bush vs. gore
- Did the Florida Supreme Court violate Article II Section 1 Clause 2 of
- the U.S. Constitution by making new election law? Do standardless manual
- recounts violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the
- Noting that the Equal Protection clause guarantees individuals that
- their ballots cannot be devalued by "later arbitrary and disparate
- treatment," the per curiam opinion held 7-2 that the Florida Supreme
- Court's scheme for recounting ballots was unconstitutional. Even if the
- recount was fair in theory, it was unfair in practice. The record
- suggested that different standards were applied from ballot to ballot,
- precinct to precinct, and county to county. Because of those and other
- procedural difficulties, the court held that no constitutional recount
- could be fashioned in the time remaining (which was short because the
- Florida legislature wanted to take advantage of the "safe harbor"
- provided by 3 USC Section 5). Loathe to make broad precedents, the per
- curiam opinion limited its holding to the present case. Rehnquist (in a
- concurring opinion joined by Scalia and Thomas) argued that the recount
- scheme was also unconstitutional because the Florida Supreme Court's
- decision made new election law, which only the state legislature may do.
- Breyer and Souter (writing separately) agreed with the per curiam
- holding that the Florida Court's recount scheme violated the Equal
- Protection Clause, but they dissented with respect to the remedy,
- believing that a constitutional recount could be fashioned. Time is
- insubstantial when constitutional rights are at stake. Ginsburg and
- Stevens (writing separately) argued that for reasons of federalism, the
- Florida Supreme Court's decision ought to be respected. Moreover, the
- Florida decision was fundamentally right; the Constitution requires that
- every vote be counted.
in re neagle
Facts of the Case
- Suspecting a plot against Justice Stephen J.
- Field's life, the U.S. Attorney General appointed Neagle, a U.S.
- Marshall, to protect him. Acting as Field's bodyguard, Neagle shot and
- killed a man who appeared about to attack the justice. After California
- officials arrested and jailed Neagle, the U.S. sought his release by a
- writ of habeas corpus.
- Was the state obligated to obey the writ even
- though no national statute empowered the Attorney General to provide
- judges with bodyguards?
- Yes. The Court held that the Attorney General
- acted appropriately since assigning Neagle as Field's bodyguard assured
- that the nation's laws would be faithfully executed. Furthermore,
- Neagle's actions were consistent with a congressional statute which
- provided U.S. Marshalls with "the same powers, in executing the laws" as
- state sheriffs and deputies (who would have been allowed to deter an
- attack on Field's life).
clinton vs. new york
- This case consolidates two separate challenges to the constitutionality
- of two cancellations, made by President William J. Clinton, under the
- Line Item Veto Act ("Act"). In the first, the City of New York, two
- hospital associations, a hospital, and two health care unions,
- challenged the President's cancellation of a provision in the Balanced
- Budget Act of 1997 which relinquished the Federal Government's ability
- to recoup nearly $2.6 billion in taxes levied against Medicaid providers
- by the State of New York.
- Did the President's ability to selectively cancel
- individual portions of bills, under the Line Item Veto Act, violate the
- Presentment Clause of Article I?
- Yes. In a 6-to-3 decision the Court first established that both the City
- of New York, and its affiliates, and the farmers' cooperative suffered
- sufficiently immediate and concrete injuries to sustain their standing
- to challenge the President's actions. The Court then explained that
- under the Presentment Clause, legislation that passes both Houses of
- Congress must either be entirely approved (i.e. signed) or rejected
- (i.e. vetoed) by the President. The Court held that by canceling only
- selected portions of the bills at issue, under authority granted him by
- the Act, the President in effect "amended" the laws before him. Such
- discretion, the Court concluded, violated the "finely wrought"
- legislative procedures of Article I as envisioned by the Framers.
morrison v. olson
Facts of the Case
- The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 created a
- special court and empowered the Attorney General to recommend to that
- court the appointment of an "independent counsel" to investigate, and,
- if necessary, prosecute government officials for certain violations of
- federal criminal laws.
Did the Act violate the constitutional principal of separation of powers?
- The Court addressed a number of constitutional issues in this case and
- upheld the law. The near-unanimous Court held that the means of
- selecting the independent counsel did not violate the Appointments
- Clause; the powers allocated to the special court did not violate
- Article III; and the Act was not offensive to the separation of powers
- doctrine since it did not impermissibly interfere with the functions of
- the Executive Branch.
myers v United states
- he Ethics in Government
- Act of 1978 (aka the Independent
- Counsel Act) created a special court
- and empowered the Attorney General to recommend to that court the
- appointment of an independent counsel to investigate, and
- prosecute government officials for certain violations of Federal criminal
- laws.An independent counsel could not be fired except for cause.The appointment was not by
- the President, and was not subject to the approval of Congress.And independent counsel was appointed to investigate Olson. Olson
- argued that the Ethics in Government Act was
- unconstitutional.Olsen argued that that the independent
- counsel violated the Appointments
- Clause because it was an executive
- branch office that was not appointed by the President.In addition, it was a violation
- of Article III and the separation of powers doctrine because it gave
- judicial powers to a court created by the executive branch. It was sort of a hybrid
- "fourth branch" of government that was ultimately answerable
- to no one.Olsen argued that the broad
- powers of the independent counsel
- could be easily abused, or corrupted by partisanship.The US Supreme Court found the
- Ethics in Government Act to be
- constitutional.The US Supreme Court found
- that the means of selecting the independent counsel did not violate the
- Appointments Clause, Article III, or the separation of powers doctrine
- since it did not impermissibly interfere with the functions of the
- Executive Branch.Since the independent
- counsel was an inferior officer, his
- appointment did not have to come from the President.Since the independent
- counsel could only be fired for
- cause, subject to judicial review, it's a pretty secure position. The
- President can fire the Attorney General at will. So, it could be argued
- that the independent counsel
- was a principle officer, and should only be appointed by the President.The Court felt that the Act
- did not violate the separation of powers doctrine by increasing the power
- of one branch at the expense of another. Instead, even though the
- President could not directly fire the independent counsel, the person holding that office was still an
- Executive Branch officer, not under the control of either Congress or the
Humphryes executor v. United states
Facts of the Case
- President Hoover appointed, and the Senate
- confirmed, Humphrey as a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission
- (FTC). In 1933, President Roosevelt asked for Humphrey's resignation
- since the latter was a conservative and had jurisdiction over many of
- Roosevelt's New Deal policies. When Humphrey refused to resign,
- Roosevelt fired him because of his policy positions. However, the FTC
- Act only allowed a president to remove a commissioner for "inefficiency,
- neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office." Since Humphrey died shortly
- after being dismissed, his executor sued to recover Humphrey's lost
Did section 1 of the Federal Trade Commission Act unconstitutionally interfere with the executive power of the President?
- Decision: 9 votes for Humphrey's Executor, 0 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: US Const Art 1 and 2; Federal Trade Commission Act
- The unanimous Court found that the FTC Act was
- constitutional and that Humphrey's dismissal on policy grounds was
- unjustified. The Court reasoned that the Constitution had never given
- "illimitable power of removal" to the president. Justice Sutherland
- dismissed the government's main line of defense in this case which
- relied heavily on the Court's decision in Meyers v. United States
- (1926). In that case the Court upheld the president's right to remove
- officers who were "units of the executive department." The FTC was
- different, argued Sutherland, because it was a body created by Congress
- to perform quasi- legislative and judicial functions. The Meyers
- precedent, therefore, did not apply in this situation.
United States v. Nixon
Facts of the Case
- A grand jury returned indictments against seven
- of President Richard Nixon's closest aides in the Watergate affair. The
- special prosecutor appointed by Nixon and the defendants sought audio
- tapes of conversations recorded by Nixon in the Oval Office. Nixon
- asserted that he was immune from the subpoena claiming "executive
- privilege," which is the right to withhold information from other
- government branches to preserve confidential communications within the
- executive branch or to secure the national interest. Decided together
- with Nixon v. United States.
- Is the President's right to safeguard certain
- information, using his "executive privilege" confidentiality power,
- entirely immune from judicial review?
- No. The Court held that neither the doctrine of separation of powers,
- nor the generalized need for confidentiality of high-level
- communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified,
- presidential privilege. The Court granted that there was a limited
- executive privilege in areas of military or diplomatic affairs, but gave
- preference to "the fundamental demands of due process of law in the
- fair administration of justice." Therefore, the president must obey the
- subpoena and produce the tapes and documents. Nixon resigned shortly
- after the release of the tapes.
Mississippi v. Johnson
Facts of the Case
- In 1867, Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts.
- Although President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Acts, Congress overrode
- the veto. In an attempt to delay or prevent Reconstruction, the state of
- Mississippi appealed directly to the Supreme Court. Mississippi asked
- the Court for an injunction preventing the President from enforcing the
- Acts on the ground that they were unconstitutional.
Could the Supreme Court constitutionally issue an injunction directed against the President?
- In a unanimous decision, the Court held that it
- had "no jurisdiction of a bill to enjoin the President in the
- performance of his official duties...." The Court held that the duties
- of the President as required by the Reconstruction Acts were "in no
- sense ministerial," and that a judicial attempt to interfere with the
- performance of such duties would be "an absurd and excessive
- extravagance." The Court noted that if the President chose to ignore the
- injunction, the judiciary would be unable to enforce the order.
Nixon v. fitzgerald
Facts of the Case
- In 1968, Fitzgerald, then a civilian analyst with
- the United States Air Force, testified before a congressional committee
- about inefficiencies and cost overruns in the production of the C-5A
- transport plane. Roughly one year later he was fired, an action for
- which President Nixon took responsibility. Fitzgerald then sued Nixon
- for damages after the Civil Service Commission concluded that his
- dismissal was unjust.
Was the President immune from prosecution in a civil suit?
- Yes. The Court held that the President "is entitled to absolute immunity
- from damages liability predicated on his official acts." This sweeping
- immunity, argued Justice Powell, was a function of the "President's
- unique office, rooted in the constitutional tradition of separation of
- powers and supported by our history."
Clinton v. Jones
Facts of the Case
- Paula Corbin Jones sued President Bill Clinton.
- She alleged that while she was an Arkansas state employee, she suffered
- several "abhorrent" sexual advances from then Arkansas Governor Clinton.
- Jones claimed that her continued rejection of Clinton's advances
- ultimately resulted in punishment by her state supervisors. Following a
- District Court's grant of Clinton's request that all matters relating to
- the suit be suspended, pending a ruling on his prior request to have
- the suit dismissed on grounds of presidential immunity, Clinton sought
- to invoke his immunity to completely dismiss the Jones suit against him.
- While the District Judge denied Clinton's immunity request, the judge
- ordered the stay of any trial in the matter until after Clinton's
- Presidency. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal denial
- but reversed the trial deferment ruling since it would be a "functional
- equivalent" to an unlawful grant of temporary presidential immunity.
- Is a serving President, for separation of powers
- reasons, entitled to absolute immunity from civil litigation arising out
- of events which transpired prior to his taking office?
- No. In a unanimous opinion, the Court held that the Constitution does
- not grant a sitting President immunity from civil litigation except
- under highly unusual circumstances. After noting the great respect and
- dignity owed to the Executive office, the Court held that neither
- separation of powers nor the need for confidentiality of high-level
- information can justify an unqualified Presidential immunity from
- judicial process. While the independence of our government's branches
- must be protected under the doctrine of separation of powers, the
- Constitution does not prohibit these branches from exercising any
- control over one another. This, the Court added, is true despite the
- procedural burdens which Article III jurisdiction may impose on the
- time, attention, and resources of the Chief Executive.
Ex parte grossman
Facts of the Case
- In 1920, legal action was taken against Philip
- Grossman for selling liquor at his place of business in violation of the
- National Prohibition Act. He violated a federal court injunction by
- continuing to sell alcoholic beverages. He was found guilty of criminal
- contempt of court and sentenced to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
- In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge issued a pardon that reduced
- Grossman's sentence to payment of the fine.
Did the president have the constitutional authority to commute a sentence for criminal contempt of court?
- In a unanimous decision, the Court found that a
- presidential pardon for a criminal contempt of court sentence was within
- the powers of the executive. There is nothing in the words "offenses
- against the United States" that excludes criminal contempts in the
- Constitution. Actions that violate the dignity or authority of the
- federal courts violate the law of the United States, making these
- contempts offenses against the United States. The president's pardon
- authority includes such offenses. Without destroying the deterrent
- effect of judicial punishment, the president's powers are to act as
- checks against undue prejudice or needless severity in such sentencing
- by the judicial branch.
the prize cases
Facts of the Case
- Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of southern ports
- in April 1861. Congress authorized him to declare a state of
- insurrection by the Act of July 13, 1861. By the Act of August 6, 1861,
- Congress retroactively ratified all Lincoln's military action. These
- cases involved the seizure of vessels bound for Confederate ports prior
- to July 13, 1861.
Did Lincoln act within his presidential powers defined by Article II when he ordered the seizures absent a declaration of war?
- Decision: 5 votes for United States, 4 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: US Const. Art 2
- The President had the power to act. A state of
- civil war existed de facto after the firing on Fort Sumter (April 12,
- 1861) and the Supreme Court would take this fact into account. Though
- neither Congress nor the President can declare war against a state of
- the Union, when states waged war against the United States government,
- the President was "bound to meet it in the shape it presented
- itself,without waiting for Congress to baptize it with a name."
ex parte milligan
Facts of the Case
- Lambden P. Milligan was sentenced to death by a
- military commission in Indiana during the Civil War; he had engaged in
- acts of disloyalty. Milligan sought release through habeas corpus from a
- federal court.
Does a civil court have jurisdiction over a military tribunal?
- Decision: 9 votes for Milligan, 0 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: US Const. Amend 5
- Davis, speaking for the Court, held that trials
- of civilians by presidentially created military commissions are
- unconstitutional. Martial law cannot exist where the civil courts are
ex parte quirin
- Did the President exceed his authority in
- ordering a trial by military commission for the German saboteurs,
- thereby violating their rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments?
- No. In a unanimous opinion authored by Chief
- Justice Harlan Fisk Stone, the Court concluded that the conspirators, as
- spies without uniform whose purpose was sabotage, violated the law of
- war and were therefore unlawful enemy combatants. Noting that Congress
- had, under the Articles of War, authorized trial by military commission
- for unlawful enemy combatants, the Court therefore determined that the
- President had not exceeded his power. Furthermore, the Court asserted
- that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments "did not enlarge the right to jury
- trial" beyond those cases where it was understood by the framers to have
- been appropriate. Therefore, because the amendments cannot be read "as
- either abolishing all trials by military tribunals, save those of the
- personnel of our own armed forces, or, what in effect comes to the same
- thing, as imposing on all such tribunals the necessity of proceeding
- against unlawful enemy belligerents only on presentment and trial by
- jury," the rights of the conspirators were not violated.
korematsu v. US
Facts of the Case
- During World War II, Presidential Executive Order
- 9066 and congressional statutes gave the military authority to exclude
- citizens of Japanese ancestry from areas deemed critical to national
- defense and potentially vulnerable to espionage. Korematsu remained in
- San Leandro, California and violated Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 of
- the U.S. Army.
- Did the President and Congress go beyond their
- war powers by implementing exclusion and restricting the rights of
- Americans of Japanese descent?
- Decision: 6 votes for United States, 3 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: Executive Order 9066; U.S. Const. amend. 5
- The Court sided with the government and held that
- the need to protect against espionage outweighed Korematsu's rights.
- Justice Black argued that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally
- suspect, is justified during circumstances of "emergency and peril."
youngstown sheet and tube v. sawyer
Facts of the Case
- In April of 1952, during the Korean War,
- President Truman issued an executive order directing Secretary of
- Commerce Charles Sawyer to seize and operate most of the nation's steel
- mills. This was done in order to avert the expected effects of a strike
- by the United Steelworkers of America.
Did the President have the constitutional authority to seize and operate the steel mills?
- Decision: 6 votes for Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., 3 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: US Const. Art. II
- In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that the
- President did not have the authority to issue such an order. The Court
- found that there was no congressional statute that authorized the
- President to take possession of private property. The Court also held
- that the President's military power as Commander in Chief of the Armed
- Forces did not extend to labor disputes. The Court argued that "the
- President's power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes
- the idea that he is to be a lawmaker."
Dames and morre vs. regan
Facts of the Case
- In reaction to the seizure of the U.S. embassy
- and American nationals in Iran, President Jimmy Carter invoked the
- International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and froze Iranian
- assets in the United States. When the hostages were released in 1981,
- Treasury Secretary Donald Regan affirmed the agreements made the Carter
- administration that terminated all legal proceedings against the Iranian
- government and created an independent Claims Tribunal. Dames &
- Moore attempted to recover over $3 million owed to it by the Iranian
- government and claimed the executive orders were beyond the scope of
- presidential power.
- Did the president have the authority to transfer Iranian funds and to nullify legal claims against Iran?
- The Court held that the International Emergency Economic Powers Act
- constituted a specific congressional authorization for the President to
- order the transfer of Iranian assets. The Court further held that
- although the IEEPA itself did not authorize the presidential suspension
- of legal claims, previous acts of Congress had "implicitly approved" of
- executive control of claim settlement. The Court emphasized the
- narrowness of its ruling, limiting the decision to the facts of the
hamdan vs. rumsfield
Facts of the Case
- Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former
- chauffeur, was captured by Afghani forces and imprisoned by the U.S.
- military in Guantanamo Bay. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas
- corpus in federal district court to challenge his detention. Before the
- district court ruled on the petition, he received a hearing from a
- military tribunal, which designated him an enemy combatant.
- A few months later, the district court granted Hamdan's habeas
- petition, ruling that he must first be given a hearing to determine
- whether he was a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention before he
- could be tried by a military commission. The Circuit Court of Appeals
- for the District of Columbia reversed the decision, however, finding
- that the Geneva Convention could not be enforced in federal court and
- that the establishment of military tribunals had been authorized by
- Congress and was therefore not unconstitutional.
- May the rights protected by the Geneva Convention
- be enforced in federal court through habeas corpus petitions? Was the
- military commission established to try Hamdan and others for alleged war
- crimes in the War on Terror authorized by the Congress or the inherent
- powers of the President?
- Decision: 5 votes for Hamdan, 3 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: Uniform Code of Military Justice
- Yes and no. The Supreme Court, in a 5-to-3
- decision authored by Justice John Paul Stevens, held that neither an act
- of Congress nor the inherent powers of the Executive laid out in the
- Constitution expressly authorized the sort of military commission at
- issue in this case. Absent that express authorization, the commission
- had to comply with the ordinary laws of the United States and the laws
- of war. The Geneva Convention, as a part of the ordinary laws of war,
- could therefore be enforced by the Supreme Court, along with the
- statutory Uniform Code of Military Justice. Hamdan's exclusion from
- certain parts of his trial deemed classified by the military commission
- violated both of these, and the trial was therefore illegal. Justices
- Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented. Chief Justice John Roberts, who
- participated in the case while serving on the DC Circuit Court of
- Appeals, did not take part in the decision.
Scott vs. Sanford
Facts of the Case
- Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri. From 1833 to
- 1843, he resided in Illinois (a free state) and in an area of the
- Louisiana Territory, where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri
- Compromise of 1820. After returning to Missouri, Scott sued
- unsuccessfully in the Missouri courts for his freedom, claiming that his
- residence in free territory made him a free man. Scott then brought a
- new suit in federal court. Scott's master maintained that no
- pure-blooded Negro of African descent and the descendant of slaves could
- be a citizen in the sense of Article III of the Constitution.
Was Dred Scott free or slave?
- Decision: 7 votes for Sandford, 2 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: US Const. Amend. 5; Missouri Compromise
- Dred Scott was a slave. Under Articles III and
- IV, argued Taney, no one but a citizen of the United States could be a
- citizen of a state, and that only Congress could confer national
- citizenship. Taney reached the conclusion that no person descended from
- an American slave had ever been a citizen for Article III purposes. The
- Court then held the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, hoping to end
- the slavery question once and for all.
Hammer vs. Dagenhart
Facts of the Case
- The Keating-Owen Child Labor Act prohibited the
- interstate shipment of goods produced by child labor. Reuben Dagenhart's
- father had sued on behalf of his freedom to allow his fourteen year old
- son to work in a textile mill.
Does the congressional act violate the Commerce Clause, the Tenth Amendment, or the Fifth Amendment?
- Decision: 5 votes for Dagenhart, 4 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: US Const. Art 1, Section 8, Clause 3; US Const. Amend 10; Keating-Owen Act of 1916
- Day spoke for the Court majority and found two
- grounds to invalidate the law. Production was not commerce, and thus
- outside the power of Congress to regulate. And the regulation of
- production was reserved by the Tenth Amendment to the states. Day wrote
- that "the powers not expressly delegated to the national government are
- reserved" to the states and to the people. In his wording, Day revised
- the Constitution slightly and changed the intent of the framers: The
- Tenth Amendment does not say "expressly." The framers purposely left the
- word expressly out of the amendment because they believed they could
- not possibly specify every power that might be needed in the future to
- run the governme
national league of cities v. usery
Facts of the Case
- In 1974, Congress passed amendments to the Fair
- Labor Standards Act of 1938. The purpose of the amendments was to
- regulate minimum wage and overtime pay for state and local government
- employees. The National League of Cities, as well as several states and
- cities, challenged the constitutionality of the amendments.
- May Congress, acting under its commerce power,
- regulate the labor market of state employees, which the Tenth Amendment
- reserves to the states?
- National League of Cities v. Usery - Oral ArgumentNational League of Cities v. Usery - Opinion AnnouncementNational League of Cities v. Usery - Oral Reargument
- Decision: 5 votes for National League of Cities, 4 vote(s) against
- Legal provision: Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 3: Interstate Commerce Clause
- Congress may not regulate the labor market of
- state employees. The Tenth Amendment prohibits Congress from enacting
- legislation which operates "to directly displace the States' freedom to
- structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental
- functions." While the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause is
- "plenary," that power has constitutional limits. In this case, the
- exercise of the commerce power ran afoul of the Tenth Amendment which
- protects the states' traditional activities.
garcia v. San antoonio metropolitical transit
poultry corp v. united states
national labor relations board v jones and steel company