Monthly Archives: November 2016


Regents of the University of California v. Bakke: Racial College Admissions (06/26/1978)

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Did the University of California violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by practicing an affirmative action policy that resulted in the repeated rejection of Bakke’s application for admission to its medical school?

Argued: 10/12/1977

Decision Date: 06/26/1978

Decision Record: 5-3; yes and no

Justices Plurality: Warren Burger, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens

Justices Dissenting: Byron White

Effect of the Decision

This case upholds that colleges cannot decide admissions solely on the basis of race.

In Favor

In representation of the University of California, attorney Archibald Cox argued, “Whether the State — whether a state university which is forced by limited resources to select a relatively smaller number of students from a much larger number of well-qualified applicants is free voluntarily to take into account the fact that a qualified applicant is black, Chicano, or Asian, or Native American in order to increase the number of qualified members of those minority groups trained for the educated professions and participating individual, professions from which minorities were long excluded because of generations of pervasive racial discrimination.

The answer which the court gives was determined perhaps for decades whether members of those minorities are to have the kind of meaningful access to higher education in the profession which the universities have accorded them in recent years ought are to be reduced to the trivial numbers which they were prior to the adoption of minority admissions programs.

The three facts realities which dominated the situation that the Medical School of Davis had before it and which I think this control the decision of this Court.

The first is that the number of qualified applicants for the nation’s professional schools is vastly greater than the number of places available.

That is a fact and an inescapable fact.

In 1975, 1976, for example, there were roughly 30,000 qualified applicants for admission to medical school, a much greater number of actual applicants and there were only about 14,000 places.

At Davis, there were 25 applicants have received in 1973.

In 1974, the ratio was risen to 37 to 1.

So the problem is one of selection among qualified applicants, not of ability to gain from a professional education.

The second fact which is no need for me to elaborate but it is a fact for generation’s racial discrimination in the United States, much of it stimulated by unconstitutional state action.

Isolated certain minorities condemn them to unfairer education and shut them out of the most important and satisfying aspects of American life including higher education and the profession.

And the greatest problem is the Carnegie on Higher Education noted more than 10 years ago.

The greatest problem in achieving racial justice was to draw those minorities into the professions that place on important part in our national life.

And then there’s one third factor.

There is no racially blind method of selection which will enroll today more than a trickle of minority students in the nation’s colleges and professions.

These are the realities which the University of California, Davis Medical School faced in 1968.

In which I say I think the Court must face when it comes to its decision.

Until 1969, the applicants of Davis as it most of the medical schools were chosen on the basis of scores on the medical aptitude test, their college grades, and other personal experiences and qualifications as revealed in the application.

The process excluded virtually almost all members of minority groups.

Even when they were fully qualified for places because there scores by enlarge were lower on the cognitive test and in college grade point averages.

Alright, there were no black students and no Chicanos in the class entering Davis in 1968.

If one puts to one side the predominately black medical schools, Howard and Meharry lasted off 1%, eight-tenths of 1% of all medical students in the United States were black in the year 1968, 1969.

In 1969, the faculty at Davis concluded the drawing in the medical college, qualified members of minorities, minorities long victimized by racial discrimination would yield important educational professional and social benefits.

It then chose one variant of the only possible method of increasing number.

It established what came to be known as the Task Force Program following the name of then program established by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which would select there were only 50 in the entering class at that time, which would select eight educationally but fully qualified — select eight educationally or economically disadvantaged but fully qualified minority students for inclusion among the 52 in the entering class.”


Then in opposition, representing Bakke, attorney Wade H. McCree claims, “The interest of the United States of America is amicus curiae stands from the fact that the Congress and the executive branch have adopted many minority sensitive programs.

They take race or minority status into account in order to achieve the goal of equal opportunity.

The United States is also concluded that voluntary programs to increase the participation of minorities in activities throughout our society.

Activities previously close to them should be encouraged and supported.

Accordingly, it asks this Court to reject the holding of the Supreme Court of California if race or other minority status may not constitutionally be employed in affirmative action and special admissions programs properly designed and tailored to eliminate discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities as such discrimination exist today or to help overcome the effects of past years of discriminations.

This Court does not require a recital of the extent in duration of racial discrimination in America from the time it was enshrined in our very Constitution in the three-fifths comprise, in the fugitive slave provision and in the provision preventing the importation of such persons prior to1808.

And it continues until the present day as the over burden dockets of the lower federal courts and indeed of this Court will indicate where there’s been non-compliance with the decisions of this Court that it rediscovered and are still rediscovering the true genius of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Indeed, many children born in 1954, when Brown was decided are today 23 years later the very persons knocking on the doors of professional schools seeking admission about the country that they are persons who in many instances have been denied the fulfillment of the promise of that decision because of resistance to this Court’s decision that was such a landmark when it was handed down.

And this discrimination has not been limited just to persons of African ancestry.

We all know too well the Asian Exclusion Acts that have discriminated against Asian-American citizens.

The sad history of our native American-Indian population and the treatment of our Hispanic population sometimes called Chicano.

This is what prompts the interest of the United States in seeing that this Court shall overturn the ruling of the California Supreme Court, the race or minority status may not be taken into consideration in formulating remedial programs.

A Professor Zimmer at the University of Illinois has written, if the ultimate social reality is the irrelevancy of race, the present reality is that race is very relevant.

Accordingly, it would be appear that to be blind to race today is to be blind to reality.

Now as we’ve argued in our brief, a school district may take race into account in formulating voluntary plans of integration.

We’ve argued and this Court has held that it need not to await litigation and it may take into account not only its own discrimination but also the consequences of discrimination elsewhere in our society because the impact of discrimination is not limited by source or locality.”


The plurality opinion slip was written by Justice Lewis Powell, for each justice has different thoughts on the case. He wrote, “In summary, it is evident that the Davis special admissions program involves the use of an explicit racial classification never before countenanced by this Court. It tells applicants who are not Negro, Asian, or Chicano that they are totally excluded from a specific percentage of the seats in an entering class. No matter how strong their qualifications, quantitative and extracurricular, including their own potential for contribution to educational diversity, they are never afforded the chance to compete with applicants from the preferred groups for the special admissions seats. At the same time, the preferred applicants have the opportunity to compete for every seat in the class.

The fatal flaw in petitioner’s preferential program is its disregard of individual rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. at 22. Such rights are not absolute. But when a State’s distribution of benefits or imposition of burdens hinges on ancestry or the color of a person’s skin, that individual is entitled to a demonstration that the challenged classification is necessary to promote a substantial state interest. Petitioner has failed to carry this burden. For this reason, that portion of the California court’s judgment holding petitioner’s special admissions program invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment must be affirmed.”

In a separate opinion, Justice William Brennan wrote, “Finally, Davis’ special admissions program cannot be said to violate the Constitution simply because it has set aside a predetermined number of places for qualified minority applicants, rather than using minority status as a positive factor to be considered in evaluating the applications of disadvantaged minority applicants. For purposes of constitutional adjudication, there is no difference between the two approaches. In any admissions program which accords special consideration to disadvantaged racial minorities, a determination of the degree of preference to be given is unavoidable, and any given preference that results in the exclusion of a white candidate is no more or less constitutionally acceptable than a program such as that at Davis. Furthermore, the extent of the preference inevitably depends on how many minority applicants the particular school is seeking to admit in any particular year, so long as the number of qualified minority applicants exceeds that number. There is no sensible, and certainly no constitutional, distinction between, for example, adding a set number of points to the admissions rating of disadvantaged minority applicants as an expression of the preference with the expectation that this will result in the admission of an approximately determined number of qualified minority applicants and setting a fixed number of places for such applicants, as was done here.

The ‘Harvard’ program, as those employing it readily concede, openly and successfully employs a racial criterion for the purpose of ensuring that some of the scarce places in institutions of higher education are allocated to disadvantaged minority students. That the Harvard approach does not also make public the extent of the preference and the precise workings of the system, while the Davis program employs a specific, openly stated number, does not condemn the latter plan for purposes of Fourteenth Amendment adjudication. It may be that the Harvard plan is more acceptable to the public than is the Davis ‘quota.’ If it is, any State, including California, is free to adopt it in preference to a less acceptable alternative, just as it is generally free, as far as the Constitution is concerned, to abjure granting any racial preferences in its admissions program. But there is no basis for preferring a particular preference program simply because, in achieving the same goals that the Davis Medical School is pursuing, it proceeds in a manner that is not immediately apparent to the public.

Accordingly, we would reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of California holding the Medical School’s special admissions program unconstitutional and directing respondent’s admission, as well as that portion of the judgment enjoining the Medical School from according any consideration to race in the admissions process.”

Finally Justice John Paul Stevens also wrote his own separate opinion. (Will be added in later when found. N/A at the moment.)

My Opinion:

In this case, I partially agree with the plurality opinion. Not only is it completely unfair, it is unconstitutional for one to base college admissions solely off of race, or even consider race as a factor in their decision at all. The Fourteenth Amendment clearly states “equal protection under the law.” Using race as a factor completely violates a person’s Fourteenth Amendment right, let alone basing college admissions solely off race.

For example, if a Caucasian were to work all day and night on their academics and received straight As in order to get into their dream college and then another person who’s a minority, were to merely receive straight Cs without trying very hard, the minority will get chosen for diversity reasons. Now I ask you, what is so beneficial about diveristy? In what way will it benefit the students’ education and how they learn? In no way. The Caucasion clearly deserved that spot and their constitutional rights were infringed upon. I believe that every college should be colorblind and admit students based on their substance and not the color of their skin.

It is absolutely absurd that any college would decide admissions only based on race. A person has to meet the race requirements or else they have no chances of being admitted. In no way is that constitutional. Anyone who deserves the spot at that college should get it, no exceptions. The color of their skin should not even cross the admitter’s mind.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right


Plessy v. Ferguson: Railroad Segregation “Separate But Equal” (04/13/1896)

Plessy v. Ferguson

Is Louisiana’s law mandating racial segregation on its trains an unconstitutional infringement on both the privileges and immunities and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Argued: 03/18/1896

Decision Date: 04/13/1896

Decision Record: 7-1; no

Justices Majority: Melville Fuller, Stephen Field, Horace Gray, Henry Brown, George Shiras, Edward White, Rufus Peckham

Justices Dissenting: John Harlan

Effect of the Decision

This case held that racial segregation between the whites and the black were considered constitutional as long as they were “separate but equal.”

In Favor

Plessy was represented by attorneys, A. W. Tourgee and Samuel Field Phillips.


Then in opposition, Ferguson was represented by attorney Alexander Porter Morse.


On the majority side, the opinion was written by Chief Justice Marshall. In his opinion, he wrote, “We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it. The argument necessarily assumes that if, as has been more than once the case and is not unlikely to be so again, the colored race should become the dominant power in the state legislature, and should enact a law in precisely similar terms, it would thereby relegate the white race to an inferior position. We imagine that the white race, at least, would not acquiesce in this assumption. The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition. If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits, and a voluntary consent of individuals. As was said by the Court of Appeals of New York in People v. Gallagher: this end can neither be accomplished nor promoted by laws which conflict with the general sentiment of the community upon whom they are designed to operate. When the government, therefore, has secured to each of its citizens equal rights before the law and equal opportunities for improvement and progress, it has accomplished the end for which it was organized, and performed all of the functions respecting social advantages with which it is endowed.

Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences, and the attempt to do so can only result in accentuating the difficulties of the present situation. If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.

It is true that the question of the proportion of colored blood necessary to constitute a colored person, as distinguished from a white person, is one upon which there is a difference of opinion in the different States, some holding that any visible admixture of black blood stamps the person as belonging to the colored race (State v. Chaver, 5 Jones [N.C.] 1, p. 11); others that it depends upon the preponderance of blood (Gray v. State, 4 Ohio 354; Monroe v. Collins, 17 Ohio St. 665); and still others that the predominance of white blood must only be in the proportion of three-fourths. (People v. Dean, 4 Michigan 406; Jones v. Commonwealth, 80 Virginia 538). But these are questions to be determined under the laws of each State, and are not properly put in issue in this case. Under the allegations of his petition, it may undoubtedly become a question of importance whether, under the laws of Louisiana, the petitioner belongs to the white or colored race.”

Then in dissent, Justice Harlan wrote, “I am of opinion that the statute of Louisiana is inconsistent with the personal liberty of citizens, white and black, in that State, and hostile to both the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the United States. If laws of like character should be enacted in the several States of the Union, the effect would be in the highest degree mischievous. Slavery, as an institution tolerated by law would, it is true, have disappeared from our country, but there would remain a power in the States, by sinister legislation, to interfere with the full enjoyment of the blessings of freedom to regulate civil rights, common to all citizens, upon the basis of race, and to place in a condition of legal inferiority a large body of American citizens now constituting a part of the political community called the People of the United States, for whom and by whom, through representatives, our government is administered. Such a system is inconsistent with the guarantee given by the Constitution to each State of a republican form of government, and may be stricken down by Congressional action, or by the courts in the discharge of their solemn duty to maintain the supreme law of the land, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I think the “separate but equal” clause could work both ways, depending on how it is used. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, it says that everyone has “equal protection under the law.” So for example, if segregation were to be used properly, like it states in this case, then maybe it’d be considered constitutional. In situations like schooling, if two different races were segregated to attend different schools, but the schools taught the exact same things and provided the same treatment for everyone, then under the Fourteenth Amendment, that would still be “equal protection under the law.” However, when segregation was implemented, that was not how things worked out. The blacks and whites were obviously not treated equally, which completely violates the “separate but equal clase.” But in other cases such as the train one that resulted segregation on trains, would be unconstitutional, for Plessy, who was seven-eighths white, was not allowed to sit on the white side of the train. There are just some cases where you cannot be “separate but equal” if you tried. Overall, the idea of segregation and “separate but equal” may be constitutional, but because in the real world, racism would be inevitable no matter what situation you consider, the result would be unconstitutional.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right


Mapp v. Ohio: Illegally Obtained Evidence In Criminal Trial (06/19/1961)

Mapp v. Ohio

Should evidence obtained from performing a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment be inadmissable in a state criminal proceeding?

Argued: 03/29/1961

Decision Date: 06/19/1961

Decision Record: 6-3; yes

Justices in Favor: Earl Warren, Hugo Black, William Douglas, Tom Clark, William Brennan, Potter Stewart

Justices Dissenting: Felix Frankfurter, John Harlan, Charles Whittaker

Effect of the Decision

This case holds that any evidence that is obtained from performing an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used in a state criminal trial.

In Favor

In the representation of the side of Dollree Mapp, attorney A. L. Kearns said, “We have a situation here arising in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

The defendant-appellant in this case was living in a residential neighborhood, owned her own home, and living there in a two-family house on the second floor, having rented the first floor to another tenant.

She lived there with a daughter approximately eleven years of age.

The evidence in this case disclosed that she is a woman without any record whatsoever from the criminal point of view — a decent, respectable American citizen.

One day these police officers of the City of Cleveland, three in number, and the record sets forth the occurrence, came to the house and wanted to be admitted for the purpose of making a search.

When they rapped at the door or rang the bell, she looked out the window and asked them what they wanted.

And they said that they wanted to search the house.

And she said that she would call her lawyer and see what he says.

Now, the evidence discloses that the police officers claimed that they were informed that there was some paraphernalia for the numbers game in the house, and they were also informed that a person wanted for questioning in a bombing was in the house.

She called her lawyer, Mr. Greene, who is my associate; and he said to her, if they have a search warrant, you permit them into the house.

So she told them that they’d have to have a search warrant.

One of the police officers then called his chief, a Lieutenant Cooney, and told him he couldn’t get into the house because they required a search warrant and within a few minutes thereafter, several zone cars with many police officers surrounded the house.

Then, the evidence discloses, at least two of the police officers who knew — one was Sergeant Delau — knew what he was there for, but made no effort to procure a search warrant, neither one of them did, but they testified that a search warrant was procured by a Lieutenant White.

Now, they didn’t know about it.

The evidence discloses that they were told that a search warrant had been procured.

When they came to the house with the search warrant and by the time or supposed search warrant, by the time they arrived, Mr. Greene was also there.

This Lieutenant White came and showed a piece of paper, and Mrs. Mapp demanded to see the paper and to read it to see what it was, which they refused to do, so she grabbed it out of his hand to look at it and then a scuffle started, and she put this piece of paper into her bosom. And very readily the police officer put his hands into her bosom and removed the paper, and thereafter, thereafter handcuffed her while the police officers started to search the house.

Now, the evidence in the case discloses that the State claims there were only seven police officers, some in uniform.

Mr. Greene, who was there and was not permitted entrance to the house, but was kept outside, says there were approximately twelve police officers in all.

Now, the evidence discloses that no search warrant existed. Although they claimed that there was a search warrant, there is absolutely no evidence of any magistrate that had been asked for a search warrant. There was no record of a search warrant.

We asked during the trial of the case that the search warrant be produced and it was not.

The fact of the matter is that our own Supreme Court found that it was very questionable as to whether there was a search warrant in this case.

It was a piece of white paper, but the police officers never produced it, because, as a matter of fact, if it please Your Honors, I waited in the trial of the case for Lieutenant White, who was supposed to be the man who procured the search warrant, to take the stand so that at least I could cross examine him as to where, when and how he procured the search warrant and what the search warrant contained, but the State was clever enough not to put him on the stand and no other police officer knew anything about it.”


Then in opposition, representing Ohio, attorney Bernard A. Berkman claims, “Before I get into the area which was allotted to me, I would like to say that the American Civil Liberties Union and its Ohio Affiliate, the Ohio Civil Liberties Union, is very clear, in response to the question which was directed to counsel for the appellant, that we are asking this Court to reconsider Wolf versus Colorado and to find that evidence which is unlawfully and illegally obtained should not be permitted into a state proceeding, and that its production is a violation of the Federal Constitution, the Fourth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment.

We have no hesitancy about asking the Court to reconsider it because we think that it is a necessary part of due process.

Our principal reason for appearing on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and its Ohio affiliate is to urge the unconstitutionality of the Ohio obscenity law, which is Section 2905, Subsection 34 of the Ohio Revised Code.”


The majority opinion was written by Justice Tom Clark. He wrote, “Since the Fourth Amendment’s right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth, it is enforceable against them by the same sanction of exclusion as is used against the Federal Government. Were it otherwise, then, just as without the Weeksrule the assurance against unreasonable federal searches and seizures would be “a form of words,” valueless and undeserving of mention in a perpetual charter of inestimable human liberties, so too, without that rule, the freedom from state invasions of privacy would be so ephemeral and so neatly severed from its conceptual nexus with the freedom from all brutish means of coercing evidence as not to merit this Court’s high regard as a freedom “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” At the time that the Court held in Wolf that the Amendment was applicable to the States through the Due Process Clause, the cases of this Court, as we have seen, had steadfastly held that as to federal officers the Fourth Amendment included the exclusion of the evidence seized in violation of its provisions. Even Wolf“stoutly adhered” to that proposition. The right to privacy, when conceded operatively enforceable against the States, was not susceptible of destruction by avulsion of the sanction upon which its protection and enjoyment had always been deemed dependent under the Boyd, Weeks and Silverthornecases. Therefore, in extending the substantive protections of due process to all constitutionally unreasonable searches — state or federal — it was logically and constitutionally necessary that the exclusion doctrine — an essential part of the right to privacy — be also insisted upon as an essential ingredient of the right newly recognized by the Wolf case. In short, the admission of the new constitutional r5ght by Wolf could not consistently tolerate denial of its most important constitutional privilege, namely, the exclusion of the evidence which an accused had been forced to give by reason of the unlawful seizure. To hold otherwise is to grant the right but, in reality, to withhold its privilege and enjoyment. Only last year, the Court itself recognized that the purpose of the exclusionary rule

is to deter — to compel respect for the constitutional guaranty in the only effectively available way — by removing the incentive to disregard it.

Indeed, we are aware of no restraint, similar to that rejected today, conditioning the enforcement of any other basic constitutional right. The right to privacy, no less important than any other right carefully and particularly reserved to the people, would stand in marked contrast to all other rights declared as “basic to a free society.” Wolf v. Colorado, supra, at 27. This Court has not hesitated to enforce as strictly against the States as it does against the Federal Government the rights of free speech and of a free press, the rights to notice and to a fair, public trial, including, as it does, the right not to be convicted by use of a coerced confession, however logically relevant it be, and without regard to its reliability. (Rogers v. Richmond) And nothing could be more certain than that, when a coerced confession is involved, “the relevant rules of evidence” are overridden without regard to “the incidence of such conduct by the police,” slight or frequent. Why should not the same rule apply to what is tantamount to coerced testimony by way of unconstitutional seizure of goods, papers, effects, documents, etc.? We find that, as to the Federal Government, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and, as to the States, the freedom from unconscionable invasions of privacy and the freedom from convictions based upon coerced confessions do enjoy an “intimate relation” in their perpetuation of “principles of humanity and civil liberty [secured] . . . only after years of struggle,” (Bram v. United States) They express “supplementing phases of the same constitutional purpose to maintain inviolate large areas of personal privacy.” (Feldman v. United States) The philosophy of each Amendment and of each freedom is complementary to, although not dependent upon, that of the other in its sphere of influence — the very least that together they assure in either sphere is that no man is to be convicted on unconstitutional evidence.”

Then in dissent, Justice John Harlan said, “In conclusion, it should be noted that the majority opinion in this case is, in fact, an opinion only for the judgment overruling Wolf, and not for the basic rationale by which four members of the majority have reached that result. For my Brother BLACK is unwilling to subscribe to their view that the Weeksexclusionary rule derives from the Fourth Amendment itself (see ante, p. 661), but joins the majority opinion on the premise that its end result can be achieved by bringing the Fifth Amendment to the aid of the Fourth. On that score I need only say that whatever the validity of the “Fourth-Fifth Amendment” correlation which the Boyd case found we have only very recently again reiterated the long-established doctrine of this Court that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is not applicable to the States. (Cohen v. Hurley)

I regret that I find so unwise in principle and so inexpedient in policy a decision motivated by the high purpose of increasing respect for Constitutional rights. But, in the last analysis, I think this Court can increase respect for the Constitution only if it rigidly respects the limitations which the Constitution places upon it, and respects as well the principles inherent in its own processes. In the present case, I think we exceed both, and that our voice becomes only a voice of power, not of reason.”

Finally, in a separate opinion, Justice Potter Stewart wrote, “Agreeing fully with Part I of MR. JUSTICE HARLAN’s dissenting opinion, I express no view as to the merits of the constitutional issue which the Court today decides. I would, however, reverse the judgment in this case, because I am persuaded that the provision of § 2905.34 of the Ohio Revised Code, upon which the petitioner’s conviction was based, is, in the words of MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, not “consistent with the rights of free thought and expression assured against state action by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority’s decision. Authorities performed an illegal search on Mapp and obtained evidence that they proceeded to attempt to use during the state criminal trial. The Fourth Amendment clearly protects all American citizens from unreasonable searches or seizures. The authorities warrantly searched a house, which compeltely violates the Fourth Amendment. A citizen’s constitutional right must be protected and if the evidence was unconstitutionally and unfairly retrieved, then it should definitely not be used in court.

The exclusionary rule, under the Fourth Amendment, also clearly states that all illegally obtained evidence may not be used in a court trial. This applies wholly in this case, because evidence was illegally acquired, as repeatedly stated, and authorties tried to use it against the defendant. This violated the exclusionary rule.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

New Jersey v. T.L.O.: Exclusionary Rule, Purse Search (01/15/1985)

New Jersey v. T.L.O.

Did the school administrators have the right to search T.L.O’s purse without violation of the exclusionary rule?

T.L.O. is the name of the respondent.

Argued: 03/28/1984

Reargued: 10/02/1984

Decision Date: 01/15/1985

Decision Record: 6-3; yes

Justices in Favor: Warren Burger, Byron White, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O’Connor

Justices Dissenting: William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, John Paul Stevens

Effect of the Decision

This case shows that if schools receive some sort of evidence that a student may have been committing an illegal crime, this is enough reason to further search that student. The case also lead to the enforcement of the reasonable suspicion standard.

In Favor

In the representation of the side of New Jersey, attorney Allan J. Nodes argued, “In this case, the respondent was observed smoking a cigarette in a school restroom by a teacher.

The teacher took the student to the vice principal’s office and reported the incident to the vice principal.

After the teacher left, the student not only denied having smoked in the restroom but also stated that it couldn’t have been her because she didn’t even smoke.

After… following this statement, the vice principal asked for the student’s purse, and opened the student’s purse, finding a pack of cigarettes lying on the top.

He picked up the cigarettes and said something to the effect of,

‘You lied to me about smoking cigarettes.’

looked back in the purse, and saw rolling papers for cigarettes.

He believed these were indicative of the presence of drug paraphernalia in the purse, and continued to look through the purse.

He found marijuana and other indications that the marijuana was in the purse for purposes of distribution.

I don’t think there would be any distinction under New Jersey law between a minor consenting to a search and an adult consenting.

New Jersey has a slightly stricter standard than the federal standard concerning consent, and it would have been absolutely necessary that the juvenile be aware of her rights prior to the search taking place in order for it to be a consent search.

Because of this, the state has always conceded that it was not a consent search.”


Then in opposition, representing T.L.O., attorney Lois DeJulio claims, “This case arises in the factual setting of the public school system, but I would urge the Court not to let the context obscure the fact that the issues presented here are not ones of educational policy, but are rather ones of criminal law.

The question is not whether or under what circumstances schools may regulate the conduct of their students.

It is not whether this school may use certain types of evidence in its own internal disciplinary proceedings to form the basis for imposing school sanctions.

Rather, the question is whether a court of law may permit an individual to be convicted of a crime based upon evidence illegally seized from him by a government official.”


The majority opinion was written by Justice Byron White. He wrote, “Our conclusion that Mr. Choplick’s decision to open T.L.O.’s purse was reasonable brings us to the question of the further search for marihuana once the pack of cigarettes was located. The suspicion upon which the search for marihuana was founded was provided when Mr. Choplick observed a package of rolling papers in the purse as he removed the pack of cigarettes. Although T.L.O. does not dispute the reasonableness of Mr. Choplick’s belief that the rolling papers indicated the presence of marihuana, she does contend that the scope of the search Mr. Choplick conducted exceeded permissible bounds when he seized and read certain letters that implicated T.L.O. in drug dealing. This argument, too, is unpersuasive. The discovery of the rolling papers concededly gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that T.L.O. was carrying marihuana as well as cigarettes in her purse. This suspicion justified further exploration of T.L.O.’s purse, which turned up more evidence of drug-related activities: a pipe, a number of plastic bags of the type commonly used to store marihuana, a small quantity of marihuana, and a fairly substantial amount of money. Under these circumstances, it was not unreasonable to extend the search to a separate zippered compartment of the purse; and when a search of that compartment revealed an index card containing a list of “people who owe me money” as well as two letters, the inference that T.L.O. was involved in marihuana trafficking was substantial enough to justify Mr. Choplick in examining the letters to determine whether they contained any further evidence. In short, we cannot conclude that the search for marihuana was unreasonable in any respect.

Because the search resulting in the discovery of the evidence of marihuana dealing by T.L.O. was reasonable, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision to exclude that evidence from T.L.O.’s juvenile delinquency proceedings on Fourth Amendment grounds was erroneous.”

Then in dissent, Justice Thurgood Marshall said, “On my view, the presence of the word “unreasonable” in the text of the Fourth Amendment does not grant a shifting majority of this Court the authority to answer all Fourth Amendment questions by consulting its momentary vision of the social good. Full-scale searches unaccompanied by probable cause violate the Fourth Amendment. I do not pretend that our traditional Fourth Amendment doctrine automatically answers all of the difficult legal questions that occasionally arise. I do contend, however, that this Court has an obligation to provide some coherent framework to resolve such questions on the basis of more than a conclusory recitation of the results of a “balancing test.” The Fourth Amendment itself supplies that framework and because the Court today fails to heed its message, I must respectfully dissent.”

Also disagreeing with the majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “The schoolroom is the first opportunity most citizens have to experience the power of government. Through it passes every citizen and public official, from schoolteachers topolicemen and prison guards. The values they learn there, they take with them in life. One of our most cherished ideals is the one contained in the Fourth Amendment: that the government may not intrude on the personal privacy of its citizens without a warrant or compelling circumstance. The Court’s decision today is a curious moral for the Nation’s youth. Although the search of T.L.O.’s purse does not trouble today’s majority, I submit that we are not dealing with “matters relatively trivial to the welfare of the Nation. There are village tyrants as well as village Hampdens, but none who acts under color of law is beyond reach of the Constitution.” West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943).

I respectfully dissent.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority’s decision. The exclusionary rule applies only to evidence that has been illegally obtained. However, because the school authorities had already gotten a tip that T.L.O. was smoking in the bathroom, this resulted in the teacher physically going to the bathroom and seeing T.L.O. smoke in action. This was enough to justify a cursory search through her purse. After finding cigarette papers, this was enough evidence to allow them to search even further into her purse to see if there were any more hidden illegal item. Sure enough, they found marijuana.

This also did not violate the Fourth Amendment due to the fact that this was most definitely not an unreasonable search. The authorities had enough reason to justify their search of T.L.O’s purse. Had there been no evidence at all of T.L.O. smoking cigarettes in the school bathroom, then this could have been classified as an unreasonable search, and therefore a violation of the Fourth Amendment. However, this was not a search that was chosen randomly out of bias or anything else, so therefore, it was not a violation of any amendment, nor was the exclusionary rule applicable in this case.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right