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.

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.