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Kent v. Dulles

Plessy v. Ferguson

Plessy v.
Ferguson is one of the most important Supreme Court cases, in which the Court held
that racial segregation is constitutional under the
“Separate but Equal” Doctrine. Justice Henry Billings Brown wrote the
Court’s opinion, which was voted on 7 to 1.

The Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1865,
states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist
within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”. It
goes on to say that Congress has the power to enforce legislature that will
prohibit the use of slavery. After
the phase of Reconstruction came to an end and the Federal troops were
withdrawn from the South, a series of laws known as the Jim Crow laws were put
into effect by southern states.

The Jim Crow laws claimed a
“separate but equal” quality for black Americans, but in actuality,
blacks were treated unfairly and unequally. Public places, such as schools,
restrooms, and methods of transportation, were kept segregated by “whites
only” and “blacks only” sections. Although the Thirteenth
Amendment abolished slavery, many people, especially Southerners, believed that
former slaves were still not considered citizens, and therefore, not guaranteed
all the same legal rights as whites.

Congress responded by enacting
the Fourteenth Amendment, which
stated that, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and
subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of
the State wherein they reside”. The Equal Protection Clause of this Amendment requires the
State to provide equal rights and protection to all people residing within that

Despite the Equal Protection Clause, the Civil Rights Cases of
1883 held that the Fourteenth Amendment restricts only the actions of the Government
and not the acts of individuals or private entities. Therefore, the South
continued to pass laws that kept whites and blacks separated.

In 1890, the State of Louisiana
passed a law that required blacks to use separate railway cars that were
supposedly equal to those of whites. A group of African Americans in New
Orleans formed an association called The Citizens’ Committee to Test the
Separate Car Act. This group hired a well-known attorney, Albion Tourgee, and
staged an act of civil disobedience where Homer Plessy agreed to violate the
Separate Cars Act and be arrested.

The Committee carefully staged
the event. Homer Plessy was a light skinned individual who was of African
ancestry. Plessy purchased a railroad ticket for a “whites only” car
and was then arrested when he announced on the train car that he was one-eighth
black and refused to move to the black car.

Plessy sued the State of Louisiana by claiming that the rights
that were guaranteed to him by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were
violated. The decision of Judge Ferguson was that the State had the right to
enforce racial segregation in railroad cars. On appeal, this decision was once
again upheld. The Committee appealed again to the United States Supreme Court
in 1896.

The Supreme Court also upheld
the ruling that entitled the State of Louisiana to engage in racial
segregation. The Court did not find that the State had violated the Fourteenth
Amendment and was not technically treating the races differently, but just
keeping them separate. However, in reality, most of the public places that were
designed for blacks were greatly inferior to those designed for whites. Plessy
was forced to plead guilty to the violation and pay a minor fine and the public
facilities remained separated.

The decision in Plessy v. Ferguson further promoted the racial
segregation in the South. States were permitted to enforce the Separate but Equal
Doctrine in public places. Separate but equal is based on the premise that the
facilities are kept in equal condition. However, this was not generally the

The Plessy v. Ferguson decision
began affecting public institutions immediately. Funding for educational
institutions was far less for African Americans. States that had initially not
participated in racial segregation began passing this legislation, and much of
the progress made during Reconstruction was reversed. The Separate but Equal
law stood until it was finally reversed in 1954 in the Brown v. Board of
Education decision.

Major Decisions-Roe v Wade

Major Decisions-Roe v Wade

The Roe v. Wade case would
prove to be one of the most controversial cases ever tried by the Supreme Court
. The implications leading to the Supreme
Court case itself, as well as the immediate aftereffects, are ones that are
still being debated today by numerous factions.

The main issue disputed in Roe
v. Wade was women’s rights to an abortion. At the time, several states had
restrictions considering abortion, ranging from the overall ban of the practice
to allowing abortion through approval of a medical panel. Furthermore, it would
be the opposition of several religious factions that would lend for more
controversy to the issue, specifically when the Supreme Court rendered a
decision in favor of allowing abortion to be a legal practice.

Roe v. Wade would become the landmark United States Supreme Court
decision on the issue of abortion. Even though the courts would render abortion
a legal practice, they also implemented certain restrictions, such as the right
to abortion being limited depending the stage of pregnancy. Additionally, the
courts provided for a viability clause, which was defined as the fetus’
potential for survival outside of the womb of the mother, even if artificial
aid is to be implemented. Medically speaking, viability occurs at about the
seventh month of pregnancy. However, it can occur beforehand.

Roe v. Wade would have Constitutional implications on several
levels. Firstly, those using the Constitution in opposition to abortion rights
cited that there was no implicit provision regarding the issue in the
Constitution. Because of this reason, many believed that such a right should be
within the power of the states to resolve and decide to implement. Chief
Justice Warren E. Burger, however, would delve into Constitutional law further
by examining its contained provisions, and thus, being able to confirm the
decision to grant the right to abortion within the scope of Constitutional

The Supreme Court would rule
that abortion was a fundamental right provided by the United States
Constitution. Initially, the decision was based upon the Constitution’s Ninth
. It was argued that the Ninth Amendment
rights granted to the people would encompass a woman’s decision to have an
abortion under the interpretation that the Ninth Amendment would protect
inferred rights not specifically enumerated by the Constitution.

However, it would be the
Fourteenth Amendment
 that would be more applicable
in the case for further protecting the right to privacy based on the
Constitution’s Due Process Clause. It was also ascertained that abortion rights
were protected by the Bill of Rights
 as a whole, wherever provisions
to the right of privacy, such as marital, familial, and sexual matters are

The Judges’ majority decision on Roe v. Wade itself proves to
exhibit how complicated the case actually was, for it was divided into twelve
sections plus a preface, which include all of the considerations that were evaluated
to render the decision in favor of Roe. One of the most important clauses contained
therein would be the Justices’ application of the Constitution without having
implemented any particular sentiment or emotion regarding the case regardless
of personal views. They would apply the Constitution without any reservation,
regardless of the outcome of the decision.

The majority opinion also
states that the decision would also be applied in concurrence with medical
views and history, for abortion was not just a legal issue, but a health issue.
Overall, the judges would conclude that the purpose of the Constitution was not
to evaluate conflicting issues or ideals, but rather to provide for rights and
regulations the commonwealth could agree upon to govern the country as a whole.

It is without a doubt that the final decision of the Supreme Court
in Roe v. Wade would end in controversy and such disputes are still encountered
today, with various grassroots movements existing that oppose abortion, as well
as religious entities stating their beliefs on the matter.

Those that support abortion
rights have gone so far as citing the Thirteenth Amendment
, claiming that denying abortion rights would compel a
woman to forcefully bear a child and undergo pregnancy, which can be considered
“involuntary servitude”. Even though this argument has not
necessarily been evaluated in terms of Constitutionality, it proves to be yet
another viewpoint that uses Constitutional law against abortion bans.

Major Decisions-Texas v. Johnson

Major Decisions-Texas v. Johnson

The Supreme Court has on various occasions dealt
with cases that have the First Amendment
 at the crux of the dispute. In
other Supreme Court Cases, the judgments rendered have proven that the First
Amendment and the Freedom of Speech are not constricted to that of the written
and spoken word, but also extend to symbolic speech as well. Texas v. Johnson
is yet another Supreme Court case in which the application and interpretation
of First Amendment rights is at the heart of the dispute.

Texas v. Johnson deals with quite a controversial issue, one that
continues today. Gregory Lee Johnson was participating in a demonstration that
was denouncing and protesting some of the policies incurred by the Reagan
Administration. In a form of protest, Johnson managed to get his hands on an
American flag and proceeded to douse it in kerosene and light it ablaze. Though
many of his protesting comrades understood the symbolism behind his actions and
probably applauded him for it, there were many others who were just as
disgusted and offended.

The issue brought civil
penalties against Johnson, including a $2,000 fine, as well as a year in
prison. The conviction was brought on appeal to Texas State courts. The first
appeal was rejected, but Johnson’s second appeal to yet a higher State court overturned
the conviction. The decision was based upon his actions being protected under
First Amendment rights.

The State of Texas then brought
the matter to the Supreme Court, under the argument that the flag was a
national symbol and that flag burning was not only a desecration of national
unity, but also a breach of peace. Furthermore, Texas had State laws and
statutes that prohibited flag burning. Texas was one of the many states having
similar provisions, with the exception of only two states in the country not
imposing such regulations.

The Chief Justice at the time was William Rehnquist, who would be
responsible for presiding over Texas v. Johnson. The Supreme Court eventually
rendered a decision in one of the most closely decided and controversial
decisions of the Supreme Court. The decision rendered concluded that Johnson’s
flag burning was Constitutionally-protected under First Amendment rights.

The Court held that even though
such an act was not a verbal or written speech, is was protected under the
concept of symbolic speech. A similar decision was arrived at in a previous
landmark Supreme Court case in Tinker v. Des Moines
. Furthermore, the Supreme Court would also state that regardless
of the State of Texas’ intents of preserving unity and protecting a national
symbol, they were not valid arguments for the case.

Concurrently, the Supreme Court
would also strike down the State’s argument regarding the breaching of the
peace. Since Johnson’s flag burning did not actually harm anyone or threaten
danger to the community, no disturbance or breach of peace actually took place.
The Court did state, however, that flag burning could be punishable by law in instances
where it constitutes an actual danger or lawless action. Though flag burning,
as an action, will not always present such a circumstance and its potential for
such can be grounds to punish the act, flag burning must be actual and readily
identifiable as a real threat or lawless action.

The consequences of Texas v. Johnson still have effects today, for
the issue still remains controversial. On the Constitutional level, Texas v.
Johnson has incited several bills proposed by Congress (See Also: The
Constitution-Article I
) that would prohibit flag burning in the United States on
a national level. A law by Congress did manage to get passed, but was
eventually struck down by the same five person majority of Justices that tried
the Texas v. Johnson case.

Major Decisions-Tinker v Des Moines

Major Decisions-Tinker v Des Moines

Tinker v.
Des Moines would prove to be a reflection of the era in which it was tried by
the Supreme Court. The Civil Rights Movement was reaching a heated pitch and
the Vietnam War was being protested by many throughout the country. Protests
and rallies were all being held in order to show the discontent with the United
States’ involvement in Vietnam and most were avid supporters of the
 First Amendment and the civil liberties guaranteed under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Tinker
v. Des Moines would directly be a product of the occurrences of the
revolutionary 1960s.

Tinker v. Des Moines was a Supreme Court case that would once
again deal with the application of the Constitution’s First Amendment rights
granted to citizens of the United States. The case revolves around a group of
teenagers wearing black armbands with a peace symbol embedded within in protest
of the Vietnam War. The School Board was informed of the practice and banned
the wearing of such armbands in school.

Certain students, among them
John and Mary Beth Tinker, decided to violate the policy, which subsequently
got them both, along with other students, suspended from their respective
schools. The matter was tried in various State courts, with each judgment being
ruled in favor of the Des Moines School Board. The Tinkers had no other choice
than to bring the matter before the United States Supreme Court

Presiding over the case was Chief Justice Earl
Warren, which would eventually help overrule the State of Iowa’s decisions to
uphold the actions of the Des Moines School Board. It was decided that such a
penalty to be imposed upon students would be in violation of the Freedom of
Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that
the First Amendment applied to public schools and their students. Any type of
censorship that is sought on behalf of the school boards would have to provide
for a Constitutionally-valid reason or purpose.

Even though
the protest in question in the Tinker v. Des Moines case does not actually
involve a verbal speech, the wearing of the armband is considered as symbolic
speech and is protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that
in order for the restriction of free speech to be Constitutional, it must
provide for that speech to be disruptive to the function of school and/or
interfere with other students’ rights. Censoring free speech on the basis that
it is unpopular or causes discomfort is not grounds to restrict the Freedom of

Even though the Court rendered that the freedom of
speech was to be upheld in public schools, there were those on behalf of the
minority involved in the decision that disagreed with the ruling. They believed
that if the students were given more freedoms on school grounds, that it would
eventually defeat the educational purposes of a school facility due to the
disruption caused by students exercising Freedom of Speech rights without
control. Regardless, the First Amendment rights to students were upheld in the
Tinker v. Des Moines case.

Mapp v. Ohio

Mapp v. Ohio


Mapp v. Ohio (1961) was a landmark United States Supreme Court case regarding the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as it relates to criminal procedure. The Court held that evidence that was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment could not be used against someone in State or Federal court.

The Fourth Amendment protects the rights of people from "unreasonable searches and seizures", as well as ensures that no warrants are issued without probable cause. Mapp v. Ohio was the first time this Amendment was applied to criminal procedure in State courts.

A Cleveland, Ohio woman, Dollree Mapp, was suspected of harboring a fugitive in her home. Police officers arrived at her home and demanded entrance. When she refused, they forcibly broke down her door and entered the premises. Mapp requested a search warrant from the officers who presented a piece of paper they claimed was a valid search warrant, but did not allow her to view it. Upon searching the entire house, the officers did not find a fugitive. Instead they discovered a trunk containing lewd photographs and books.

Mapp was arrested based on the violation of an Ohio law banning obscene material. The evidence discovered by police in her home was presented and used against her in court. In Mapp v. Ohio, the police officers never actually presented a search warrant to the court. Mapp was convicted and appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Although two previous Supreme Court cases regarding criminal procedure had found that evidence obtained illegally could not be used against the defendant in court, this had never been applied in State courts before Mapp v. Ohio. It was not until this landmark case that this exclusionary rule began to be enforced in criminal procedure. This case was decided on a 6-3 vote.

In the majority opinion written by Justice Thomas Clark, the Court held that the exclusionary rule also applies to State courts. The Court used the rights of the Fourth Amendment that protect against unreasonable searches, as well as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This Clause protects citizens from the loss of liberties without due process of the law.

Justice Clark added to the decision by saying that it does not in any way permit criminals to break the law simply because of the police officer's error in criminal procedure. He observed that the exclusionary rule is imminent in both these Amendments and that the Government must abide by its own laws.

Another concurring Justice wrote that this decision of the Court was also based on the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure, he claimed, was not binding enough to deny the use of illegally obtained evidence from being used to convict a criminal. However, in combination with the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination, the use of this evidence in criminal procedure is unconstitutional. Mapp v. Ohio was influential in providing stricter enforcement of the exclusionary rules, as well as extending this policy to use in State courts.

New York Times v. Sullivan

New York Times v. Sullivan

New York
Times v. Sullivan (1964) is a significant
 United States Supreme Court case which held that the court
must find evidence of actual malice before it can hold the press guilty for
defamation and libel against a public figure. This was a landmark Supreme Court
decision regarding freedom of the press.

New York Times v. Sullivan
established the actual malice standard which requires the plaintiff to prove
that the publisher was aware that the statement was false and published it
anyway. This places a very high burden of proof on the plaintiff in libel

The concept of public figures
is important in freedom of the press cases. A public figure is a person that
puts themselves in the eye of the public, such as a politician or celebrity.
These individuals have the burden of proof in defamation and libel cases. This
was a very controversial issue at the time because of the highly publicized
civil rights cases in the South, where many Southerners continued to practice

News organizations that desired
to run these stories were often hesitant due to fear that they would be dragged
into a libel suit. When the Supreme Court held in New York Times v. Sullivan
that the Times was not guilty of libel, it opened up many opportunities for
news sources to print stories about the civil rights cases in the South.

In 1960, the New York Times ran an advertisement about Martin
Luther King that contained inaccuracies about the conduct of the Montgomery,
Alabama police department. The newspaper alleged that the police department
took unlawful action against civil rights protesters. The Montgomery Police Commissioner,
L. B. Sullivan, wrote a letter to the New York Times demanding they run a
retraction of the story. When the Times refused, Sullivan brought suit against
the newspaper and received damages. The Times still did not publish a retraction
because they claimed the advertisement did not specifically name Sullivan and
was not a condemnation of his conduct.      

In New York Times v. Sullivan, the United State Supreme Court held
that the actions of the New York Times were not sufficient for a libel suit.
The New York Times was protected under the freedom of the press clause of the
First Amendment
, which states that “Congress shall make no
law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. The Court ruled
under the actual malice standard. This would require Sullivan to prove that the
New York Times knew the statements against him were untrue and acted recklessly
through a conscious lack of investigation by publishing them. The Supreme Court
determined that the Alabama State court’s award of punitive damages to Sullivan
was not appropriate due to the Times’ Constitutional right to freedom of the

New York
Times v. Sullivan was the first time that the Court used the concept of actual
malice in a freedom of the press case. The actual malice standard requires the
plaintiff to prove that the plaintiff had knowledge of the untruth of the
statements published, rather than the plaintiff having to prove the truth of
the statements.

Northern Securities Co v. United States

Northern Securities Co v. United States

The ruling
of Northern Securities Co. v. the United States was an important judicial
decision regarding antitrust law. Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote the decision
for this case.

In Northern
Securities v. the United States, the
 Supreme Court held that the Northern
Securities Company was operating as a monopoly
 and ruled to dissolve it. This
decision strengthened the power of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and broadened the
interpretation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause
. The purpose of the Sherman Act is to limit the use of
monopolies, which hinder competition between companies.

Prior to this ruling, which
occurred under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, many politicians were
hesitant to enforce this law. The Northern Securities Co. v. United States
decision was the first significant application of this Act.

The Northern Securities Company was a trust formed in 1902 by E.
H. Harriman, James Hill, J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller, that owned and
operated several of the major railways in the United States. Before this
company was created, Hill, who was in control of the Great Northern Railway,
and Harriman, who owned the Northern Pacific Railway, battled to gain control
of the Burlington line that would allow each of their rails access to Chicago,
Illinois. Hill and Harriman waged a war to buy out the most shares of the
Burlington Railroad’s stock and, as a result, ended up significantly increasing
the purchase price of railroad stock.

As a means to resolve the
conflict, the men formed the Northern Securities Company as a monopoly that
controlled the Great Northern Railway, the Northern Pacific Railway, the
Burlington Railroad, and several others. Once the public became aware of the
monopoly, a plan by President Roosevelt followed quickly to file suit against
the Northern Securities Company.

The Court held that the existence of the Northern Securities
Company eliminated the competition between the companies that formed it and,
consequently, eliminated the ability of other similar companies to compete with
the monopoly. The Court found that the formation of this company was in fact
intended to eliminate competition and it was, therefore, ordered to dissolve.
The Court was operating based on the Commerce Clause of the United States

The Commerce Clause states that
Congress has the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and
among the several States…”. This is what gives the Supreme Court power
to dissolve any company that they determine to be a monopoly. The Supreme Court
 found that the actions of the
company were unreasonable enough that it constituted a monopoly. 

Congress applied a broad interpretation of the Commerce
Clause in the Northern Securities Co. v. United States decision. Theodore
Roosevelt was the first politician to strictly enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust
Act and gave others the ability to do so. After this decision, several other
cases appeared before the Supreme Court that were similar in circumstances. The
Northern Securities case formed a precedent, and these cases were given similar

Major Decisions-New Jersey v. T.L.O.

Major Decisions-New Jersey v. T.L.O.

The Supreme Court has an extensive history in
hearing cases in which the Amendments contained in the Bill of Rights
 are the issue of an alleged
violation or infringement situation. However, the majority of the cases deal
with adults in real world situations. On certain occasions, the question as to
how the Constitution applies to students or those not legally considered adults

A case in the 1960s, known as
Tinker v. Des Moines
, is an
example of students and the application of Constitutional rights. The subject
would arise some twenty years later once again in New Jersey v. TLO.

The case of New Jersey v. TLO is in regards to a student being
searched on school grounds because she was thought to be smoking in a
non-smoking area of the campus. Even though TLO–such as the girl was referred
to due to her name not being released because of her age–denied the
accusations of her smoking, she was brought to the principal’s office. Once
there, the assistant vice-principal searched TLO’s purse, in which she found
marijuana, several forms of paraphernalia, and letters that indicated that she
was involved in dealing marijuana at her school. Subsequently, TLO would be
brought up on charges by the local police and sentenced to one year probation.

The matter was brought to the
New Jersey Supreme Court, in which the probation charges were overturned on the
grounds that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution had been violated on
TLO’s behalf. The State of New Jersey would then appeal to the United States
Supreme Court.

Warren E. Burger was the Chief Justice presiding over New Jersey v.
TLO. After reviewing the case and the application of the Fourth Amendment
these circumstances, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey. The Fourth
Amendment was used to argue that the search conducted by the school official
was unwarranted, and therefore, a violation of TLO’s Constitutional rights.

The main
issue at hand was that even though the Fourth Amendment is to be applied to all
people of the United States, in certain instances there has to be a balance in
which its application cannot extend its limits that disrupt certain procedures
affecting safety and the overall well-being of a group of people. Such was the
case in New Jersey v. TLO, in which it was determined that a school or
educational setting warrants some modification regarding the scope in which
student’s rights are applied.

Though the
Supreme Court did not denounce that the Fourth Amendment did not apply to
students, a certain consideration to its application in this type of setting
required some lax interpretations. The Fourth Amendment states that a search
and seizure cannot be lawfully conducted without a warrant or probable cause.
However, in a school setting, a search is considered to be reasonable and
within the constraints of the Fourth Amendment if there is reasonable suspicion
that criminal activity is suspected. However, the Supreme Court also rested its
decision that such types of searches are to be conducted by the school
themselves and that if law enforcement was to be involved, it could be in
breach of a student’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Major Decisions-New York Times v United States

Major Decisions-New York Times v United States

The U.S.
Courts have constantly battled with the interpretation and application of the
United States Constitution. An issue that is constantly arising in litigation
in the Supreme Court is the
 First Amendment of the Constitution. The rights
guaranteed under the First Amendment, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of
press, and freedom of religion, have often been the subject of debate in the U.S.
Courts and continue to be so in today’s society. U.S. Courts would once again
have the responsibility of evaluating First Amendment rights once again in
1971, when the Supreme Court
 would hear the New York Times v. United States case.

The New York Times v. United States would not be the first time that the U.S.
Supreme Court would hear a case dealing with the freedom of the press granted
under the Constitution’s First Amendment. However, this case was significant in
the sense that it would pit a Constitutionally-protected right against the
overall security of the nation. The case would be based on the fact that
 The New York Times would
obtain a copy of Government documents that would be known as the “Pentagon

The Pentagon
Papers were a report originating from the Department of Defense that detailed
controversial Government tactics in regard to the Vietnam War.
 The New York Times wanted to publish the
documents and make them accessible to the public nationwide. Initially, an
injunction was levied against
 The New York Times that would prohibit it from
publishing the Government Pentagon Papers.

Government claimed that in making the documents public, the nation’s security
would be at risk. However, the famous newspaper would fight the injunction by
citing the First Amendment right to the freedom of the press.

Warren E. Burger was the Chief Justice to hear the
case in the Supreme Court. The Court faced a difficult decision regarding the
applicability of the First Amendment and to what extent the Constitutional
rights granted should be implemented. Even though the Constitution proves to be
the ultimate form of law in the United States, in certain instances its
absolute adherence could prove to be a dilemma, such as in this particular case
with the Pentagon Papers.

Key factors
that were considered were whether or not the publishing of the Pentagon Papers
proved to be a danger to national security and whether or not the people had
the right to be informed. Furthermore, the justification for rendering a
decision for either party can prove to have detrimental circumstances in the
form of future precedence for Constitutional interpretation of the laws.

However, the
Court would eventually grant the decision to
 The New York Times, holding that the First Amendment rights of the Constitution
should be absolute. Nevertheless, the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court
had been in disagreement in the final verdict and even had reservations about
hearing the case. Regardless, the case regarding the Pentagon Papers would be
ruled in favor of protecting First Amendment Rights, which would later become
used as precedence for further cases involving the freedoms granted by the

Major Decisions-Regents of U. of California v. Bakke

Major Decisions-Regents of U. of California v. Bakke

The Supreme Court of the United States seems to
have dealt with the many numerous issues that have proven to be of controversy
in the United States in modern history. One of these disputes is the
institution of affirmative action in the United States.

Affirmative Action history can
be argued to have its roots since the abolition of slavery and the suffrage
movements of both African-Americans and women. However, in modern applications,
the concept of affirmative action would be more distinctly defined in the
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke Supreme Court case. Through
this case, the affirmative action agenda would be brought before the courts and
its outcome would define the scope of the application of affirmative action in
terms of its constitutionality.

It is important to note that the Bakke case did not involve a minority
seeking to employ affirmative action as a means to accomplish a certain act. In
fact, it was something more along the lines of its opposite occurrence, in
which a white student sought admission into the University of California Davis
Medical School.

Allan Bakke had applied to the University
on two separate occasions and was denied admission, while students that were
considered members of minority groups were being accepted who had significantly
lower academic scores and accomplishments than Bakke. Bakke would then bring
the matter to the courts, stating that the affirmative action program of the
school was being used to exclude him from admission based on race. Therefore,
such action was a direct violation of the Fourteenth Amendment
under the Equal Protection Clause.

University would subsequently provide for a counter-claim which declared that
the school’s affirmative action special admission program was carrying out its
duties in a lawful manner.

The Chief Justice presiding over the Bakke case was Warren E. Burger. After investigating the
matter and evaluating the special program implemented by the University, the
Supreme Court would rule in favor of Bakke. The Supreme Court would find that
the practice of the University instituting a form of quotas regarding the
acceptance of minority students was an unconstitutional practice. For example,
the Davis Medical School would reserve 16 seats out of 100 for minority
students, leaving the remaining 84 seats to be filled under regular admissions

The Supreme
Court ruled that the University could not take race into account in regards to
making admissions decisions. This was in direct violation of two Constitutional
statutes: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth
Amendment. Title VI stated that no racial or ethnic preference shall be given
or granted to any particular group by any institution or program that was Federally
funded. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, it was deemed that reserving a number
of seats for minority students denied Bakke equal protection as provided by the

However, it
is important to note that in the actual decision in the
 Bakke case, there was no actual majority reached by the Supreme Court.
Furthermore, the Court did not rule on the implementation of the affirmative
action practice in general. Two factors were considered by the Supreme Court.
The factors were whether or not race could be used as a factor among many
others in admissions programs and whether a program could exclude members using
race as a basis. The majority would only be reached–and a slight one at
that–on the matter of members being excluded, which was deemed