Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z is for Zelman

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris
[June 27, 2002, decided 5-4]

The Cleveland public schools were performing badly, so the State of Ohio began a school voucher plan where vouchers were given to parents, who then chose to enroll their children in participating public and private schools.  Both religious and non-religious private schools participated, but most of the participating private schools were affiliated with religious groups.  Certain Ohio taxpayers sued the State for violation of the Establishment Clause.

Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote that the "Ohio program is entirely neutral with respect to religion. It provides benefits directly to a wide spectrum of individuals, defined only by financial need and residence in a particular school district. It permits such individuals to exercise genuine choice among options public and private, secular and religious. The program is therefore a program of true private choice."

The purpose of the program in this case was secular, assisting poor children in a failing public school to complete their education.

Under the Private Choice Test developed by the Supreme Court, a voucher program must meet all of the following criteria to be constitutional:

1.  the program must have a valid secular purpose – here, providing educational assistance to poor children in a failing public school system.

2.  aid must go to parents and not to the schools – vouchers were given to parents.

3.  a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered – all students enrolled in the existing failing school system.

4.  the program must be neutral with respect to religion – parents were not required to enroll their children in a religious-based school.

5.  there must be adequate nonreligious options – participating schools included public schools in adjoining districts, secular private schools, and religious-based schools.

This decision interpreted federal law.  Most state constitutions have so-called Blaine Amendments which specifically forbid state funding of religious education. Ohio's Blaine Amendment was not considered by the Supreme Court in Zelman.  Other states have struck down similar voucher systems as violating their state Blaine Amendment. 

Did you guess right?
We're done with the A to Z Challenge.  Did you find these Supreme Court cases interesting?  Leave a comment!

DAY 120 - This day in legal and military history

April 30

NATIONAL Hairstylist Appreciation Day

NATIONAL Honesty Day

NATIONAL Oatmeal Cookie Day

NATIONAL Military Brats Day

NATIONAL Adopt a Shelter Pet Day

NATIONAL Bugs Bunny Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1492 Ferdinand & Isabella agree to bankroll Columbus

1789 In New York City, George Washington is inaugurated as the first president of the United States

1812 Louisiana is admitted into the Union as the 18th state

1889 Washington’s inauguration became the first US national holiday

1900 Hawaii annexed as a US territory

1931 The George Washington Bridge, linking New York City and New Jersey, opens

1939 US commercial television made its official debut at the New York World’s Fair.  The signal was transmitted from the Empire State Building.

1945 Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his bunker. Karl Donitz becomes his successor.

1975 The Vietnam War ended with South Vietnam's surrender to North Vietnam

1991 Over 131,000 were killed and as many as 9 million left homeless when a cyclone struck Bangladesh

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y is for Yoder

Wisconsin v. Yoder 
[May 15, 1972, decided 7-0]

Three Amish families were prosecuted under a Wisconsin law that required all children to attend school until age 16. The three families had no objection to formal education through the eighth grade, but refused to send their children to an organized school after the eighth grade, arguing that high school attendance was contrary to their religious beliefs.  After eighth grade, Amish children are taught vocational skills by their families.

Under Amish church standards, higher education is deemed unnecessary for their simple way of life, and the “values” taught in public high school endanger their salvation.  The families requested exemption from compulsory education because of these religious convictions. They sincerely held the belief that the values and the vocational education their children would learn at home would surpass the worldly knowledge taught in school.

The State of Wisconsin made two arguments. First, some degree of education is necessary to prepare citizens to participate effectively and intelligently in society, especially voting. Second, education prepares individuals to be self-reliant and self-sufficient.

The Court held that an individual's interests in the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment outweighed the State's interests in compelling school attendance beyond the eighth grade.   The evidence presented did not prove that an additional one or two years of formal high school would serve the interests of the state.

Pierce, Governor of Oregon, et al. v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary

[June 1, 1925, decided 9-0]

An Oregon statute, enacted primarily to target Catholic schools, required all children ages 8-16 to attend public school.  The Society of Sisters was a private Catholic school.

The Supreme Court ruled that children were not "the mere creatures of the state" and the traditional American understanding of the term “liberty” prevented the state from forcing students to accept instruction only from public schools. While the state has the right to ensure that children receive a proper education, this responsibility belonged to the child's parents or guardians, and the ability to make such a choice was a "liberty" protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The unanimous Court held that "the fundamental liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only."  Thus, private schools, and home schools, are valid educational options.

This decision marked the start of the Supreme Court's recognition that due process protected individual liberties.  As time has progressed, this liberty has been expanded to include the right to marry, to have children, to marital privacy, to have an abortion, and others.

Did you guess right?
Tomorrow is the last day of the A to Z Challenge!  Here's Sunday's hint - Z is for Zelman.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!

DAY 119 - This day in legal and military history

April 29

WORLD Wish Day

NATIONAL Shrimp Scampi Day

NATIONAL Greenery Day


NATIONAL Sense of Smell Day [last Saturday of April]

NATIONAL Pool Opening Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1429 Joan of Arc leads French forces to victory over English at Orleans

1813 Rubber is patented

1852 The first edition of Peter Roget’s Thesaurus is published

1861 The Maryland House of Delegates votes against seceding from Union

1913 Gideon Sundback of Hoboken patents the all-purpose zipper

1945 The German Army in Italy surrenders unconditionally to the Allies.  The Nazi concentration camp of Dachau is liberated by Allied troops.

1986 Pitcher Roger Clemens set a major league baseball record by striking out 20 batters in a regular nine-inning game. He repeated his feat in 1996.

1992 Four Los Angeles police offices are acquitted of charges stemming from the beating of Rodney King. Three days of deadly rioting followed, with 55 people killed, 2,300 injured, and an estimated $1 billion in property damage.

2010 The United States Coast Guard begins a controlled burn to remove oil spilled in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster

2011 Kate Middleton marries Prince William in a lavish royal wedding at Westminster Abbey in London

Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for Death

Yes, I know.  Somewhat of a cheat.  So sue me =) 

The current state of the death penalty in the US:

Gregg v. Georgia (1976) - Georgia's new death penalty statute is constitutional because it adequately narrows the class of defendants eligible for the death penalty. This case and the next four cases were consolidated and decided together. By evaluating the new state death penalty statutes, the Supreme Court ended the prohibition on executions that began with its decision in Furman v. Georgia (1972).

Proffitt v. Florida (1976) - Florida's new death penalty statute is constitutional because it requires the comparison of aggravating factors to mitigating factors in order to impose a death sentence.

Jurek v. Texas (1976) - Texas's new death penalty statute is constitutional because it uses a three-part test to determine if a death sentence should be imposed.

Woodson v. North Carolina (1976) - North Carolina's new death penalty statute is unconstitutional because it allows a mandatory death sentence to be imposed.

Roberts v. Louisiana (1976) - Louisiana's new death penalty statute is unconstitutional because it calls for a mandatory death sentence for a large range of crimes.

Coker v. Georgia (1977) - A death sentence may not be imposed for the crime of rape.

Enmund v. Florida (1982) - A death sentence may not be imposed on offenders who are involved in a felony during which a murder is committed but who do not actually kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place.

Ford v. Wainwright (1986) - A death sentence may not be imposed on the insane.

Breard v. Greene (1998) - The International Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction in capital punishment cases that involve foreign nationals.

Atkins v. Virginia (2002) - A death sentence may not be imposed on mentally challenged offenders, but the states can define what it means to be mentally challenged.

Roper v. Simmons (2005) - A death sentence may not be imposed on juvenile offenders.

Baze v. Rees (2008) - The three-drug cocktail used for performing executions by lethal injection in Kentucky (as well as virtually all of the states using lethal injection at the time) is constitutional under the Eighth Amendment.

Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008) - The death penalty is unconstitutional in all cases that do not involve murder or crimes against the state such as treason.

Did you guess right?
Here's Saturday's hint - Y is for Yoder.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!

DAY 118 - This day in legal and military history

April 28


NATIONAL Blueberry Pie Day 

NATIONAL Superhero Day

NATIONAL Hairball Awareness Day [last Friday of April]

NATIONAL Arbor Day [last Friday of April]

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1788 Maryland becomes the seventh state to ratify the constitution and become a US state

1789 The crew of the HMS Bounty mutinies against Captain William Bligh

1930 The first organized night baseball game is played in Independence, Kansas

1947 Thor Heyerdahl and five others began their Pacific Ocean crossing on the raft Kon-Tiki

1967 Muhammad Ali refuses induction into the US Army and is stripped of his boxing title

1992 The US Department of Agriculture unveiled its first “food pyramid” 

2004 CBS broadcast photos on “60 Minutes” showing US abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison

Thursday, April 27, 2017

W is for Wade

Roe v Wade 
[January 22, 1973, decision 7-2]

Jane Roe [a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey] was 21 years old and pregnant with her third child.  She desired to terminate her pregnancy but Texas law did not permit abortion, except to save the mother's life.  Henry Wade was the Dallas County District Attorney, representing the State of Texas.

The Supreme Court ruled that a woman's right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, but must be balanced against the state's interests in regulating abortions: protecting women's health, and protecting the potentiality of human life. The state's interest became stronger as the pregnancy developed. The decision gave a woman total autonomy over the pregnancy during the first trimester and defined different levels of state interest for the second and third trimesters. As a result, the laws of 46 states were affected by the Court's ruling.

The baby was born prior to the Supreme Court decision - a girl who was surrendered for adoption shortly after birth.  Her identity is unknown.  Norma McCorvey became a Christian and a member of the pro-life movement in 1995,  She supported making abortion illegal until her death in February 2017. 

Planned Parenthood v. Casey 

[1992, decided 5-4]

A woman is still able to have an abortion before viability, but several restrictions are now permitted during the first trimester. The strict trimester framework of Roe is discarded and replaced with the undue burden test.  The new standard asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an "undue burden," defined as a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability."

Did you guess right?
Here's Friday's hint - X is for Death [okay, work with me on this =) ].  There are several cases.  Can you guess one of the cases and what it's about?  Leave a comment!