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Contracts Clause Explained

Contracts Clause Explained

Article 1 of the United States Constitution – within its ten sections – establishes the collective rights of all legislative bodies in the United States, such as Congress, the House of Representatives, the Senate, as well as the individual State governments. Specifically, within Section 10, it is written that a State is not allowed to pass any law that “impairs the obligation of contracts”. This is known as the Contracts Clause.
For example, although most states are permitted to establish their own taxes within their borders, they are not permitted to regulate interstate taxes. This delicate balance allows them certain individual freedoms. However, the Contracts Clause disallows any State to invalidate anything on a nationwide level, including the levying of taxes or the abolition of contracts. As a result, contracts have been the binding framework of symbiotic agreements between citizens and entities. Legal contracts are considered to be the glue that allows the general public, as well as the Government, to engage in honest and volitional business. The only instance in which contracts can be nullified is when they are ruled to in violation of public health and welfare.
In 1905 in the case of Lochner vs. New York, the inclusion of the Contracts Clause was the deciding factor of the case. Lochner, the owner of a bakeshop in Utica, New York, had been allowing himself and his employees to work for more than 60 hours per week. All of his employees had agreed to work the assigned hours under contract. However, the New York Bakeshop Act stated that bakeshops were not permitted to operate in excess of either 60 hours per week, or 10 hours per day.
The State of New York ordered Lochner to cease conducting his business that was in clear violation of the Bakeshop Act. However, Lochner, referencing the Contracts Clause, stated that the State did not have the right to undermine a contract established between two parties if said contract was not in violation of health and welfare. In addition, Lochner stated that the New York Bakeshop Act was in direct violation of his Fourteenth Amendment Rights, stating that the Act was infringing on ‘Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness’.
As a result, and per the Contracts Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court voted in favor of Lochner, explaining that the nature of the contract established between Lochner and his employees were legal and binding, thus disallowing the State of New York to negate them in any way.
The Contracts Clause established in the Constitution allows for contracts, like taxes, to be commercial certainties on which we are able to rely with the hopes that they provide equal parameters for every citizen to follow. Unless taxes or contracts are deemed to be in violation to health or welfare, they are to be treated as volitional, binding agreements between the Government, the State, and the citizens of the United States.

What Are Monopolies

A monopoly
may be defined as one entity being the sole supplier of a particular product or
service, thus leaving no room for others to partake in such business
enterprises. This lack of competition, then, leaves little choice for
consumers, which places constraints of the economy as a whole. Due to the
advent of monopolies, “competition laws” have been instituted, which
are also known as “antitrust laws”. They are set forth so as to
ensure that competition be existent within every market of the economy and place
regulations on monopolies.

The Sherman Antitrust Act was one of the first Federal
statutes to place limitations upon monopolies. Its main purpose was to prevent
companies from garnering power as monopolies. It is employed to protect the
consumers as opposed to the companies, as such practices involving monopolies
are deemed “failures of the market”. This Act required that the Government
be responsible for policing the activity of trusts, companies, and
organizations of the like if they are deemed in violation of the statute.

The basis by
which antitrust law is composed comprises of 3 important aspects. These include
the following: prohibition of practices that may impose limitations upon
“free trading” as well as overall market competition, barring companies
from behavior that may lead to market domination or other
“anti-competitive” customs, and the overseeing of “mergers and
acquisitions,” which entails the dealings between firms of business.

An example
of a Supreme Court case with this in mind was that of Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey
v. United States. This was a case in which the Court ruled that Standard
Oil had actually been guilty of imposing a monopoly upon the entire petroleum
industry. In order to provide a solution to such a monopoly, Standard Oil was
ordered to divide itself into various firms in order to ensure increased

Another significant Supreme Court case was that of
the United States v. Microsoft. This encompassed a number of previous civil
suits filed against the technological juggernaut. The claims set forth in this
case accused Microsoft of monopolizing the region of personal computer sales
due its dealings with “operating system as well as web browser sales”.
The main issue was the legality for which Microsoft may combine its Internet Explorer
browser with its Windows operating system. This was asserted as the reasoning
behind Microsoft’s monopoly over this market as consumers had access to a
browser upon purchase of the Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

In a final
settlement, Microsoft was ordered to share their software interfaces with other
companies for a period of at least 5 years in order to ensure fairness. They
did not, however, need to change any of their bundles, which caused the
commotion to begin with. This settlement led to the advent of other competitive
computer companies, which would allow consumers choices suitable for their
specific technological as well as financial needs.

Supreme Court Definition of Freedom of Speech

Supreme Court Definition of Freedom of Speech

The recent
judicial history of the Supreme Court has seen a broad definition held of the
right to freedom of speech, as it is granted to Americans by the
 First Amendment. One of
the basic issues raised by this principle is the question of when it may infringe
on other considerations, such as the ability of communities to enforce
standards which they find acceptable, groups and individuals to protect
themselves against violence, and prominent figures to be free of slander and

The definition of obscenity,
for instance, has been thrown into question as to the extent to which it can
rule out the exercise of First Amendment rights. Legal commentators have
observed that the general direction of the Supreme Court has been toward
granting the primacy of the right to freedom of speech.

The case of Whitney v. California addressed the conditions in
which the exercise of the right to freedom of speech came up against the need
to guard against violent action. This case involved the First Amendment claims
made by Anna Whitney, who had been jailed under California’s criminal
syndicalism laws for beginning the State’s Communist Labor Party, which was
accused of inciting violence. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and
denied that the right to freedom of speech guarded against Whitney’s conviction.

Justice Brandeis observed on
the case, however, that “fear of serious injury alone cannot justify
suppression of free speech”, but that such an action can only be performed
if there exists a “reasonable” basis on which to conclude that the
speech will lead to actual violence. He thus distinguished between
“advocacy and incitement”. Though Brandeis agreed with the Court’s
finding in regards to the specific case, his opinion established an argument by
which the unpopular exercising of the freedom of speech could later be extended.

The application of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech
to minors was addressed in the landmark case heard before the Supreme Court of
Tinker v. Des Moines
. The defendants in this case were a pair of siblings in high
school and junior high who were prevented by school policy from wearing black
armbands to express their opposition to the Vietnam War. This policy had not
existed before the students made their plans in 1965, but was created shortly
before the planned protest, possibly in anticipation of it, to mandate the
suspension of any student wearing an armband. When the Tinkers chose to go
ahead with their protest, they were accordingly suspended by the
administration. An appeal was lodged on their behalf by the Iowa Civil
Liberties Union, which claimed a First Amendment violation, and by 1968 the
case had reached the Supreme Court.

A Supreme
Court majority decided in favor of the Tinkers’ claim that their First Amendment
rights to freedom of speech had been violated, finding that the school
administration did not sufficiently establish that overall discipline would be
compromised by the Tinkers’ exercise of freedom of speech. Later Court cases
established limits to the freedoms granted to students.

The Supreme Court Overview

The Supreme Court Overview

Background of The Supreme Court

The United States Constitution provides for the existence of the Supreme Court in general terms, as can be found in Article III, “The Judicial Branch”. Within this Article, the Court’s basic nature is provided in Section 1, on “Judicial Powers”, and its operation toward the American legal system in Section 2, “Trial by Jury, Original Jurisdiction, Jury Trials”. Beyond these brief provisions, the general shape taken by the Supreme Court has been determined by the specific ways in which it has been implemented.
The basic area of oversight for the Court, for instance, is phrased in the Constitution as consisting of “Cases” and “Controversies”. The first Chief Justice, John Jay, interpreted this provision as prohibiting the Court from making general policy decisions, as he declined to do during President Washington’s administration, thus setting precedent. Similarly, the stipulation that Justices could serve “during good behavior” has been interpreted as allowing life terms. The concept of “judicial review”, today held to be one of the Court’s primary functions and its main source of political power, was only exercised in 1803, after thirteen years of the Court’s existence.
History of the Supreme Court

Stare decisis, or “maintain what has been decided,” embodies this principle, which holds essentially that judicial decisions should be made in concert. A key aspect of the United States’ system of judicial precedence is the observation of mandatory precedence, which arises from the hierarchy through which the courts are ordered. A decision made by a higher court will thus be binding for a decision made by a lower court in a similar case.
Persuasive precedence, on the other hand, can be provided by a lower court, though as a factor to take into consideration rather than a binding condition. The Supreme Court itself may decline to follow the principle of judicial precedence, as has been shown in its reversals of previous decisions. The Court considers judicial precedence to be less than fully binding when it comes to questions of Constitutional interpretation.
John Jay
John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, appointed in 1789 by President Washington. His reign as Chief Justice helped build the foundation of practices, which helped the Supreme Justice system gain recognition as a reputable judicial branch. The time John Jay served as Chief Justice was mostly dedicated to implementing guidelines and regulations for the Court system to follow.
Stemming from his childhood John Jay has always expressed keen interest in governmental politics, and he catered to a number of problems that presented itself as a result of war as well as weak practice measures. His time spent as Chief Justice initiated many Federal regulations that provided the strength the Supreme Justice is associated with today. The great advisement John Jay delegated as Chief Justice led to his re-election of the role in 1795, which he declined. He continued to serve the United States as a political influence to the practices of the Government system until he retired in 1801.
John Marshall
John Marshall was appointed as the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and documented as the first Chief Justice to hold the longest term in office. John Marshall’s views were a direct reflection of the regulations administered in the Constitution. His time spent as Chief Justice enforced all Federal and State laws established to be an extension of what was declared in the Constitution, as well as enforcing the judicial implements of John Jay.
With the Constitution at the time being a new form of a code of conduct, many states and Federal laws offered their own translation of the Constitutional view. John Marshall helped clarify the direction of laws in relation to the Constitution. Many of the rulings made by John Marshall helped streamline the responsibilities and functions within the legislative branches.
During his ruling as Chief Justice many other members did not agree with his views on regulating State and Federal practices. However, the beliefs of John Marshall helped strengthen the value of the Supreme Court.

Understanding Habeas Corpus

Understanding Habeas Corpus

Article I of the Constitution provides the right to habeas corpus, through which a person may issue a writ against his or her unlawful detention by a governmental or judicial system to citizens of the United States. The right to habeas corpus is a traditional concept in English common law, the origin of the American legal system, and was thus carried over from the process of winning independence from England.
Habeas corpus is considered a cornerstone of the English-derived conception of a liberal, democratic society, protecting people against arbitrary arrests and seizures, and thus guaranteeing the legitimacy of the judicial system as it is implemented. The Government has acted, however, to suspend the right to habeas corpus under certain conditions, and in these cases the Supreme Court has been faced with the question of whether to affirm or oppose the executive branch’s decision.
The United States Government has sometimes suspended the right to habeas corpus in certain regions or in regard to certain categories of people, as has sometimes been deemed necessary in regard to internal security threats, variously referred to as rebellion, sabotage, or terrorism. Notable early instances of this occurrence can be found in the Civil War, when President Lincoln suspended the right in areas feared to be susceptible to Confederate loyalties, and the subsequent Reconstruction when President Grant did the same for areas threatened by Ku Klux Klan terrorist activity.
The Supreme Court approved similar practices in the 20th Century. The attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent war with Japan aroused doubts as to the loyalty of Japanese-descended American citizens and the threat of enemy saboteurs. The Supreme Court’s decision in the 1942 case, “Ex parte Quirin,” allowed for the right to habeas corpus to be denied to such saboteurs, ruling them “unlawful combatants”. The Court’s 1946 decision in Duncan v. Kahanamoku held the martial order declared after the Pearl Harbor decisions permissible due to circumstances.
In more recent history, the executive and legislative branches have attempted to impose limitations on the right to habeas corpus as a measure against terrorism, as was seen early on in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 after the Oklahoma City building bombing, and later appeared in the Bush Administration’s responses to the September 11, 2001 attacks. In making decisions on these latter moves (the former having been less actively applied), the Supreme Court has tended to find against the Government’s moves against the right to habeas corpus.
The 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and 2006 case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, for instance, found that, even when being tried for terrorist/insurgent activities, American citizens could still expect to hold the right to file for writs of habeas corpus. The Court has also strengthened the right to habeas corpus through other decisions. The post-World War II era saw a trend in Supreme Court decisions that extended the applicability of the right, which today is commonly used for challenges to death penalty laws.

Issue of Freedom of Religion Explained

Issue of Freedom of Religion Explained

The 1990
Supreme Court decision of the case of Employment Division v. Smith addressed
the application of the right to freedom of religion, as guaranteed under the
 First Amendment, to otherwise illegal acts. The opinion of the Supreme Court was
that states had the power but not the obligation to allow criminal acts in
order to honor the principle of religious freedom. In this way, the Supreme
Court allowed the State to deny unemployment benefits to the person making the
appeal and struck down the opinion of the Oregon Supreme Court that this action
violated the Constitutional right to freedom of religion.

The complainant, Alfred Smith, had been employed
by the State of Oregon as a drug rehabilitation counselor. His superiors
dismissed him upon learning that he had used a controlled substance, peyote, in
the course of a ceremony performed in the religion he practiced. The State then
withheld unemployment benefits to Smith on the grounds that his own misconduct
had cost him his position.

The State
Court of Appeals found against this decision on the grounds that the peyote
usage was protected under religious freedom and found support in this decision
from the State Supreme Court. Oregon thus submitted an appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court to argue that the right to freedom of religion did not apply to
either the initial dismissal of Joseph Smith or the later denial of benefits to
him. The case then turned to the broader question of the constitutionality of
Oregon’s laws on drug usage.

The Supreme Court found that the Oregon law used
to make the decision against Alfred Smith did not violate the First Amendment’s
guarantee of freedom of religion in that it was generally aimed at the usage of
such substances by citizens and did not specifically address the religious
purposes to which they might be put. The law in this way could not be said to be
aimed at Alfred Smith’s religious freedom to practice his faith in a general
sense, but rather to a specific way in which he decided to practice it. In this
way, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court held that it could be reasonably
sure that the Oregon law was not covertly aimed at giving the State the ability
to violate the freedom of religion. It was instead, according to the Court’s
opinion, a “neutral law of general applicability”.

The Court has upheld this principle in regards to
claimed violations of religious freedom in a number of cases extending beyond
the subject matter of narcotics. In a well-known example of the limits which
may be placed on the freedom of religion, the practice of polygamy among
Mormons, as was once common, has been strictly forbidden. In the case of
Employment Division v. Smith, the Court thus advised the complainant to seek
the passage of laws allowing for the consumption of peyote for religious
purposes, noting that such laws had already been passed elsewhere, while
upholding the ability of the State to enforce the laws in their present state.

What You Need to Know About International Law

What You Need to Know About International Law

The practice
of international law can impinge on cases taken on and decisions made by the
U.S. Supreme Court both in reference to legal controversies which span
international borders and to the use of other law codes as sources for guidance
and instruction. The relevance of international laws is generally accepted by
professionals in and observers of the American field of law when it is in
regard to the former category, but the practice has caused more controversy in
the latter such cases.

American political and legal arguments contend that the sovereign authority of
the country as a whole is imperiled by a reliance on foreign codes of law for
any kind of authority. Despite this argument, the field of international law
has in the past derived much of use from American Constitutional law, and with
the expansion of comprehensive and functioning legal systems across the world,
it is not unlikely that the Supreme Court will continue to deal with the proper
relationship of international laws to the American judicial system.

Early Supreme Court rulings on the issue of
international law often involved issues and disputes arising between the ships
of different countries engaged in sea commerce. In cases of this kind and
similar legal controversies, the Supreme Court would openly examine
international laws and mention such codes as authorities in its opinion. A
specific instance of international law occurring in the early period of the
Supreme Court is a case involving questions over property included in the
Louisiana Purchase from France and also held at a previous point by Spain.

To this end,
the Justices studied French and Spanish real estate statutes before rendering a
decision for the American litigant. Similar questions arose much later in
reference to inter-North American commerce conducted as part of NAFTA and the
recovery of property lost in Europe during World War II.

A more controversial appearance of international
laws in Supreme Court theory has been the citation of other countries’ law
statutes in regard to the rights of Americans, which in turn have prompted
complaints of American courts compromising American sovereignty. The
international law controversy began toward the end of the 20th Century, when
Justices began looking to legal codes for practices and rules that they
considered more humane and fair than those currently observed in the United
States. Legal and political commentators would sometimes notice this trend, to
their chagrin or endorsement, when they saw the Justices’ own citation of 
foreign and international law in the opinions they rendered.

of the use of international law by the Supreme Court came to new prominence
when Justice Anthony Kennedy cited precedents from general European laws and
English courts in the Lawrence v. Texas case disallowing the legal prohibition
of same-sex intercourse. Kennedy would later cite international law to similar
ends, and to similarly much-noted, often reviled effect, in appealing to the
United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child against the practice of
executing minors.

Judicial Review Explained

Judicial Review Explained

One of the
basic rights of the United States Supreme Court, and a primary foundation for
the power which it exercises over the American legal system and the country as
a whole, is the doctrine of judicial review. This power consists of the ability
of the Supreme Court to decide upon “review” that a piece of
legislation or some other form of Government action is not permitted under the
Constitution and can, therefore, be judged “unconstitutional”. The
Supreme Court established this privilege early in its existence and was
empowered as a significant institution in the American Government primarily by
exercising it.

The power of
judicial review was established by the case of
 Marbury v. Madison, which
the Court heard in 1803 under Chief Justice John Marshall
, who is generally recognized for this and for many subsequent
decisions for gaining the Supreme Court its central place in the United States
political system. Previous to its implementation in law, the basic concept of
judicial review had been discussed by Alexander Hamilton
 in the 78th issue of the
Federalist Papers

William Marbury filed suit when Secretary of State William Madison
prevented him from being appointed as District of Columbia Justice of the
Peace. A prominent supporter of President John Adams, Marbury had been given
the commission to assume the aforementioned office toward the end of that
administration but did not have the ability to have his commission delivered
before Adams’ term came to an end. The succeeding President Jefferson blocked
all of the commissions which had been issued by his predecessor from being
delivered, giving this task over to the Secretary of State.

Marbury thus sued Madison to
compel him to deliver the commission, drawing on the Judiciary Act of 1789
 to make his case and
submitting his case directly to the Supreme Court. The Court thus held original
jurisdiction over the matter, a relatively infrequent occurrence in that the
Supreme Court more regularly holds appellate jurisdiction over the proceedings
of lower courts.

The decision of the Supreme Court found against
Marbury’s case while upholding the validity of his complaint and suggesting, in
the opinion delivered by John Marshall, that Marbury find some other means for
remedying it. The judicial review which Marshall had conducted of the portions
of the Judiciary Act cited by Marbury demonstrated to the Court, however, that
the Congressional legislation had attempted to give the Supreme Court powers
which it did not hold under the Constitution, such as would have allowed it to
enact Marbury’s request.

derived the principle of judicial review from the fact that the American legal
system as a whole is based on the written authority of the Constitution and
that any action by the Government which runs up against that authority cannot
be allowed. In light of the status of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter
in the land, it could therefore effectively exercise the power of striking down
laws by ruling them “unconstitutional”. Marshall’s argument has been
accepted as the foundation for the principle of judicial review.

The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment was passed in July 1868 and is one of the so-called Reconstruction Amendments, also including the Thirteenth and Fifteenth, through which Congress enabled its program of rebuilding and reform directed toward the former Confederate states in the wake of the Civil War. A primary purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to Constitutionally establish the illegality of slavery, to which end it expanded the definition of citizenship. The Supreme Court decision in the case of Dred Scott v. Stanford, which prohibited citizenship for slaves or their descendants, was thus struck down.

The Fourteenth Amendment was also intended to guard against any future decision by the Supreme Court to strike down the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the previous Congressional measure for the expanded availability of citizenship.

The Fourteenth Amendment consists of five sections, the first being the most relevant to the interpretation of citizenship and rights issues by the Supreme Court. The language of this section provides the American legal system with the Citizenship Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. The first specifies as subjects for citizenship "all persons born or naturalized in the United States", the second to the inability of states to "make or enforce any law which shall abridge" citizens' rights without "due process", and the third to the inability of states to deny anyone "equal protection of the laws". Supreme Court decisions on purported violations of rights thus often draw on the Fourteenth Amendment.

During the early 20th Century, the Supreme Court chose to interpret the Due Process Clause, to the minds of some observers against its original purpose, as guarding against the ability to regulate private contracts, as in Lochner v. New York in 1905. The Lochner case disallowed limits on the hours which could be required of workers. This reading of the Due Process Clause subsided in the Depression Era of increased Government intervention in the economy. In the 1937 case of West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, the Court reversed its general view of the Due Process Clause as being applicable to employment contracts.

In interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court has repeatedly made use of the "Incorporation Doctrine". This principle holds that the First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments are entirely, and the Fifth and Eighth Amendments are partly, incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The basic purpose of it is to require states to observe the rights granted by the Bill of Rights, which had been previously limited by the doctrine of states' rights.

The Supreme Court allowed for a wide interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause in the first decades following the Fourteenth Amendment's passage, but began to limit the provision's applicability with the 1896 decision in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in favor of the "separate but equal" argument for allowing segregated facilities. The Court eventually reversed itself on this decision with its finding in the case Brown v. Board of Education, which provided the impetus for the Court's newly broadened applications of the protections toward various groups.

What Are The Implied Powers

What Are The Implied Powers

The 1819
case of McCulloch v. Maryland addressed the scope of powers held by the Federal
Government and expanded them in provoking the creation of the doctrine of
implied powers granted under the Constitution. The Supreme Court thus placed
limits of states to act against programs undertaken by the Federal Government.
To provide justification for this decision, the Court appealed to Clause 18,
Section 8 of
 Article I of the Constitution, as it is
considered to represent the “Necessary and Proper Clause.” This
section grants Congress the ability to pass legislation which it finds
“necessary and proper” for the task of exercising the other rights expressly
given by the Constitution.

The implied powers doctrine came out of an attempt by the State of
Maryland to block under law the operations of the Federally-backed Second Bank
of the United States. The State Legislature thus placed a tax on the notes held
by all banks originally established outside of the State. Though it did not
specifically mention the Second Bank, the Supreme Court found that it could
reasonably establish that this was the purpose of the law, given that no other
out-of-state banks then existed in Maryland.

Under the heading of the
legislation, the Second Bank’s president, James McCulloch, had been prosecuted
after he refused to pay the required fee. On appeal, the State made the
argument that the Constitution does not mention banks and that the Second Bank
of the United States thus lacked Constitutional protection.

The Supreme Court rejected the actions of the State by finding
that the Federal Government held implied powers under the Constitution, such as
it had exercised by creating Federal banks. Chief Justice Marshall
 wrote the
Court’s opinion, referring to the political concept of the social contract to
establish the binding power of the Federal Government as provided by the Constitution.
Marshall then observed that the Constitution could not specifically address all
of the specific ways in which the Government would fulfill the duties to which
it was generally obligated, but rather implied the functions which the Government
might take on to meet its responsibilities.

The opinion referred
to the Necessary and Proper Clause as the place in which the implied powers
concept is explicitly addressed and that this stipulation was classed with
other Congressional powers, rather than their limitations. As expressed in
Marshall’s opinion, the implied powers doctrine thereby established the broadly-defined
ability of Congress to use powers which it was not barred from exercising
rather than those which it was explicitly given the right to use.

Marshall did
not place the existence of implied powers as an absolute limitation on other
rights, but specified that an implied power might be limited by the finding
that a right already granted to states or individual citizens conflicted with
it. The outcome of McCulloch v. Maryland nevertheless placed new and
wide-reaching limitations on the power of states and signaled the beginning of
a newly broadened understanding of Federal power, particularly over individual
State governments and laws.