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Landmake Court Cases

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~Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1857

This was a landmark United States Supreme Court case, in 1846 a slave named Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, sued for their freedom in a St. Louis city court. They had lived with their owner, an army surgeon, at Fort Snelling, then in the free Territory of Wisconsin. The Scotts' freedom could be established on the grounds that they had been held in relationship for long time in a free territory and were then returned to a slave state. Courts had ruled this way in the past. However, what appeared to be a straightforward lawsuit between two private teams became an 11-year legal struggle that reach the highest point of an activity in one of the most well known decisions ever issued by the United States Supreme Court.

The decision of Scott v. Sanford, considered by legal scholars to be the worst ever rendered by the Supreme Court, was overturned by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution, which abolished slavery and declared all persons born in the United States to be citizens of the United States.

~Schenck v. United States, 1919

This was a landmark United States Supreme Court case, concerning the question of whether the defendant possessed a First Amendment right to free speech against the draft during World War I. Charles Schenck was the Secretary of the Socialist party and was responsible for printing give out and mailing 15,000 leaflets to men eligible for the draft that support opposition to the draft. These leaflets contained statements such as; "Do not submit to intimidation", "Assert your rights", "If you do not assert and support your rights, you are helping to deny or disparage rights which it is the solemn duty of all citizens and residents of the United States to retain." Ultimately, the case served as the founding of the "clear and present danger" rule.

The Court, in a complete in agreement in the opinion written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held that Schenck's criminal conviction was constitutional. The First Amendment did not protect speech was given strength orders but however it was not following directions, since, "when a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their stream of language production will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right." In other words, the court held, the circumstances of wartime permit greater restrictions on free speech than would be allowable during peacetime.

In the opinion's most famous passage, Justice Holmes sets out the "clear and present danger" standard:

"The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

This case is also the source of the phrase "shouting fire in a crowded theater," a misquotation of Holmes' view that "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." As a result of the 9-0 decision, Charles Schenck spent six months in prison.

~Korematsu v. United States, 1944

This was a landmark United States Supreme Court case, concerning the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which required Japanese-Americans in the western United States to be excluded from a described West Coast military area.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court sided with the government, ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional. The opinion, written by Supreme Court justice Hugo Black, held that the need to protect against the systematic use of spies to get military or political secrets outweighed Fred Korematsu's individual rights, and the rights of Americans of Japanese descent.(The Court limited its decision to the validity of the exclusion orders, adding, "The provisions of other orders requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to report to assembly centers and providing for the detention of such persons in assembly and relocation centers were separate, and their validity is not in issue in this proceeding."

The decision in Korematsu vs. the United States has been very controversial.[2]Indeed, Korematsu's conviction for evading internment was overturned on November 10, 1983, after Korematsu challenged the earlier decision by filing for a writ of Coram nobis. In a ruling by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California granted the writ (that is, it voided Korematsu's original conviction) because in Korematsu's original case, the government had knowingly submitted false information to the Supreme Court that had a material impact on the Supreme Court's decision.

~The Korematsu decision has not been explicitly overturned. Indeed, the Korematsuruling is significant both for being the first instance of the Supreme Court applying thestrict scrutiny standard to racial discrimination by the government and for being one of only a tiny handful of cases in which the Court held that the government met that standard.

~Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kkansas, 1954

This was a landmark United States Supreme Court case, decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) is one of the most pivotal opinions ever rendered by that body. This landmark decision highlights the Supreme Court’s role in affecting changes in national and social policy. Often when people think of the case, they remember a little girl whose parents sued so that she could attend an all-white school in her neighborhood. In reality, the story of Brown v. Board is far more complex.

In December, l952, the United States Supreme Court had on its docket cases from Kansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Virginia, all of which challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools. The Court had consolidated these five cases under one name,Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka. One of the justices later explained that the Court felt it was better to have representative cases from different parts of the country. They decided to put Brown first “so that the whole question would not smack of being a purely Southern one.”

This collection of cases was the culmination of years of legal groundwork laid by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its work to end segregation. None of the cases would have been possible without individuals who were courageous enough

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