

Key Facts– Connecticut had a statute prohibiting the use of contraceptives. Griswold worked with Planned Parenthood in disseminating contraceptives. After Griswold was arrested and fined, she appealed.

Issue– Is there a right to contraceptive use?

Holding– Yes

Result– Law overturned.

Reasoning– Rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights have additional implications, “penumbras.” The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments each create certain privacy rights, from which other rights may be inferred. Here, Connecticut violates a married couple’s right to privacy through its law.

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Troxel v. Granville (2000)

Key Facts– Washington’s law permitted anyone to petition a court for visitation rights to a child at any time. Grandparents Jennifer and Gary Troxel petitioned for the right to visit their grandchildren, while Granville, the mother, opposed.

Issue– Does the Washington law unconstitutionally interfere with parental rights?

Holding– Yes

Result– Law overturned

Reasoning– Parental rights deserve to be accorded significant deference by the law. Under Due Process, the parents’ determination of their child’s best interests should receive special weight. Here, it seems that based on the local law, the lower courts behaved in the opposite way.

Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio (1977)

Key Facts– An ordinance in East Cleveland limited occupancy of a dwelling unit to members of a single family, with “family” specifically defined. Moore appeals her conviction for permitting her grandchildren to live with her.

Issue– Does the ordinance violate Due Process?

Holding– Yes.

Result– Law overturned.

Reasoning– Cities cannot intrude so extensively into family life without a major interest involved. Here, whether it’s deliberate or not, a major impact of the statute is to dictate familial structures, which is unconstitutional.

Michael H. v. Gerald D. (1989)

Key Facts– Under California law, children born to married women living with their husbands are presumed to be children of the marriage. Michael H. had an affair with a woman married to Gerald D., and Michael H. now sues for the right to establish his paternity of the child he fathered with the wife.

Issue– Are parental rights guaranteed when one alleges paternity of a child born to a married couple?

Holding– No

Result– California law held to apply to the case.

Reasoning– California law provides an assumption of paternity for the husband. Historically, the interests of men in Michael’s situation have not been protected through any special measures. To have Due Process protection, a right must be fundamental, rooted in tradition and conscience. Since no such right exists here, state law shall apply.