Korematsu v. United States

Key Facts– During World War II, people of Japanese ancestry were “excluded” from certain areas, without Due Process. This was to prevent espionage and sabotage. Korematsu sued in opposition to this, after having been convicted for remaining in San Leandro, California.

Issue– Is this order, if based in sufficient grounds in terms of military necessity, constitutional?

Holding– Yes

Result– Exclusion order upheld

Reasoning– Military necessity justifies actions against potential threats. Because there was evidence that some Japanese Americans were disloyal, and there was no efficient way to separate the loyal from the disloyal, this necessitated action against the group as a whole. This was not based in racism per se, and at the time, it seemed justified, so the Court declines to impose the knowledge they have in the present in judging the past decision.

Brown v. Board of Education

Key Facts– Several state laws segregating their schools were subjected to legal challenges on the grounds that they were not “equal” and could not be made equal.

Issue– Does segregation violate Equal Protection when present in public schools?

Holding– Yes

Result– Segregation in schools ruled unconstitutional

Reasoning– The Fourteenth Amendment Was intended by its strongest proponents to eliminate all legal distinctions between American citizens. Public education was not especially prevalent at that time, particularly in the South, which makes it hard to say how the Amendment was intended to apply to schools. However, the Court considers it important here to examine whether segregation, even if facilities were to be equal, would lead to unequal educational opportunities.Here, they conclude that it does.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010)

Key Facts– Chicago and Oak Park made laws prohibiting firearms, just like in Washington, D.C. prior to D.C. v. Heller.

Issue– Is the Second Amendment applicable to the states?

Holding– Yes

Result– Law stricken

Reasoning– The Due Process clause incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it to the states, because self-defense is a basic right, and the right to bear arms is therefore critical.

San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973)

Key Facts– Parents in Texas living in poorer areas felt their children were in sub-par schools due to a lack of property tax funding in their areas. Their parents sued to change the Texas system of financing public education.

Issue– Is there a constitutional right to education? If so, can Texas be sued for not providing an equal level of education to everyone?

Holding– No and no

Result– Suit dismissed.

Reasoning– Just because a state service is important, or even arguably necessary, does not make it a fundamental right. Here, there is also no clear discrimination against a well-defined category of the poor, so Equal Protection does not apply. The Court also notes there is no right to education in the Constitution.

Guess not.
Guess not.

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.

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.

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.