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Supreme Court Cases

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Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. vs. Sawyer:

Also commonly referred to as The Steel Seizure Case, it was a United States Supreme Court decision that limited the power of the President of the United States to seize private property in the absence of either specifically enumerated authority under Article Two of the US Constitution or statutory authority conferred on him by Congress. The Majority decision was that the President had no power to act except in those cases expressly or implicitly authorized by the Constitution or an act of Congress.

Marbury vs. Madison:

A landmark case in United States Law and the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States, under Article Three of the US Constitution. This case resulted from a petition to the Supreme Court by William Marbury, who had been appointed as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia by President John Adams shortly before leaving office, but whose commission was not delivered as required by John Marshall, Adams' Secretary of State. When Thomas Jefferson assumed office, he ordered the new Secretary of State, James Madison, to withhold Marbury's and several other men's commissions. Being unable to assume the appointed offices without the commission documents, Marbury and three others petitioned the Court to force Madison to deliver the commission to Marbury. The Supreme Court denied Marbury's petition, holding that the statute upon which he based his claim was unconstitutional. The Court rendered a unanimous decision, throwing out the case.

Plessey vs. Ferguson:

A landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of racial segregation even in public accommodations (particularly railroads), under the doctrine of "separate but equal". Plessey boarded a car of the East Louisiana Railroad that was designated by whites for use by white patrons only. Although Plessey was one-eighth black and seven-eighths white, under Louisiana state law he was classified as an African-American, and thus required to sit in the "colored" car. When Plessey refused to leave the white car and move to the colored car, he was arrested and jailed. The Court rejected Plessey's arguments based on the Thirteenth Amendment, seeing no way in which the Louisiana statute violated it. In addition, the majority of the Court rejected the view that the Louisiana law implied any inferiority of blacks, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, it contended that the law separated the two races as a matter of public policy.

Smith v. Allwright:

An important decision of the United States Supreme Court with regard to voting rights and, by extension, racial desegregation. Lonnie E. Smith, a black voter in Texas, sued for the right to vote in a primary election being conducted by the Democratic Party. The law he challenged allowed the party to enforce a rule requiring all voters in its primary to be white. At this point in history, the Republican Party was so weak in the South that most Southern elections were decided by the outcome of the Democratic primary. Southern States claimed that the Democratic Party was a private organization, while Smith said that the law in question essentially disenfranchised him by denying him the ability to vote in what was essentially the only meaningful election in his jurisdiction. The Court agreed and found in his favor.

Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke:

A landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States based on affirmative action. It bars quota systems in college admissions but affirms the constitutionality of affirmative action programs giving equal access to minorities. Bakke applied to UC-Davis Medical School in 1973 and 1974 and was denied both times. In 1973 he had a benchmark score of 468 out of 500, but no regular applicants were admitted after him with a score below 470. Bakke, however, was not considered for four special admissions slots which had not yet been filled. Bakke wrote a letter of complaint to Dr. George H. Lowrey, the Associate Dean and Chairman of the Admissions Committee, complaining the special admissions program was not what it claimed to be (a program to help the underprivileged), but a racial and ethnic quota. The court ruled 5-4 that race could be one, but only one, of numerous factors used by discriminatory boards, like those of college admissions. Powell found that quotas insulated minority applicants from competition with the regular applicants and were thus unconstitutional because they discriminated against regular applicants. After eight months, a vote of 5-4 decided that Bakke be admitted to the medical school at Davis.

Escobedo vs. Illinois:

The United States Supreme Court case holding, that criminal suspects have a right to counsel during police interrogations. Danny Escobedo's brother-in-law Manuel, a Chicago convict, was shot and killed on the night of January 19, 1960. The police arrested Danny Escobedo early the next morning, tried without success to interrogate him, and eventually released him. Ten days later, on January 30, the police interrogated Benedict DiGerlando, who told them that Escobedo fired the fatal shots. The police arrested and interrogated Escobedo that evening. Escobedo asked to speak to an attorney. His attorney went to police headquarters and tried to talk to Escobedo during the interrogation. Both requests were refused. When the police told Escobedo about DiGerlando's claim, Escobedo asked to confront him. When this happened, Escobedo implicated himself as an accessory in the murder, later confessed the same to a prosecuting attorney, and was eventually convicted. The Supreme Court overturned Escobedo's conviction and recognized a suspect's right to an attorney during police interrogation.

New York Times Co. vs. United States:

A United States Supreme Court ruling, which made it possible for, the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers, to publish the classified Pentagon Papers without risk of government censure. The U.S. President Richard Nixon had claimed executive authority to force the Times to suspend publication of classified information in its possession. The question before the court was whether the constitutional freedom of the press under the First Amendment was subordinate to a claimed Executive need to maintain the secrecy of information.

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