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!

DAY 117 - This day in legal and military history

April 27

WORLD Pinhole Photography Day

NATIONAL Babe Ruth Day

NATIONAL Prime Rib Day

NATIONAL Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day [fourth Thursday in April]

NATIONAL Tell a Story Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1773 British Parliament passes the Tea Act [leading to the Boston Tea Party]

1861 West Virginia secedes from Virginia after Virginia secedes from the Union

1940 Himmler orders the construction of Auschwitz concentration camp

1983 Pitcher Nolan Ryan surpassed Walter Johnson’s strikeout record, which had held since 1927

1989 In China, more than 150,000 students and workers calling for democracy marched, cheered, and sang as they took over Tiananmen Square in central Beijing

2009 The low-flying Air Force One causes momentary panic in New York City

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for Voting

Bush v Gore 
[December 12, 2000, decision 7-2]

US presidential election laws are somewhat complex, but in general, the popular vote [citizens going to the polls, or mailing in their ballots, and voting] is not to directly elect the president, but to elect the “electors”.  In 48 states and the District of Columbia, the party whose candidate receives the majority of the popular vote is allocated all of that state's electors.  In Maine and Nebraska, the state's electors are divided by Congressional district, so not necessarily all of the electors of those states go to the party whose candidate won the popular vote.

The electors are people who are also elected, and they pledge [altho they are not required] to vote for that party's candidate.  An elector who does not vote as he has pledged, or abstains from voting at all, is called a faithless elector.  In December after the election, the electors gather and cast their votes.  Those votes are counted on January 6 of the following year.  The candidate who has 270 or more electoral votes is elected president.  Inauguration day is January 20 of the year following election.

For example, California has 55 electoral votes.  In 2016, the popular vote in California for president went to Hillary Clinton.  Therefore, the Democratic party received all 55 electors for California.  Those electors gathered in December and voted for president.  They are all pledged to vote Democrat, but are not absolutely required to do so.  Presumably, all or most of them voted for Clinton.

The basic purpose behind the electoral college is to prevent highly-populated states like New York and California from deciding elections.  By use of the electoral college, smaller states [the “flyover” states] have a bigger chance to impact the election.  But it can also mean that the person elected president did NOT receive the majority of the popular vote of the US.  For example, in 2016, Trump received the US electoral vote but not the US popular vote.

In the 2000 election, George Bush and Al Gore had basically tied in electoral votes, with Florida the “swing state”.  Whoever won Florida's electors would win the election.

On November 8, 2000, the Florida Division of Elections reported that Bush won the State of Florida with 48.8% of the vote, a margin of victory of 1,784 votes.  This margin of victory was less than 0.5% of the votes cast, and Florida law required an automatic machine recount. On November 10, with the machine recount finished in all but one county, Bush's margin of victory had decreased to 327.

Al Gore contested the Florida results.  On December 8, 2000 the Florida Supreme Court ordered a hand recount of 9000 contested ballots from Miami-Dade County. It also ordered that every county in Florida must immediately begin manually recounting all "under-votes" (ballots which did not indicate a vote for president) because there were enough contested ballots to place the outcome of the election in doubt. Each county had different rules and requirements for exactly how such a hand recount would proceed.  George Bush filed a request in the US Supreme Court, which granted review and issued a stay of the recount on December 9. It heard oral argument two days later.

The Supreme Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court decision ordering the manual recount, ruling that the recount violated the Constitution's equal protection and due process guarantees, since the methods and standard of manual counting varied among counties. The Court remanded the case to the Florida Supreme Court for remedy, but the required deadline for a recount ended at midnight that same day. The decision effectively ended the presidential election, with victory to George W. Bush.

Florida subsequently changed to new voting machines to avoid punch cards which had allowed dimpled or hanging chads.

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

DAY 116 - This day in legal and military history

April 26

NATIONAL Administrative Professionals Day [Wednesday of last full week in April]

NATIONAL Hug an Australian Day

NATIONAL Pretzel Day

NATIONAL Richter Scale Day

NATIONAL Help a Horse Day

NATIONAL Audubon Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1607 Colonists land at Cape Henry, Virginia. They would found Jamestown the next month.

1865 John Wilkes Booth is killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm 12 days after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln

1931 New York Yankee Lou Gehrig hits a home run but is called out for passing a runner.  The mistake ultimately costs him the home run record.

1968 US conducted an underground nuclear test, beneath the Nevada desert, of a one megaton device called “Boxcar”

1986 The world’s worst nuclear disaster occurs at the Chernobyl power plant in the Soviet Union

1994 Nelson Mandela wins the presidency in South Africa’s first multiracial elections

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for United States

More clarification of when the police need a search warrant. 

United States v. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
Also known as the Keith case
[June 19, 1972, decided 8-0]

Government officials used electronic surveillance [wiretapping] to record conversations of people it suspected of conspiring to destroy government property and bombing a CIA building.  This activity was done without a search warrant.

The Supreme Court ruled that government officials must obtain a warrant before beginning electronic surveillance, even if domestic security issues are involved. The "inherent vagueness of the domestic security concept", and the potential for abusing it to shut down political dissent, make the Fourth Amendment's protections especially important when the government engages in spying on its own citizens.

United States v. Jones
[January 23, 2012, decided 9-0]

Police investigators asked for and received a warrant to attach a GPS tracking device to the underside of Antoine Jones' car, but then exceeded the warrant's scope in both geography and length of time.   Antoine Jones was arrested in October 2005, for drug possession after police used the GPS device to follow him for a month.

The Supreme Court ruled that attaching a GPS device to a vehicle and then using the device to monitor the vehicle’s movements constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment.  The police here had a warrant, but they exceeded the scope of the warrant in time and place.  The search was invalid and evidence obtained was excluded.

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

DAY 115 - This day in legal and military history

April 25

WORLD Penguin Day 

NATIONAL East Meets West Day

NATIONAL Hug a Plumber Day


NATIONAL Telephone Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1719 Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe is published in London

1792 The guillotine is first used to execute highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier

1859 Work begins on the Suez Canal in Egypt

1901 New York became the first state to require license plates on cars

1938 A seeing eye dog is used for the first time

1945 Delegates from some 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations

1954 The first practical solar cell is publicly demonstrated by Bell Telephone Laboratories

1956 Elvis Presley‘s “Heartbreak Hotel” goes to number one on the charts

1971 The country of Bangladesh is established

1982 Israel completes Sinai withdrawal, in accordance with Camp David accords

1983 The Pioneer 10 spacecraft crossed Pluto’s orbit on its voyage through the Milky Way

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for Texas

Texas v Johnson
[June 21, 1989, decision 5-4]

In 1984 during the Republican National Convention in Texas, Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag in front of Dallas City Hall, in protest of Reagan administration policies.  No one was hurt, but some witnesses to the flag burning said they were extremely offended. One witness, Daniel E. Walker, received international attention when he collected the burned remains of the flag and buried them according to military protocol in his backyard.  Johnson was convicted under the Texas law prohibiting flag desecration.

The Supreme Court reversed Johnson's conviction, stating “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” 

The Court's decision invalidated laws in force in 48 of the 50 states [Alaska and Wyoming did not have such laws]. The issue remains controversial, with polls suggesting that a majority of Americans still supported a ban on flag-burning.  Congress passed a statute, the 1989 Flag Protection Act, making it a federal crime to desecrate the flag. In 1990, the Supreme Court in case United States v. Eichman struck down that law by the same five person majority of justices as in Texas v. Johnson, in an opinion also written by Justice William Brennan.  Since then, Congress has considered a Flag Desecration Amendment to the Constitution several times. The amendment usually passes the House of Representatives, but has always been defeated in the Senate.  The most recent attempt occurred in 2006.

Did you guess right?
Here's Tuesday's hint - U is for United States.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!

DAY 114 - This day in legal and military history

April 24

NATIONAL Pigs in a Blanket Day

NATIONAL Poem in Your Pocket Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1066 Halley's Comet appears.  Visible from Earth every 75-76 years, its next appearance will be in 2061. 

1800 The Library of Congress is established in Washington, DC with a $5,000 budget allocation

1833 A patent is granted for the first soda fountain

1898 Spain declares war on the United States, rejecting an ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba

1981 The IBM Personal Computer is introduced.  It used software from a corporation called Microsoft.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

DAY 113 - This day in legal and military history

April 23

WORLD Laboratory Day

NATIONAL Zucchini Bread Day

NATIONAL Take a Chance Day

NATIONAL Impossible Astronaut Day

NATIONAL Lover's Day

NATIONAL Cherry Cheesecake Day 


NATIONAL Talk Like Shakespeare Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1896 Motion pictures premiere in New York City

1954 Hank Aaron hit the first of his 755 home runs

1982 The Unabomber mailed a pipe bomb from Provo, Utah, to Penn State University.

1985 Coca-Cola announced that it was changing its formula and introduced New Coke

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Suicide

The right to die.  Also called physician-assisted suicide, death with dignity, and end-of-life choice.  Now accomplished by advance directives, “do not resuscitate” orders, and “no extraordinary measures” orders. 

Not the same as euthanasia, in which the doctor administers the lethal drugs.  In the right to die context, the doctor prescribes the drugs, the patient [or legal representative] administers them to himself.  Also not the same as mercy killing, in which a third party, typically a relative, performs the killing.

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health

[June 25, 1990, decided 5-4]

This was the first “right to die” case heard by the Supreme Court.

On January 11, 1983, Nancy Cruzan lost control of her car. She was thrown from the vehicle and landed face-down in a water-filled ditch.  Paramedics found her with no vital signs, but they resuscitated her.  After three weeks in a coma, she was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS).  She was given a feeding tube for her long-term care.

In 1988, Cruzan's parents asked her doctors to remove her feeding tube.  The hospital refused to do so without a court order, since removal of the tube would cause Cruzan's death.

The Court agreed that competent people had the right to refuse medical treatment, but it noted that incompetent people were not able to exercise this right for themselves. Because there was no guarantee that family members would always act in the best interests of incompetent patients, and because the decision to end treatment was irreversible, the Court said there had to be clear and convincing evidence that the patient would have wanted treatment to end.

After the Supreme Court's decision, the Cruzans gathered additional evidence that Nancy would have wanted her life support terminated.  The additional evidence met the “clear and convincing” standard and the feeding tube was removed.  She died on December 26, 1990.

The Cruzan case set several important precedents:  (1) the right to die is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution; (2)  established specific rules for what was required in order for a third party to refuse treatment on behalf of an incompetent person; (3) absent a living will or clear and convincing evidence of what the incompetent person would have wanted, the state's interests in preserving life outweigh the individual's rights to refuse treatment; and (4) the states determine their own right to die standards, no uniform national standard.

This case created a great deal of interest in living wills and advance directives.  In the first month after the Supreme Court ruling in Cruzan, the Society for the Right to Die received 300,000 requests for advance directive forms.

In re Theresa Marie [Schindler] Schiavo


For this case, the US Supreme Court denied certiorari [four times], which means the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, and allowed the lower court ruling to stand.

Terri had a heart attack in February 1990.  She was resuscitated, but suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen.  Two and a half months later, doctors determined she was in a “persistent vegetative state.”

After several years of therapy and other attempts to bring her back to awareness, in 1998 her husband Michael Schiavo petitioned the Florida court to have her feeding tube removed, stating Terri had told him she would not want to be kept alive with machines if there was no chance of revival.  Terri's parents opposed the petition, stating Terri was conscious.

In all, this case involved 14 appeals and numerous motions, petitions, and hearings in the Florida courts; five suits in federal district court; extensive political intervention at the levels of the Florida state legislature, then-governor Jeb Bush, the US Congress, and President George W. Bush; and four denials of certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States.  The case also attracted activism from the pro-life movement, the right-to-die movement, and disability rights groups.  Since Schiavo's death, both her husband and her family have written books about the case, and both have been involved in activism over its larger issues.

Gonzales v Oregon
[January 17, 2006, decided 6-3]

In 1994, Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act, which permits physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a competent adult, agreed by two doctors to be within six months of dying from an incurable condition.  This was the first state law authorizing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of controlled substances to terminally ill patients.

In 2001, US Attorney General John Ashcroft declared that physician-assisted suicide violated the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), and stated that any physician prescribing drugs under the Death with Dignity Act would have his medical license revoked.

The Supreme Court ruled that Congress intended the CSA to prevent doctors from engaging in illicit drug dealing, not to define general standards of state medical practice. Additionally, the CSA did not authorize the Attorney General to declare a medical practice authorized under state law to be illegitimate.  The Court ruled that the US Attorney General cannot enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act against physicians who prescribed drugs, in compliance with Oregon state law, to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives.

Did you guess right?
Here's Monday's hint - T is for Texas.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!

DAY 112 - This day in legal and military history

April 22

NATIONAL Girl Scout Leader Day

NATIONAL Jelly Bean Day


Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1889 The Oklahoma land rush officially starts at noon as thousands of Americans race for new, unclaimed land

1945 Adolf Hitler, learning from one of his generals that no German defense was offered to the Russian assault at Eberswalde, admits to all in his underground bunker that the war is lost and that suicide is his only recourse

1952 An atomic test conducted at Yucca Flat, Nevada, became the first nuclear explosion shown on live network television

1955 Congress orders all US coins to bear the motto “In God We Trust”

1976 Barbara Walters becomes the first female nightly news anchor on network television

1993 The US Holocaust Memorial Museum was dedicated in Washington, DC, to honor the victims of Nazi extermination

2000 Armed immigration agents took Elian Gonzalez from the Miami home of his relatives to reunite him with his father

2004 Pat Tillman former safety for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed in an ambush in Afghanistan. He had walked away from millions of dollars to join the Army Rangers and serve his country.

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for Riley

Riley v. California
[June 25, 2014, unanimous decision 9-0]

David Riley was a gang member in San Diego.  He and others opened fire on a rival gang member, then sped away.  Several days later, he was stopped for having expired registration and an expired license.  The car was towed and searched, and the police found guns which were later tied to the shooting.  When Riley was arrested, the police took his cell phone, searched it, and found photos of Riley and others making gang signs.

The Supreme Court decided unanimously that police need a warrant to search a suspect’s cellphone.  The search which accompanies an arrest is performed for officer safety and the preservation of evidence [including weapons and other contraband].  The cell phone can be removed but its contents cannot be searched without a warrant describing exactly what is on the phone that is implicated in the crime.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse.”

"Digital data stored on a cell phone cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate the arrestee's escape. Law enforcement officers remain free to examine the physical aspects of a phone to ensure that it will not be used as a weapon - say, to determine whether there is a razor blade hidden between the phone and its case. Once an officer has secured a phone and eliminated any potential physical threats, however, data on the phone can endanger no one."

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

DAY 111 - This day in legal and military history

April 21

NATIONAL Kindergarten Day

NATIONAL Bulldogs are Beautiful Day 

NATIONAL Chocolate Covered Cashews Day

NATIONAL Day of Silence

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1855 The first train crossed the Mississippi River’s first bridge

1862 Congress establishes the US Mint

1918 German fighter ace Baron von Richthofen, “The Red Baron,” is shot down and killed

1928 Bomb explosion in a midtown Manhattan loft, nine injured.  The case remains unresolved.

1997 The ashes of Timothy Leary, Gene Roddenberry, and 22 others blasted into space for the first space funerals

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for Quarles

New York v Quarles 
[June 12, 1984, decided 5-4]

A woman approached two police officers and stated she had been raped, gave a description of her assailant including that he was carrying a gun, and stated he had entered a nearby supermarket.  The officers entered the supermarket and found Benjamin Quarles who fit the description.  He was handcuffed and frisked.  The officer found an empty gun holster.  He said to Quarles “where's the gun?”  Quarles answered with “it's over there” and gestured with his head in the direction where the officer found a gun.  Thereafter, the officer read Quarles his Miranda rights.  The trial court ruled that Quarles' Miranda rights had been violated because he was questioned prior to being read his rights.

The Supreme Court ruled there is a public safety exception to the required Miranda warning.  Since the police officer's request for the location of the gun was prompted by an immediate need to assure that the gun did not fall into the hands of a customer or a potential accomplice to Quarles and would not be used to injure an innocent bystander, the officer's failure to read the Miranda warning did not violate the Constitution.  This exception is limited to questions focused on the immediate danger and will not carry forward after the danger has passed.

Other cases which erode the Miranda requirement, mentioned in my A is for Arizona post on April 1, 2017:

Berghuis v. Thompkins (2010) - The right to remain silent does not exist unless a suspect invokes it unambiguously.  Silence during the interrogation does not invoke the right to remain silent. 

Salinas v. Texas (2013) - A witness or suspect cannot invoke the privilege by simply standing mute; he or she must expressly invoke it.  This means if a person wants to invoke his right to remain silent, he must specifically state he is invoking that right.  If he does, then the state cannot comment at trial that he refused to answer the question.

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

DAY 110 - This day in legal and military history

April 20

NATIONAL Look-Alike Day

NATIONAL Volunteer Recognition Day

NATIONAL Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day

NATIONAL High Five Day [third Thursday in April]

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1789 George Washington is sworn in as the first president of the US, at Federal Hall, NY

1841 Edgar Allen Poe’s first detective story, Murders in the Rue Morgue, is published

1902 Marie and Pierre Curie isolated radium

1912 The Boston Red Sox played their first game at Fenway Park. They beat the NY Highlanders (in 1913 renamed the Yankees) 7-6.

1916 The first National League game is played at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, then known as Weeghman Park. The park was renamed Cubs Park in 1920 and Wrigley Field, for the Chicago Cubs owner, in 1926.

1971 The US Supreme Court upheld the practice of busing for racial desegregation

1999 Two students enter Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and open fire with multiple firearms, killing 13 students and teachers, wounding 25, and eventually shooting themselves

2008 Danica Patrick won the Indy Japan 300, becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race

2010 The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven workers and beginning an oil spill that lasts six months, leaking about 4,900,000 barrels of crude oil

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for Property

Dred Scott v Sandford
[March 6, 1857, decision 7-2]

This decision is called the worst decision the US Supreme Court has ever made.

Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia in 1795.  He was sold to a man who took him to Illinois and then Wisconsin territory [modern Minnesota], both of which prohibited slavery.  He would have been able to seek his freedom, but he did not.  His owner moved back to the South and Scott followed him.  After the death of his owner, Scott sought to purchase his freedom but was denied by the owner's widow, who later transferred ownership of Scott to her brother, John Sandford [actually spelled Sanford but was misspelled by the Court and the misspelling remained].


For Dred Scott: When a person enters a free territory, the free status overrides the previous status of slavery.   Dred Scott became free when he entered free territory, and that status did not change when he moved back to non-free territory.

For Sandford: To deprive a person of property (in this case, Dred Scott) without due process or just compensation violated the 5th Amendment, which states that “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Dred Scott was still a slave and Sandford's property rights could not be taken away by state or federal law.

The court's ruling:
1. Dred Scott was a slave, so “property”, so not a citizen.  Therefore he did not have standing to bring a case in federal court.
2. The Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional because it made slaves free if they moved to free states, and that would deprive the slave owner of his property without due process of law.

Approximately three months after this ruling, ownership of Dred Scott was transferred again and his new owner set him and his family free.

The Dred Scott decision was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

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

DAY 109 - This day in legal and military history

April 19


NATIONAL Hanging Out Day

NATIONAL Oklahoma City Bombing Commemoration Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1775 The American Revolution begins as fighting breaks out at Lexington, Massachusetts

1933 The United States went off the gold standard by presidential proclamation

1939 Connecticut finally approves the Bill of Rights

1960 Baseball uniforms begin displaying player’s names on their backs

1977 Alex Haley receives a special Pulitzer Prize for his book Roots

1993 The FBI ends a 51-day siege by storming the Branch Davidian religious cult headquarters in Waco, Texas

1995 A truck bomb explodes in front of the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O is for Obergefell

Obergefell v. Hodges 
[June 26, 2015, decision 5-4]

The lead case:

James Obergefell and other same-sex couples sued Richard Hodges, Director of the Ohio Department of Health and other similar officials in Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, arguing that the states' statutes banning same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  One group of plaintiffs also brought claims under the Civil Rights Act.

Michigan case:
DeBoer v. Snyder
A female couple who participated in a commitment ceremony and their three children, born to one of the partners.  The other partner wanted to adopt the children and be listed as the other parent.  Michigan law allowed adoption only by single people or married couples.

Ohio cases:
Obergefell v. Kasich
A male couple, a widower, and a funeral director are parties.  The couple was married in Maryland but their state of Ohio wouldn't recognize the marriage.  John Arthur, Obergefell's spouse, was terminally ill and they wanted the death certificate to include a “surviving spouse.”

The second case from Ohio involved four couples, a child, and an adoption agency.  The couples wanted to force the state to list both parents on their children's birth certificates.

Kentucky cases:
Bourke v. Beshear 

Four same-sex couples and their six children challenged Kentucky's bans on same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.

Love v. Beshear
Two male couples who were denied a marriage license.

Tennessee case:
Tanco v. Haslam 

Four same-sex couples wanted their out-of-state marriages to be recognized in Tennessee.

The case gained much national attention and had 148 amici curiae briefs submitted [friend of the court, written by non-parties, usually organizations that have an opinion as to how the Court should rule], more than any other US Supreme Court case.

The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry and that states cannot say marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples. "Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,"

Bottom line:  all states are required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages which are validly performed in other jurisdictions.

In closing, Justice Kennedy wrote for the Court:

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Loving v Virginia


In 1958, Richard Loving, a white man, married Mildred Jeter, a black woman, in the District of Columbia. When they returned to their home in Virginia, they were convicted of violating the state's statute banning interracial marriages.

In a unanimous decision, the Court struck down Virginia law. It rejected the state's claim that the law was constitutional because it applied equally to blacks and whites. The Court called race distinctions "odious to a free people" and said “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

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

DAY 108 - This day in legal and military history

April 18


NATIONAL Newspaper Columnists Day

NATIONAL Lineman Appreciation Day

NATIONAL Animal Crackers Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1775 American revolutionaries Paul Revere and William Dawes ride though the towns of Massachusetts warning that “the British are coming”

1906 A massive earthquake hits San Francisco, measuring 8.25 on the Richter scale

1923 Yankee Stadium opens with Babe Ruth hitting a three-run homer as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-1

1942 First issue of the newspaper for US armed forces, Stars and Stripes, was published

1946 The League of Nations dissolves

1978 The US Senate approves the transfer of the Panama Canal to Panama on December 31, 1999

1983 The US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is almost completely destroyed by a car-bomb explosion that kills 63 people, including the suicide bomber and 17 Americans

Monday, April 17, 2017

N is for New London

Kelo v New London 
[June 23, 2005, decision 5-4]

Suzette Kelo and other property owners sued the City of New London, Connecticut over its redevelopment plan.  The plan required taking their private property by eminent domain, not for a public use but to give it to another private entity.  By doing this, the city hoped to increase employment and tax revenues, and revitalize an economically distressed city which would, it argued, be a public use.

The Supreme Court decided the taking was for a “public purpose”, which expanded the definition of “public use”.  Therefore, so long as the property owners were compensated for their loss, this action did not violate the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause - “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Public reaction to the decision was widespread and highly unfavorable.  The city can take someone's property [so long at it pays fair compensation] and give it to a private entity like Wal-Mart?

The controversy was eventually settled when the city paid substantial additional compensation to the homeowners and agreed to move Kelo’s home to a new location.  Most of the homeowners left New London for nearby communities.

In spite of repeated efforts, the redeveloper was unable to obtain financing, and the redevelopment project was abandoned.  After Hurricane Irene in 2011, the now-closed New London redevelopment area was turned into a dump for storm debris.  As of February 2014, it was still vacant.  No new employment or tax revenue, and no revitalization, has occurred in that area.

Prior to Kelo, seven states specifically prohibited the use of eminent domain for economic development, except to eliminate blight.  In response to Kelo, as of June 2012, 42 states had enacted some type of legislation limiting eminent domain.  Only eight states had not passed laws to limit the power of eminent domain for economic development.

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

DAY 107 - This day in legal and military history

April 17

WORLD Hemophilia Day

NATIONAL Bat Appreciation Day

NATIONAL Haiku Poetry Day

NATIONAL Ellis Island Family History Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1492 Christopher Columbus signs a contract with Spain to find a western route to the Indies

1861 Virginia becomes the eighth state to secede from the Union

1937 Daffy Duck made his debut in Porky's Duck Hunt

1970 Apollo 13, originally scheduled to land on the moon, lands back safely on Earth after an accident

1986 IBM produced its first megabit-chip

Sunday, April 16, 2017

DAY 106 - This day in legal and military history

April 16


NATIONAL Wear Pajamas to Work Day

NATIONAL Eggs Benedict Day

NATIONAL Healthcare Decisions Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1922 Annie Oakley shoots 100 clay targets in a row, setting a woman’s record

1977 The ban on women attending West Point was lifted

2013 Mail to the US Senate is suspended after a letter sent to Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) tests positive for the poisonous substance ricin at an offsite Congressional mail facility. The letter is sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for further testing.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

M is for Marbury, Madison, McCulloch, and Maryland

Marbury v Madison
[February 24, 1803, decision unanimous which at the time was 4-0]

William Marbury was appointed Justice of the Peace by President John Adams under the Judiciary Act of 1789, but his commission was not delivered before Adams left the presidency.  His successor, Thomas Jefferson, ordered that all undelivered appointments remain undelivered.  His Secretary of State, James Madison, declined to deliver the remaining appointments.  Marbury sued Madison, because his appointment had been validly made and accepted by the Senate.

The Supreme Court ruled that Marbury had the right to his commission, but the Court did not have the power to force Madison to deliver the commission because the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional.

Marbury never became a Justice of the Peace.

This case is considered a landmark case because the Supreme Court gave itself the power to overturn
as unconstitutional a law passed by Congress.  The power to overturn a law is not expressly given in the Constitution.  Therefore, the Supreme Court basically decided it was the ultimate decision-maker regarding the US Constitution.

McCulloch v Maryland
[March 6, 1819, decision unanimous which at the time was 6-0]

In 1816, Congress chartered The Second Bank of the United States. In 1818, the state of Maryland passed legislation to impose taxes on the bank. James W. McCulloch, the cashier of the Baltimore branch of the bank, refused to pay the tax.

The Supreme Court ruled that Congress has powers “implied” but not specifically expressed in the Constitution, specifically here to create a Bank of the United States.  And the states are subordinate to the federal government and cannot pass laws which impede a valid federal law or action.

Did you guess right?
Here's Monday's hint - N is for New London.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!

DAY 105 - This day in legal and military history

April 15

NATIONAL Tax Day [except this year, Tax Day is not until April 18]

NATIONAL Take a Wild Guess Day

NATIONAL Glazed Spiral Ham Day

NATIONAL Rubber Eraser Day

NATIONAL Titanic Remembrance Day

NATIONAL Auctioneers Day [third Saturday in April]

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1817 Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet opened the first free American school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut

1912 With her band playing on the deck in the North Atlantic, the ocean liner Titanic sinks at 2:27 am

1923 Insulin becomes generally available for people suffering with diabetes

1955 Ray Kroc starts the McDonald’s chain of fast food restaurants

2013 Two bombs explode near the finish line at the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, killing three people and injuring 264 others

Friday, April 14, 2017

L is for Libel

New York Times v Sullivan
[March 9, 1964, unanimous decision 9-0]

Libel comes from written speech.  Slander comes from oral speech.

The Plaintiff, L.B. Sullivan, one of three Public Safety Commissioners of Montgomery, Alabama, sued the Defendant, the New York Times Company, for printing an advertisement about the civil rights movement in the South that he said defamed the Plaintiff.  The Defendant claimed that it authorized publication of the advertisement because it did not have any reason to believe that its contents were false. However, there was no independent effort to check its accuracy.  In fact, it did contain some false statements.

Under Alabama law, Sullivan did not have to prove he had been harmed personally, and a defense claiming the ad was truthful was unavailable since the ad did in fact contain factual errors. The trial court ruled in favor of Sullivan and awarded him a $500,000 judgment.

The Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity). Under this new standard, Sullivan's case collapsed.

A media defendant is not liable for libel regarding a public figure unless the media defendant printed an untruth maliciously or with reckless disregard to whether or not it was true.  Requires (1) media defendant and (2) public figure.  Once you have both of those requirements met, any written statement is not libel, even if it is false, unless the media defendant published the statement with “actual malice”, which means the knowledge that it was false, or with reckless disregard to whether it was true or false.

When we discussed this case in class, we spent quite a bit of time discussing various types of media, like whether it was a daily newspaper or a weekly news magazine.  A weekly has more time to verify its sources and facts, so it has a greater requirement to try to determine truth before publishing.  A daily can print something like “calls to NAME were not immediately returned” and it will have done its due diligence.  This is why you will read those types of statements in news articles, because the newspaper is covering itself to avoid a libel lawsuit in case their “facts” are not accurate.
Did you guess right?
Here's Saturday's hint - M is for Marbury, Madison, McCulloch, and Maryland.  Can you guess the cases and what they're about?  If you can't, look at the hint again.  Leave a comment!

DAY 104 - This day in legal and military history

April 14

Good Friday

INTERNATIONAL Moment of Laughter Day

NATIONAL Reach as High as You Can Day

NATIONAL Look Up the Sky Day

NATIONAL Dolphin Day 
 NATIONAL Ex Spouse Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1828 The first edition of Noah Webster’s dictionary is published

1865 President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated on Good Friday in Ford’s Theater by John Wilkes Booth

1900 The World Exposition opens in Paris

1969 In a record breaking night at the Academy Awards, a tie between Katherine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand resulted in the two sharing the the Best Actress Oscar.  Hepburn broke the record as the only actress to win three Best Actress Oscars.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

K is for Korematsu

Korematsu v. United States
[December 18, 1944, decision 6-3]

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese pilot crash-landed on an island of Hawaii.  Island locals detained the pilot, and enlisted the assistance of three Hawaiians who spoke both Japanese and English to help translate.  Those three Hawaiians assisted the pilot in an attempt to escape, which ultimately failed, but the rest of the locals determined that no person of Japanese descent could be trusted.

Three weeks later, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which authorized the War Department to create military areas from which any or all Americans might be removed.  On March 24, 1942, Western Defense Command began issuing Civilian Exclusion orders, commanding that all persons of Japanese ancestry move into relocation camps.

Fred Korematsu was a Japanese-American man who decided to stay in San Leandro, California, knowingly violating Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34.  Fred Korematsu argued that the Executive Order was unconstitutional and that it violated the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He was arrested and convicted. No question was raised as to Korematsu's loyalty to the United States. 

The Court sided with the government and held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Korematsu's rights. Justice Black wrote the majority opinion, and argued that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, is justified during circumstances of "emergency and peril." 

“Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and, finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders - as inevitably it must - determined that they should have the power to do just this.”

The dissenting opinions stated the decision was “racism, pure and simple.”

Today, most legal scholars believe this opinion was wrong, but that it might happen again during a time of war.

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