Lawrence v. Texas

Key Facts– Here, Texas made it a crime to have intimate contact with members of the same sex. Lawrence appeals his conviction under the statute.

Issue– Does a statute prohibiting homosexual conduct violate the Due Process right to liberty?

Holding– Yes

Result– Law overturned

Reasoning– Sexual conduct and lifestyle choices related to it should be respected by the state. This is a part of the “realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” Further, there is no legitimate state interest that justifies this.

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Romer v. Evans

Key Facts– Colorado passed an amendment to its constitution to prevent the passage of laws protecting homosexual and bisexual people.

Issue– Is this a violation of Equal Protection?

Holding– Yes

Result– Amendment stricken

Reasoning– This law changes the legal status of homosexual and bisexual people as a group, preventing them from receiving any protection from discrimination, now or in the future. This desire to effectively harm a vulnerable group that is politically unpopular can never constitute a legitimate state interest.

Johnson v. California

Key Facts– The California Department of Corrections (CDC) had an unwritten policy of racially segregating prisoners for up to 60 days when they entered a new corrections facility. Petitioner sues to overturn this policy.

Issue– Is strict scrutiny the proper standard of review for this policy?

Holding– Yes

Result– Strict scrutiny applied to all race-based classifications by the state, with this particular classification remanded for consideration in that light

Reasoning– All government racial classifications are subject to strict scrutiny, because there is a presumption they have a sinister purpose, or could have. Thus, the government must be pursuing a very important end to be permitted to discriminate, and it must actually achieve, or be critical to achieving, that end. Separate is, as a matter of law, not equal. At the same time, prison systems are a place where government power is at its apex, so their obligation to prove they had a prison safety interest in this policy is not completely fatal.

Washington v. Glucksberg (1997)

Key Facts– Washington had a law prohibiting assisted suicide. Dr. Glucksberg and colleagues sought to have this declared unconstitutional.

Issue– Does this law violate the “liberty” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment?

Holding– No

Result– Law affirmed.

Reasoning– Due Process liberties only include traditional, fundamental rights and liberties. The States have often prohibited suicide, which implies that it is not a protected liberty.

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.

Roe v. Wade (1973)

Key Facts– In the 19th Century and into the 20th, many American states adopted and enforced laws restricting or prohibiting abortion. These laws are ultimately considered in their totality by the court here, though the case that specifically gives rise to this decision is an abortion case coming out of Texas.

Issues– Can the states prohibit abortion? If not, can they restrict or regulate it? If they cannot prohibit it, but can restrict or regulate it, what’s the limit?

Holding– No. Yes. The limit is based on weighing the state’s interest in regulation against the privacy right.

Result– Right to abortion established.

Reasoning– An overview of world history shows that abortion has not been a universally reviled phenomenon. In the common law, the history until the 19th Century only shows sanctions for abortion that applied after “quickening,” or first fetal movement. The state has an interest in abortion for safety reasons and for the preservation of pre-natal life, both of which are significant. However, the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, and this must be weighed against the state interest.

Differing opinions...
Differing opinions…

Gonzales v. Raich

medical marijuana

Key Facts—California authorized the use of medical marijuana, in violation of Congress’s Controlled Substances Act. Nevertheless, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) enforced the Controlled Substances Act in California, and raided the homes of multiple people, finding and destroying marijuana when it located it. One of the people whose marijuana was destroyed was Raich, whose marijuana use was intended to treat conditions that would otherwise be excruciatingly painful and perhaps fatal. Thus, Raich brought action against the DEA and Attorney General for violating his rights.

Issue—Does the Controlled Substances Act overrule contrary California law? If so, is the Controlled Substances Act constitutional?

Holding—Yes and yes.

Result—Judgment against the government is vacated.

Reasoning—Well-settled law on drugs settles that Congress has the power to regulate them. The Court invokes Wickard here, and says that it controls, and that Raich’s lawyers, who tried to use Lopez and Morrison as precedents here, have interpreted those cases too broadly. Though the Supreme Court has strong reservations about enforcing this law, it is within Congress’s authority to pass it.

medical marijuana rules

New York v. United States (1992)

Key Facts—Congress had passed the Low-Level Radiation Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, altering regulation of radioactive waste. This would compel the states to dispose of radioactive waste a specific way.

NuclearRadioactiveWasteNoThanks

Issue—Can Congress compel the states to dispose of radioactive waste in the way that Congress would prefer them to?

Holding—No.

Result—Law partially stricken.

Reasoning—Congress has great power to coax the states into doing its bidding, but it cannot compel the states to dispose of radioactive waste in some specific way. Instead, it could, for example, force the private generators and disposers of waste to do what they want. However, Congress cannot use the states as tools to achieve their ends.

So, where do we put this?
So, where do we put this?