Tinker v. Des Moines Ind. Comm. School Dist.

393 U.S. 503 (1969)

Docket Number: 21

Abstract

Argued:

November 12, 1968

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided:

February 24, 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjects:

First Amendment: Miscellaneous

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts of the Case

John Tinker, 15 years old, his sister Mary Beth Tinker, 13 years old, and Christopher Echardt, 16 years old, decided along with their parents to protest the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to their Des Moines schools during the christmas holiday season. Upon learning of their intentions, and fearing that the armbands would provoke disturbances, the principals of Des Moins' school districts resolved that all students wearing armbands be asked to remove them or face suspension. When the Tinker siblings and Christopher wore their armbands to school, they were asked to remove them. When they refused, they were suspended until after New Year's Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Presented

Does a prohibition against the wearing of armbands in public school, as a form of symbolic protest, violate the First Amendment's freedom of speech protections?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

The wearing of armbands was "closely akin to 'pure speech'" and protected by the First Amendment. School environments imply limitations on free expression, but here the principals lacked justification for imposing any such limits.The principals had failed to show that the forbidden conduct would substantially interfere with appropriate school discipline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vernonia School District v. Acton

515 U.S. 646 (1995)

Docket Number: 94-590

Abstract

Argued:

March 28, 1995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided:

June 26, 1995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjects:

Privacy: Privacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts of the Case

An official investigation led to the discovery that high school athletes in the Vernonia School District participated in illicit drug use. School officials were concerned that drug use increases the risk of sports-related injury. Consequently, the Vernonia School District of Oregon adopted the Student Athlete Drug Policy which authorizes random urinalysis drug testing of its student athletes. James Acton, a student, was denied participation in his school's football program when he and his parents refused to consent to the testing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Presented

Does random drug testing of high school athletes violate the reasonable search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

No. The reasonableness of a search is judged by "balancing the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the promotion of legitimate governmental interests." In the case of high school athletes who are under State supervision during school hours, they are subject to greater control than over free adults. The privacy interests compromised by urine samples are negligible since the conditions of collection are similar to public restrooms, and the results are viewed only by limited authorities. Furthermore, the governmental concern over the safety of minors under their supervision overrides the minimal, if any, intrusion in student-athletes' privacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harmelin v. Michigan

501 U.S. 957 (1991)

Docket Number: 89-7272

Abstract

Argued:

November 5, 1990

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided:

June 27, 1991

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjects:

Criminal Procedure: Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Non-Death Penalty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts of the Case

Following his conviction under Michigan law for possession of over 650 grams of cocaine, Ronald Harmelin was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Harmelin challenged his sentence as cruel and unusual, claiming it was disproportionate to the crime he committed and was statutorily mandated without consideration for the fact that he had no prior felony convictions. On appeal from an affirmance by the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Presented

Is a statutorily mandated sentence that does not allow for consideration of mitigating factors a violation of the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishments?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

No. The Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, held that since the Eighth Amendment does not contain a proportionality guarantee, the determination of whether a punishment is "cruel and unusual" is not made with reference to the particular offense. Moreover, the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause protects against unusual methods of punishment, not necessarily cruel ones. As such, while Harmelin's life sentence may have been cruel, it was not constitutionally unusual or unprecedented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miranda v. Arizona

384 U.S. 436 (1966)

Docket Number: 759

Abstract

Argued:

February 28, 1966

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided:

June 13, 1966

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjects:

Criminal Procedure: Miranda Warnings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts of the Case

The Court was called upon to consider the constitutionality of a number of instances, ruled on jointly, in which defendants were questioned "while in custody or otherwise deprived of [their] freedom in any significant way." In Vignera v. New York, the petitioner was questioned by police, made oral admissions, and signed an inculpatory statement all without being notified of his right to counsel. Similarly, in Westover v. United States, the petitioner was arrested by the FBI, interrogated, and made to sign statements without being notified of his right to counsel. Lastly, in California v. Stewart, local police held and interrogated the defendant for five days without notification of his right to counsel. In all these cases, suspects were questioned by police officers, detectives, or prosecuting attorneys in rooms that cut them off from the outside world. In none of the cases were suspects given warnings of their rights at the outset of their interrogation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Presented

Does the police practice of interrogating individuals without notifiying them of their right to counsel and their protection against self-incrimination violate the Fifth Amendment?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

The Court held that prosecutors could not use statements stemming from custodial interrogation of defendants unless they demonstrated the use of procedural safeguards "effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination." The Court noted that "the modern practice of in-custody interrogation is psychologically rather than physically oriented" and that "the blood of the accused is not the only hallmark of an unconstitutional inquisition." The Court specifically outlined the necessary aspects of police warnings to suspects, including warnings of the the right to remain silent and the right to have counsel present during interrogations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gideon v. Wainwright

372 U.S. 335 (1963)

Docket Number: 155

Abstract

Argued:

January 15, 1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided:

March 18, 1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjects:

Criminal Procedure: Right to Counsel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts of the Case

Gideon was charged in a Florida state court with a felony for breaking and entering. He lacked funds and was unable to hire a lawyer to prepare his defense. When he requested the court to appoint an attorney for him, the court refused, stating that it was only obligated to appoint counsel to indigent defendants in capital cases. Gideon defended himself in the trial; he was convicted by a jury and the court sentenced him to five years in a state prison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Presented

Did the state court's failure to appoint counsel for Gideon violate his right to a fair trial and due process of law as protected by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

In a unanimous opinion, the Court held that Gideon had a right to be represented by a court-appointed attorney and, in doing so, overruled its 1942 decision of Betts v. Brady. In this case the Court found that the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of counsel was a fundamental right, essential to a fair trial, which should be made applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Black called it an "obvious truth" that a fair trial for a poor defendant could not be guaranteed without the assistance of counsel. Those familiar with the American system of justice, commented Black, recognized that "lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Jersey v. T.L.O.

469 U.S. 325 (1985)

Docket Number: 83-712

Abstract

Argued:

March 28, 1984

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reargued:

October 2, 1984

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided:

January 15, 1985

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjects:

Civil Rights: Juveniles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts of the Case

T.L.O. was a fourteen-year-old; she was accused of smoking in the girls' bathroom of her high school. A principal at the school questioned her and searched her purse, yielding a bag of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Presented

Did the search violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

No. Citing the peculiarities associated with searches on school grounds, the Court abandoned its requirement that searches be conducted only when a "probable cause" exists that an individual has violated the law. The Court used a less strict standard of "reasonableness" to conclude that the search did not violate the Constitution. The presence of rolling papers in the purse gave rise to a reasonable suspicion in the principal's mind that T.L.O. may have been carrying drugs, thus, justifying a more thorough search of the purse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Furman v. Georgia

408 U.S. 238 (1972)

Docket Number: 69-5003

Abstract

Argued:

January 17, 1972

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided:

June 29, 1972

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjects:

Criminal Procedure: Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Death Penalty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts of the Case

Furman was burglarizing a private home when a family member discovered him. He attempted to flee, and in doing so tripped and fell. The gun that he was carrying went off and killed a resident of the home. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death (Two other death penalty cases were decided along with Furman: Jackson v. Georgia and Branch v. Texas. These cases concern the constitutionality of the death sentence for rape and murder convictions, respectively).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Presented

Does the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in these cases constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Yes. The Court's one-page per curiam opinion held that the imposition of the death penalty in these cases constituted cruel and unusual punishment and violated the Constitution. In over two hundred pages of concurrence and dissents, the justices articulated their views on this controversial subject. Only Justices Brennan and Marshall believed the death penalty to be unconstitutional in all instances. Other concurrences focused on the arbitrary nature with which death sentences have been imposed, often indicating a racial bias against black defendants. The Court's decision forced states and the national legislature to rethink their statutes for capital offenses to assure that the death penalty would not be administered in a capricious or discriminatory manner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powell v. Alabama

287 U.S. 45 (1932)

Docket Number: 98

Abstract

Argued:

October 10, 1932

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decided:

November 7, 1932

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts of the Case

Nine black youths -- young, ignorant, and illiterate -- were accused of raping two white women. Alabama officials sprinted through the legal proceedings: a total of three trials took one day and all nine were sentenced to death. Alabama law required the appointment of counsel in capital cases, but the attorneys did not consult with their clients and had done little more than appear to represent them at the trial. This cases was decided together with Patterson v. Alabama and Weems v. Alabama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Presented

Did the trials violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Yes. The Court held that the trials denied due process because the defendants were not given reasonable time and opportunity to secure counsel in their defense. Though Justice George Sutherland did not rest the Court holding on the right-to-counsel guarantee of the Sixth Amendment, he repeatedly implicated that guarantee. This case was an early example of national constitutional protection in the field of criminal justice.