Board of Ed. of Independence District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls: Extracurricular-Required Urinal Drug Test (05/27/2002)

Board of Ed. of Independence District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls

Is the Student Activities Drug Testing Policy, which requires all students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities to participate in a drug testing, consistent with the Fourth Amendment?

Argued: 03/19/2002

Decision Date: 05/27/2002

Decision Record: 5-4; yes

Justices in Favor: William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer

Justices Dissenting: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that the requirement for students wanting to participate in this particular school is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty., attorney Linda M. Meoli argued, “This case involves the constitutionality of the Tecumseh School Board’s decision to implement a suspicionless drug testing pro- policy for students in competitive activities as a reasonable response to student drug use.

Tecumseh’s policy represents a natural, logical, and rational application of this Court’s decision in Vernonia V Acton.

Vernonia’s policy applied to students who chose to participate in interscholastic athletics.

Tecumseh’s policy applies as well to athletics, but also to all the other competitive activities that are offered by the district.

Respondents do not challenge the policy as applied to the athletics, conceding that this Court approved that practice in Vernonia.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Earls, attorney Graham A. Boyd argued, “Opposing counsel said we have to draw the line somewhere, and the way the way to draw the line in this case is to keep in mind the core principle that individualized reasonable suspicion is the standard for school searches set forth in TLO.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “Finally, we find that testing students who participate in extracurricular activities is a reasonably effective means of addressing the School District’s legitimate concerns in preventing, deterring, and detecting drug use. While in Vernonia there might have been a closer fit between the testing of athletes and the trial court’s finding that the drug problem was “fueled by the ‘role model’ effect of athletes’ drug use,” such a finding was not essential to the holding. 515 U.S., at 663; cf. id., at 684—685 (O’Connor, J., dissenting) (questioning the extent of the drug problem, especially as applied to athletes). Vernonia did not require the school to test the group of students most likely to use drugs, but rather considered the constitutionality of the program in the context of the public school’s custodial responsibilities. Evaluating the Policy in this context, we conclude that the drug testing of Tecumseh students who participate in extracurricular activities effectively serves the School District’s interest in protecting the safety and health of its students.

    Within the limits of the Fourth Amendment, local school boards must assess the desirability of drug testing schoolchildren. In upholding the constitutionality of the Policy, we express no opinion as to its wisdom. Rather, we hold only that Tecumseh’s Policy is a reasonable means of furthering the School District’s important interest in preventing and deterring drug use among its schoolchildren. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”

In opposition, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “I dissented in Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646 (1995), and continue to believe that case was wrongly decided. Because Vernonia is now this Court’s precedent, and because I agree that petitioners’ program fails even under the balancing approach adopted in that case, I join Justice Ginsburg’s dissent.”
Also disagreeing with the majority, Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg wrote, “It is a sad irony that the petitioning School District seeks to justify its edict here by trumpeting “the schools’ custodial and tutelary responsibility for children.” Vernonia, 515 U.S., at 656. In regulating an athletic program or endeavoring to combat an exploding drug epidemic, a school’s custodial obligations may permit searches that would otherwise unacceptably abridge students’ rights. When custodial duties are not ascendant, however, schools’ tutelary obligations to their students require them to “teach by example” by avoiding symbolic measures that diminish constitutional protections. “That [schools] are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.” West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 637 (1943).”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority. Most schools already do spontaneous drug checks commonly without needing reasonable suspicion. This shouldn’t be that much different. I personally do not believe an administrator needs any sort of “reasonable suspicion” to perform a drug test on a group of kids. There always reason to believe that a person may or may not be doing drugs, especially in a school-environment where one is surrounded around tons of influencers. Not only that, I wouldn’t consider a urinal drug test much of an “invasion of privacy.” There’s not much to hide in one’s urine; and if it’s for the better of the students and school, then so be it.

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

Obergefell v. Hodges: Licensing Same Sex Marriage (05/26/2015)

Obergefell v. Hodges

Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

Argued: 04/28/2015

Decision Date: 05/26/2015

Decision Record: 5-4; yes

Justices in Favor: Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan

Justices Dissenting: John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that states must accept and license same sex marriages.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of Obergefell, attorney Mary L. Bonauto argued, “The intimate and committed relationships of same-sex couples, just like those of heterosexual couples, provide mutual support and are the foundation of family life in our society.

If a legal commitment, responsibility and protection that is marriage is off limits to gay people as a class, the stain of unworthiness that follows on individuals and families contravenes the basic constitutional commitment to equal dignity. Indeed, the abiding purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment is to preclude relegating classes of persons to second-tier status.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Hodges, attorney Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. argued, “Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of these couples.

It demeans their children, and it denies the — both the couples and their children the stabilizing structure that marriage affords. Now, the Respondents’ principal argument, and what we’ve been discussing this morning so far, is whether this issue of — whether this discrimination should persist, is something that should be left to the political process or whether it should be something decided by the Court.

And I’d like to make three points about that, if I could. First, the — I think it’s important to understand that if this Court concludes that this issue should be left to the political process, what the Court will be saying is that the demeaning, second-class status that gay and lesbian couples now inhabit in — in States that do not provide for marriage is consistent with the equal protection of the laws.

That is not a wait-and-see.

That is a validation. And second, to the extent that the thought is that this can be left to the political process because this issue will take care of itself over time, because attitudes are changing, what I respectfully submit to the Court is that although no one can see the future perfectly, of course, that it seems much more likely to me that the outcome that we’re going to end up with is something that will approximate the nation as a house divided that we had with de jure racial segregation.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Then in dissent, Justice John Roberts wrote, “In the face of all this, a much different view of the Court’s role is possible. That view is more modest and restrained. It is more skeptical that the legal abilities of judges also reflect insight into moral and philosophical issues. It is more sensitive to the fact that judges are unelected and unaccountable, and that the legitimacy of their power depends on confining it to the exercise of legal judgment. It is more attuned to the lessons of history, and what it has meant for the country and Court when Justices have exceeded their proper bounds. And it is less pretentious than to suppose that while people around the world have viewed an institution in a particular way for thousands of years, the present generation and the present Court are the ones chosen to burst the bonds of that history and tradition.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I disagree with the majority and agree with the minority. Requiring licensing of the same sex marriage might be equal, but it has nothing to do with the”equal protection of the law” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Constitution states nothing having to do with marriage of the same sex. The Supreme Court’s job is the interpret the Constitution. Therefore, it is not the Supreme Court’s job to decide whether or not same sex marriage is legal. That should be determined by the state like it previously was. The majority side of the Supreme Court judges interpreted the Constitution too vaguely and crossed the boundaries. Like Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion, “If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

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

Brown v. Board of Education: Segregation of Public Education (05/17/1954)

Brown v. Board of Education

Does the segregation of public education based only on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Argued: 12/8-10/1952; 12/6-8/1953

Decision Date: 05/17/1954

Decision Record: 9-0; yes

Justices in Favor: Earl Warren, Hugo Black, Stanley Reed, Felix Frankfurter, William Douglas, Robert Jackson, Harold Burton, Tom Clark, Sherman Minton

Justices Dissenting: None

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled segregation in public schools is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side, attorneys Robert L. Carter, Thurgood Marshall, and Spottswood Robinson III argued on the side of Brown.

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the the Board of Education, attorney Paul E.Wilson, John W. Davis, T. Justin Moore, and J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. argued.

Justices:

 

The decision in this case was unanimous on the side of Brown. Justice Earl Warren delivered the opinion of the court. He wrote, “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[n12]

Because these are class actions, because of the wide applicability of this decision, and because of the great variety of local conditions, the formulation of decrees in these cases presents problems of considerable complexity. On reargument, the consideration of appropriate relief was necessarily subordinated to the primary question — the constitutionality of segregation in public education. We have now announced that such segregation is a denial of the equal protection of the laws. In order that we may have the full assistance of the parties in formulating decrees, the cases will be restored to the docket, and the parties are requested to present further argument on Questions 4 and 5 previously propounded by the Court for the reargument this Term[n13] The Attorney General[p496] of the United States is again invited to participate. The Attorneys General of the states requiring or permitting segregation in public education will also be permitted to appear as amici curiae upon request to do so by September 15, 1954, and submission of briefs by October 1, 1954.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the court’s decision. Segregation was not only morally incorrect but it was not equal; not in the least bit. The Fourteenth Amendment’s famous clause “equal protection under the law” was completely violated under the “separate but equal” phrase that was implemented in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. Blacks and whites were more like “separate but unequal.” They were taught differently and were both treated differently by society. They had different park benches, restrooms, fountains, etc. The Plessy v. Ferguson case was what really gave the whites permission to treat the blacks horribly and keep them from coming in contact with other white people. The whites received things that were 100x more luxurious than that of the blacks. This is the pure meaning of inequality and that word definitely does not belong with and violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

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

Morse v. Frederick: Promotion of Illegal Drug Use at School-Supervised Event (05/25/2007)

Morse v. Frederick

Does the First Amendment allow public schools to forbid students from displaying messages encouraging the use of illegal drugs at school-supervised events?

Argued: 03/19/2007

Decision Date: 05/25/2007

Decision Record: 5-4; yes

Justices in Favor: John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito

Justices Dissenting: John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that schools have the right to prohibit messages, etc. that promote things like illegal drug use at school-supervised events.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of Morse, attorney Kenneth W. Starr argued, “Illegal drugs and the glorification of the drug culture are profoundly serious problems for our nation.

Congress has so recognized, as has this Court, time and again.

The magnitude of the problem is captured in the amicus brief, the Court has a number of amicus briefs before it, but the amicus brief of General McCaffrey, Secretary Bennett, and a number of organizations.

And particularly, pages 5 to 9 of that brief, the nature and the scope of the problem are well-captured.

Well, there are several gradations that the Court could take: Advocacy of illegal conduct generally; more specifically advocacy of illegal drugs.

But I believe… I think it’s important to recognize that this Court’s precedents recognize… recognize several different justifications for restricting student speech.

In Tinker itself which dealt with political speech, the Court was careful to point out that even then, if the speech could be shown to present a threat of a material disruption to the class work, and I think this would answer your question, Mr. Chief Justice, if the teacher wants to teach Shakespeare, the teacher doesn’t have to turn over the class to political speech.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Frederick, attorney Edwin S. Kneedler argued, “The First Amendment does not require public school officials to stand aside and permit students who are entrusted to their supervision and care to promote or encourage the use of illegal drugs.

As this Court observed in Earls, the nationwide drug… drug epidemic makes the war against drugs a pressing concern in every school.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “School principals have a difficult job, and a vitally important one. When Frederick suddenly and unexpectedly unfurled his banner, Morse had to decide to act—or not act—on the spot. It was reasonable for her to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use—in violation of established school policy—and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge, including Frederick, about how serious the school was about the dangers of illegal drug use. The First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers.

    The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Then in dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “Although this case began with a silly, nonsensical banner, it ends with the Court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, at least so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message. Our First Amendment jurisprudence has identified some categories of expression that are less deserving of protection than others—fighting words, obscenity, and commercial speech, to name a few. Rather than reviewing our opinions discussing such categories, I mention two personal recollections that have no doubt influenced my conclusion that it would be profoundly unwise to create special rules for speech about drug and alcohol use.

    The Vietnam War is remembered today as an unpopular war. During its early stages, however, “the dominant opinion” that Justice Harlan mentioned in his Tinkerdissent regarded opposition to the war as unpatriotic, if not treason. 393 U. S., at 526. That dominant opinion strongly supported the prosecution of several of those who demonstrated in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, see United States v. Dellinger, 472 F. 2d 340 (CA7 1972),and the vilification of vocal opponents of the war like Julian Bond, cf. Bond v. Floyd385 U. S. 116 (1966) . In 1965, when the Des Moines students wore their armbands, the school district’s fear that they might “start an argument or cause a disturbance” was well founded. Tinker, 393 U. S., at 508. Given that context, there is special force to the Court’s insistence that “our Constitution says we must take that risk; and our history says that it is this sort of hazardous freedom—this kind of openness—that is the basis of our national strength and of the independence and vigor of Americans who grow up and live in this relatively permissive, often disputatious, society.” Id., at 508–509 (citation omitted). As we now know, the then-dominant opinion about the Vietnam War was not etched in stone.

    Reaching back still further, the current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our antimarijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student. While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs. The ensuing change in public opinion occurred much more slowly than the relatively rapid shift in Americans’ views on the Vietnam War, and progressed on a state-by-state basis over a period of many years. But just as prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s was secretly questioned by thousands of otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies, today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law-abiding users of marijuana,9 and of the majority of voters in each of the several States that tolerate medicinal uses of the product,10 lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority is silencing opponents of the war on drugs. Surely our national experience with alcohol should make us wary of dampening speech suggesting—however inarticulately—that it would be better to tax and regulate marijuana than to persevere in a futile effort to ban its use entirely.

    Even in high school, a rule that permits only one point of view to be expressed is less likely to produce correct answers than the open discussion of countervailing views. Whitney, 274 U. S., at 377 (Brandeis, J., concurring); Abrams, 250 U. S., at 630 (Holmes, J., dissenting); Tinker, 393 U. S., at 512. In the national debate about a serious issue, it is the expression of the minority’s viewpoint that most demands the protection of the First Amendment . Whatever the better policy may be, a full and frank discussion of the costs and benefits of the attempt to prohibit the use of marijuana is far wiser than suppression of speech because it is unpopular.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority decision. The school has complete authority to regulate things like this. It’s their job. The First Amendment, like I’ve stated in a previous case, had the purpose of allowing people to freely express themselves, whether it’s through words or religion. In this case, Frederick merely did it for the fun of it. There was no real meaning behind it except for the fact that it was extremely inappropriate; especially at a school-supervised event. It is a school administrator’s job make sure everything that everyone’s doing is school-appropriate and won’t affect others in a negative manner. Holding up a banner that promoted illegal drug use did none of that.

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

West Side Community Schools v. Mergens: Equal Access Act (06/04/1990)

West Side Community Schools v. Mergens

Was Westside’s prohibition against the formation of a Christian club consistent with the Establishment Clause, thereby rendering the Equal Access Act unconstitutional?

Argued: 01/09/1990

Decision Date: 06/04/1990

Decision Record: 8-1; no

Justices in Favor: John Paul Stevens

Justices Dissenting: William Rehnquist, William Brennan, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that refusing to allow the Christian club was a violation of the Equal Access Act.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the West Side, attorney Allen E. Daubman argued, “This case presents issues central to the operation of co-curricular activities in the public secondary schools in this country.

Of critical importance in that regard, obviously, is the equal access act, which was enacted by Congress in the fall of 1984.

The act basically provides that a school which conducts, or has a limited open forum, may not deny access to that forum on the basis of the political, philosophical or religious content of speech.

In that regard, the Congress defined “limited open forum” to mean when a school district grants an opportunity for one or more noncurriculum-related student groups to meet on school premises during noninstructional time.

It is that statutory framework which causes difficulty in school districts in trying to comply with the act and meet their educational obligations.

The Equal Access Act, as we see it, basically balances three concerns: certainly the free speech rights of students in our public schools; certainly also it balances a concern of nonestablishment of religion; and certainly also it affords deference to school officials, affords them the autonomy and discretion to make educational decisions.

In that context, we urge the Court to interpret the act, interpret noncurriculum-related, as that term is used in the act, to encompass a situation which is not found at Westside High School.

All of the student clubs and organizations at Westside High School were under, by school board policy, the direct control and supervision of the administration and shall have a faculty sponsor.

The record is replete with testimony that the school officials maintained an active role in practice, in determining the goals and objectives of student clubs and organizations and the manner in which those clubs and organizations operated in their school.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the city of Mergens, attorney Jay Alan Sekulow argued, “The students of Westside High School who desire to form a student-initiated, student-led and voluntary Bible club do acknowledge that the school officials have important and oftentime delicate functions to perform with regard to the operation of schools under their control.

However, these concerns do not justify the prohibition of these students’ Bible club from the Westside High School campus.

At issue at Westside High School, and what is before the court today is whether one or more noncurriculum-related clubs existed, which would then trigger Congress’ Equal Access Act.

The Peer Advocates Club, which was discussed at trial, was an admission by the principal himself that that particular club was not related to any of the curriculum activities of Westside High School.

The pretrial stipulation that was discussed by the Petitioners’ attorney related to ten clubs that were designated to be discussed.

However, and I think it’s important to note that that same stipulation did not state that they would… that the Respondents would in any way not challenge other club activities.

The school officials themselves have set forth, if you will, the way in which to make the determination of whether a particular club is related to the curriculum.

And our test for whether the act would be triggered would be whether there is a direct relationship between the club and a core curriculum course or a curriculum course.

For instance, in defining the clubs, as it has in its… in the Joint Appendix there is a listing of the various student groups and student clubs that meet at Westside High School.

One of the clubs, Distributive Education Club, is listed by the schools as, in fact, an extension of the course in distributive education.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the opinion for the court. She wrote, “Under the Act, however, faculty monitors may not participate in any religious meetings, and nonschool persons may not direct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups. §§ 4071(c)(3) and (5). Moreover, the Act prohibits school “sponsorship” of any religious meetings, § 4071(c)(2), which means that school officials may not promote, lead, or participate in any such meeting, § 4072(2). Although the Act permits “[t]he assignment of a teacher, administrator, or other school employee to the meeting for custodial purposes,” ibid., such custodial oversight of the student-initiated religious group, merely to ensure order and good behavior, does not impermissibly entangle government in the day-to-day surveillance or administration of religious activities. See Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U.S. 290, 305-306 (1985). Indeed, as the Court noted in Widmar, a denial of equal access to religious speech might well create greater entanglement problems in the form of invasive monitoring to prevent religious speech at meetings at which such speech might occur.See Widmar, 454 U.S. at 272, n. 11.

Accordingly, we hold that the Equal Access Act does not on its face contravene the Establishment Clause. Because we hold that petitioners have violated the Act, we do not decide respondents’ claims under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses. For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.”

Then in dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “Against all these arguments, the Court interposes Noah Webster’s famous dictionary. It is a massive tome, but no match for the weight the Court would put upon it. The Court relies heavily on the dictionary’s definition of “curriculum.” See ante at 237. That word, of course, is not the Act’s; moreover, the word “noncurriculum” is not in the dictionary. Neither Webster nor Congress has authorized us to assume that “noncurriculum” is a precise antonym of the word “curriculum.” “Nonplus,” for example, does not mean “minus,” and it would be incorrect to assume that a “nonentity” is not an “entity” at all. Purely as a matter of defining a newly-coined word, the term “noncurriculum” could fairly be construed to describe either the subjects that are “not a part of the current curriculum” or the subjects that “cannot properly be included in a public school curriculum.” Either of those definitions is perfectly “sensible,” because both describe subjects “that are not related to the body of courses offered by the school.” See ante at 237. When one considers the basic purpose of the Act and its unquestioned linkage to our decision in Widmar, the latter definition surely is the more “sensible.””

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority decision. By refusing to fund for or allow a Christian club, not only are you violating the Equal Access Act, which requires “federally funded secondary schools to provide ‘equal access’ to extracurricular clubs,” according to Google, you are also violating one’s right to the freedom of religious expression, which is stated clearly of the First Amendment. The school should not have refused the club because they violated the students’ constitutional rights.

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

Vernonia School District v. Acton: Reasonable Random Drug Searches (06/26/1995)

Vernonia School District v. Acton

Does random drug testing of high school athletes violate the reasonable search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment?

Argued: 03/28/1995

Decision Date: 06/26/1995

Decision Record: 6-3; no

Justices in Favor: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter

Justices Dissenting: William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that the random drug tests at the high school did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Vernonia School District, attorney Timothy R. Voleprt argued, “The issue presented is whether a school district faced with a serious drug problem with student athletes at its core may reasonably require athletes to submit to drug testing absent individualized suspicion.

The hard evidence of drug use consists, Justice Souter, of observations on numerous occasions by a teacher of students smoking marijuana across the street, arrests of student athletes for using drugs, confiscation of drug paraphernalia on school grounds, admissions by students to the principal that they have used drugs, admissions by certain student athletes to the coaches that they had used drugs, coaches’ observations of marijuana coming from the room of athletes the day after a serious injury–“

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the city of Acton, attorney Richard H. Seamon argued, “I’d like to begin by addressing a question that arose earlier.

The question was, if there was so much evidence of drug use in Vernonia, why wasn’t there enough individualized suspicion to make individualized suspicion-based testing effective?

That question is plainly relevant under the balancing approach this Court applied in Skinner and Von Raab, because even though the Court declined to impose a least intrusive means requirement in its analysis, it is plain that alternatives to suspicionless testing are relevant to decide whether suspicionless testing is actually necessary to further the governmental interest that is being asserted, and I think that the limitations of individualized suspicion testing are illustrated well on the facts of this case.

Some of the evidence concerned drug use by individual students, and would have permitted individualized suspicion-based testing of those students… for example, the students from whom drug paraphernalia was confiscated, the students who were seen smoking marijuana in the coffee shop across the street from the school, the students who were arrested for using intoxicants at a party during the school day.

But this was not the only relevant evidence in the record that there was a drug problem in Vernonia.

The school district witnessed a two to threefold increase in disciplinary problems over the course of a couple of years.

At the same time, it witnessed the rise of an apparent drug culture.

Students boasting about their use of drugs, whether true or false, was certainly relevant to the officials’ assessment of whether a drug problem existed, and finally, the organization of groups with names like The Drug Cartel.

Now, maybe the fact that a student belongs to a group called The Drug Cartel does not provide individualized reasonable suspicion for testing that individual.

That would be a debatable point.

But the fact that such a group springs into existence at the same time that there is a two to threefold increase in disciplinary problems, and teachers for the first time begin hearing students boasting about drug use and writing about it in essays that they hand in to be graded clearly is relevant in assessing the existence of a drug problem.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “Taking into account all the factors we have considered above–the decreased expectation of privacy, the relative unobtrusiveness of the search, and the severity of the need met by the search–we conclude Vernonia’s Policy is reasonable and hence constitutional.

We caution against the assumption that suspicionless drug testing will readily pass constitutional muster in other contexts. The most significant element in this case is the first we discussed: that the Policy was undertaken in furtherance of the government’s responsibilities, under a public school system, as guardian and tutor of children entrusted to its care. [n.4] Just as when the government conducts a search in its capacity as employer (a warrantless search of an absent employee’s desk to obtain an urgently needed file, for example), the relevant question is whether that intrusion upon privacy is one that a reasonable employer might engage in, see O’Connor v. Ortega480 U.S. 709(1987); so also when the government acts as guardian and tutor the relevant question is whether the search is one that a reasonable guardian and tutor might undertake. Given the findings of need made by the District Court, we conclude that in the present case it is.

We may note that the primary guardians of Vernonia’s schoolchildren appear to agree. The record shows no objection to this districtwide program by any parents other than the couple before us here–even though, as we have described, a public meeting was held to obtain parents’ views. We find insufficient basis to contradict the judgment of Vernonia’s parents, its school board, and the District Court, as to what was reasonably in the interest of these children under the circumstances.”

Then in dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “On this record, then, it seems to me that the far more reasonable choice would have been to focus on the class of students found to have violated published school rules against severe disruption in class and around campus, see Record, Exh. 2, at 9, 11–disruption that had a strong nexus to drug use, as the District established at trial. Such a choice would share two of the virtues of a suspicion based regime: testing dramatically fewer students, tens as against hundreds, and giving students control, through their behavior, over the likelihood that they would be tested. Moreover, there would be a reduced concern for the accusatory nature of the search, because the Court’s feared “badge of shame,” ante, at 17, would already exist, due to the antecedent accusation and finding of severe disruption. In a lesser known aspect of Skinner, we upheld an analogous testing scheme with little hesitation. See Skinner, 489 U. S., at 611 (describing ” `Authorization to Test for Cause’ ” scheme, according to which train operators would be tested “in the event of certain specific rule violations, including noncompliance with a signal and excessive speeding”).

It cannot be too often stated that the greatest threats to our constitutional freedoms come in times of crisis. But we must also stay mindful that not all government responses to such times are hysterical overreactions; some crises are quite real, and when they are, they serve precisely as the compelling state interest that we have said may justify a measured intrusion on constitutional rights. The only way for judges to mediate these conflicting impulses is to do what they should do anyway: stay close to the record in each case that appears before them, and make their judgments based on that alone. Having reviewed the record here, I cannot avoid the conclusion that the District’s suspicionless policy of testing all student athletes sweeps too broadly, and too imprecisely, to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority decision. The random drug searches did not violate the reasonable suspicion clause of the Fourth Amendment. The random drug searches were due to the official drug investigation. They discovered drugs and that’s enough suspicion for the authorities and police to perform random drug searches.

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

Rowan v. United States Post Office Department: Certain Mail Entering Homes (05/04/1970)

Rowan v. United States Post Office Department

Do people have the right to choose what items enter their homes?

Argued: 01/22/1970

Decision Date: 05/04/1970

Decision Record: 8-0; yes

Justices in Favor: Warren Burger, Hugo Black, William Douglas, John Harlan, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall

Justices Dissenting: None

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that a person’s choice to refuse certain mail from entering their homes is not a violation of the company’s First Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Rowan, attorney Joseph Taback argued, “The appeal here before this Court, is from a judgment of the three-judge court of the United States District Court with the Central District of California.

The jurisdiction of the Court is grounded upon Section 1253 of the Title 28 of United States Codes.

The appellants are in the mail order business.

They are distributors and disseminators of books, pamphlets, various matters and materials that traffic and conduct its way through the mail.

The law which is brought here on focus by this appeal is Section 301 of the Public Law 90206 or is codified 39 US Code 4009.

The action below was that for declaratory relief and seeking an injunction against the enforcement, implementation, and administration of the statute.

The result in the court below was a verdict of three to nothing, upholding the constitutionality of the statute and denying the relief sought.

Upon this appeal, it does seem that the issues are made much clear then they were even in the court below.

This is come to be because a statute which reportedly was not an ambiguous has now received the same interpretation by the Government as well as the appellants herein.

Well, interpretation is contrary to the construction inter — and the interpretation given by the US District Court.

This is a new twist, if you will, a matter which is occurred at the time of this appeal.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the United States Post Office Department, attorney William D. Ruckelshaus argued, “Since that the — now that there seems to be some concern about just precisely what the Government’s position is, either below or in our motion to affirm in our brief, let me make it perfectly clear, precisely what the Government’s position is.

It’s our position that Congress has said, when an individual in our society receives through the mail material which in his sole discretion, he believes to be a pandering advertising and he again finds in his sole discretion this material to be erotically arousing or sexually provocative, he can tell the sender, “Don’t send me anymore material!”

And he lists, the addressee a list — enlist to support of the Post Office in informing the sender of his desires and if the sender persist, after one prohibiting from the post office, he maybe enjoined from continuing to send the material to an unwilling recipient.

If he still persists, he maybe held in contempt by that Court which has issued the injunction for violating the Court’s order.

We believe that Congress has sought to protect a man in his own home.”

Justices:

This court decision was a unanimous one. Justice Warren Burger wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “The appellants also contend that the requirement that the sender remove the addressee’s name from all mailing lists in his possession violates the Fifth Amendment because it constitutes a taking without due process of law. The appellants are not prohibited from using, selling, or exchanging their mailing lists; they are simply required to delete the names of the complaining addressees from the lists and cease all mailings to those persons.

Appellants next contend that compliance with the statute is confiscatory because the costs attending removal of the names are prohibitive. We agree with the conclusion of the District Court that the

burden does not amount to a violation of due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. Particularly when, in the context presently before this Court, it is being applied to commercial enterprises.

300 F.Supp. at 1041. See California State Auto Ins. Bureau v. Malone, 341 U.S. 105 (1951).

There is no merit to the appellants’ allegations that the statute is unconstitutionally vague. A statute is fatally vague only when it exposes a potential actor to some risk or detriment without giving him fair warning of the nature of the proscribed conduct. United States v. Cardiff, 344 U.S. 174, 176 (1952). Here, the appellants know precisely what they must do on receipt of a prohibitory order. The complainants’ names must be removed from the sender’s mailing lists, and he must refrain from future mailings to the named addressees. The sender is exposed to a contempt sanction only if he continues to mail to a particular addressee after administrative and judicial proceedings. Appellants run no substantial risk of miscalculation.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the rest of the Supreme Court judges. If one opts not to receive a certain mail, for example a junk mail, he or she has the complete right to do so. The Postal Revenue and Federal Salary Act of 1967 required all businesses to stop sending sexual mails to houses when they were told. This, in turn, caused a riot about this act being a violation of the First Amendment. I highly disagree with this. An individual should 100% have the choice of what kinds of mail are sent to their house, especially if its inappropriate to some of the people in that household, such as kids. This is a topic that should not even have to b argued. People have the right to their own houses and should be able to opt for stopping any particular mail they don’t want.

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

Kent v. United States: Juvenile Court Waiver of Jurisdiction (03/21/1966)

Kent v. United States

Was the juvenile court’s waiver of jurisdiction valid?

Argued: 01/19/1966

Decision Date: 03/21/1966

Decision Record: 5-4; no

Justices in Favor: Earl Warren, William Douglas, Tom Clark, William Brennan, Abe Fortas

Justices Dissenting: Hugo Black, John Harlan, Potter Stewart, Byron White

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that Kent’s waiver of jurisdiction was invalid.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Kent, attorney Myron G. Ehrlich argued, “This case is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit.

I was assigned by the United States Court of Appeals to prefect the petitioner’s appeal from the District Court to that Court.

Mr. Arens represented the petitioner in the Juvenile Court.

I am here just as a public service representing an indigent without compensation and so is Mr. Arens who joined me in this petition for writ of certiorari.

The facts in this case if the Court pleases are that on — on or about September 5, 1961, the accused in this case was arrested by officers of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia and he at that time have been a ward of the Juvenile Court for some two years.

It appears from the record that he was arrested because two years prior to that time, the police department had taken him without authority of the Juvenile Court to the police department and there had him fingerprinted at the time when he was 14 years of age and they discovered some fingerprints in the areas of these houses in which the accused allegedly broke in when he was 16 years old and they finally discovered that this 16-year-old boy was the boy whose his fingerprints were in the vicinity of two or three of these areas together with other fingerprints.

After they arrested him in this case, they questioned him for some four or five days, as I read the record, and on the second day of his arrest, his mother retained or asked Mr. Arens to come into Court and to represent the indigent accused who was then 16 years old.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the United States, attorney Theodore George Gilinsky, “The principal question which we feel is in this case whether constitutionally it was necessary to hold an adversary formal oral hearing or for that matter any kind of hearing at the Juvenile Court level under the particular facts to decide whether the Social Service facilities of the Juvenile Court were applicable to this particular defendant.

Cases called Black as he said was handed down in December, as I read the case, it holds that a juvenile, in Juvenile Court prior to waiver is entitled to a lawyer.

It does not decide that he is entitled to a hearing.

It does not decide that he’s entitled to see the social records.

And for very good reason, because this boy, Black, did not have a lawyer.

Because that’s why they point in Black to what happened in Kent.

They say, “Now, look what a lawyer can do for you.”

In Kent, the lawyer did supply, did supply the Juvenile Court with a memorandum and some information as to his mental status.

So that — to say that the lawyer was useless, you see, Black says, “No, of course it wasn’t useless.

Look at Kent.”

But on the basis of that, I say there is no conflict in these decisions.”

Justices:

On the majority side, also the affirming side, Justice Abe Fortas wrote the opinion. He wrote, “Ordinarily, we would reverse the Court of Appeals and direct the District Court to remand the case to the Juvenile Court for a new determination of waiver. If, on remand, the decision were against waiver, the indictment in the District Court would be dismissed. See Black v. United States, supra. However, petitioner has now passed the age of 21, and the Juvenile Court can no longer exercise jurisdiction over him. In view of the unavailability of a redetermination of the waiver question by the Juvenile Court, it is urged by petitioner that the conviction should be vacated and the indictment dismissed. In the circumstances of this case, and in light of the remedy which the Court of Appeals fashioned in Black, supra, we do not consider it appropriate to grant this drastic relief.[n33] Accordingly, we vacate the order of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the District Court and remand the case to the District Court for a hearing de novo on waiver, consistent with this opinion.[n34] If that court finds that waiver was inappropriate, petitioner’s conviction must be vacated. If, however, it finds that the waiver order was proper when originally made, the District Court may proceed, after consideration of such motions as counsel may make and such further proceedings, if any, as may be warranted, to enter an appropriate judgment.”

In the side of the opposition, Justice Stewart wrote the opinion. He wrote, “This case involves the construction of a statute applicable only to the District of Columbia. Our general practice is to leave undisturbed decisions of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concerning the import of legislation governing the affairs of the District.General Motors Corp. v. District of Columbia,380 U.S. 553, 556. It appears, however, that two cases decided by the Court of Appeals subsequent to its decision in the present case may have considerably modified the court’s construction of the statute. Therefore, I would vacate this judgment and remand the case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in the light of its subsequent decisions, Watkins v. United States, 119 U.S.App.D.C. 409, 343 F.2d 278, and Black v. United States, 122 U.S.App.D.C. 393, 355 F.2d 104.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority. According to the the Juvenile Court Act, a proper investigation must be performed in order for a juvenile court’s waiver of jurisdiction to be ordered. However, this was not the case. Kent did not receive access to a hearing, access to counsel or to his record prior to the waiver. This definitely does not justify a juvenile court’s waiver of jurisdiction to be ordered.

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

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe: Student-Initiated Prayer (06/19/2000)

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe

Does the Santa Fe Independent School District’s policy permitting student-initiated prayer at football games infringe upon the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? 

Argued: 03/29/2000

Decision Date: 06/19/2000

Decision Record: 6-3; yes

Justices in Favor: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer

Justices Dissenting: William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that school-sponsored, student initiated prayers are unconstitutional because it violates students’ First Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Santa Fe Independent School District, attorney Jay Alan Sekulow argued, “Santa Fe Independent School District has adopted a neutral policy which simply permits student led, student initiated speech at football games.

The policy, which can be found in its entirety at pages 104 and 105 of the joint appendix, allows for the individual student to determine the content of the message.

That message may include a prayer at the student’s discretion.

The policy does not violate the Establishment Clause, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is wrong and should be reversed.

The Santa Fe policy creates a venue for student expression.

It is neutral as to religious or secular speech.

The policy serves the important and legitimate goals of solemnizing the event, promoting good sportsmanship and student safety, and establishing the appropriate environment for competition.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of “Jane Doe,” attorney John Cornyn, “Respondents ask this Court to simply assume the worst of the school officials involved and of the students who will ultimately be the speakers under this policy, which has yet to be applied because its application has been suspended while this litigation goes forward.

We submit that under the standard of review of a facial challenge that respondents’ burden is heavy to show that it could never be constitutionally applied, and we believe this school district, just as in Agostini, is entitled to the presumption that school officials will faithfully discharge their duties according to the law, as laid down by this Court.

There is no evidence to support the conclusions offered by the respondents that this is somehow a sham, or a pretext.

Indeed, the trial court below found that any incidents which gave rise to this litigation were isolated incidents.”

Justices:

On the majority side, also the affirming side, Justice Stevens wrote the opinion. He wrote, “This policy likewise does not survive a facial challenge because it impermissibly imposes upon the student body a majoritarian election on the issue of prayer. Through its election scheme, the District has established a governmental electoral mechanism that turns the school into a forum for religious debate. It further empowers the student body majority with the authority to subject students of minority views to constitutionally improper messages. The award of that power alone, regardless of the students’ ultimate use of it, is not acceptable.23Like the referendum in Board of Regents of Univ. of Wis. System v. Southworth, 529 U.S. ___ (2000), the election mechanism established by the District undermines the essential protection of minority viewpoints. Such a system encourages divisiveness along religious lines and threatens the imposition of coercion upon those students not desiring to participate in a religious exercise. Simply by establishing this school-related procedure, which entrusts the inherently nongovernmental subject of religion to a majoritarian vote, a constitutional violation has occurred.24 No further injury is required for the policy to fail a facial challenge.

    To properly examine this policy on its face, we “must be deemed aware of the history and context of the community and forum,” Pinette, 515 U.S., at 780 (O’Connor, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). Our examination of those circumstances above leads to the conclusion that this policy does not provide the District with the constitutional safe harbor it sought. The policy is invalid on its face because it establishes an improper majoritarian election on religion, and unquestionably has the purpose and creates the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events.”

In the side of the opposition, Justice Rehnquist wrote the opinion. He wrote, “

Finally, the Court seems to demand that a government policy be completely neutral as to content or be considered one that endorses religion. See ante, at 14. This is undoubtedly a new requirement, as our Establishment Clause jurisprudence simply does not mandate “content neutrality.” That concept is found in our First Amendment speech cases and is used as a guide for determining when we apply strict scrutiny. For example, we look to “content neutrality” in reviewing loudness restrictions imposed on speech in public forums, see Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989), and regulations against picketing, see Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312 (1988). The Court seems to think that the fact that the policy is not content neutral somehow controls the Establishment Clause inquiry. See ante, at 14.

    But even our speech jurisprudence would not require that all public school actions with respect to student speech be content neutral. See, e.g., Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986) (allowing the imposition of sanctions against a student speaker who, in nominating a fellow student for elective office during an assembly, referred to his candidate in terms of an elaborate sexually explicit metaphor). Schools do not violate the First Amendment every time they restrict student speech to certain categories. But under the Court’s view, a school policy under which the student body president is to solemnize the graduation ceremony by giving a favorable introduction to the guest speaker would be facially unconstitutional. Solemnization “invites and encourages” prayer and the policy’s content limitations prohibit the student body president from giving a solemn, yet non-religious, message like “commentary on United States foreign policy.””

My Opinion:

In this case, I disagree with the majority and agree with the minority. These student-initiated religious speeches should not be deemed unconstitutional because everyone has “religious freedom,” according to the First Amendment. As long as other students are not forced to participate in this student-led prayer, it should be okay and no violation of anyone’s rights has occurred. Schools should allow their students to express their religion whether it’s at a football game or any other event. Unless the other students who have different religions or don’t want to participate are forced to, this is a freedom of expression.

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

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Duncan v. Louisiana: Right to Jury Trial (05/20/1968)

Duncan v. Louisiana

Was the State of Louisiana obligated to provide a jury trial in criminal cases like Duncan’s?  

Argued: 01/17/1968

Decision Date: 05/20/1968

Decision Record: 7-2; yes

Justices in Favor: Earl Warren, Hugo Black, William Douglas, William Brennan, Byron White, Abe Fortas, Thurgood Marshall

Justices Dissenting: John Harlan, Potter Stewart

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that a criminal case such as Duncan’s was allowed a trial by jury. However, the decision that petty crimes did not require jury trails was also made.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of Duncan, attorney Richard B. Sobol argued, “This case is here on appeal from the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

And it raises the issue that was to a logic stand assumed in the case immediately preceding, namely whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment secures the right to trial by jury in state criminal proceedings.

The appellant in this case was charged in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana with the crime of simple battery, which is defined in the Louisiana Code, as the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another without a dangerous weapon.

This offense in Louisiana includes all batteries other than those committed with a dangerous weapon and is punishable by two years imprisonment without hard labor and a $300.00 fine.

In Louisiana, there are four categories of crimes for purposes of trial by jury.

In capital cases only, a jury of 12 all of whom must concur in a verdict is provided, that is the common law constitutional jury.

In cases in which imprisonment must be at hard labor, a 12-man jury is provided, but nine jurors are sufficient to return a verdict.

In cases in which imprisonment may be at hard labor, a five-man jury is provided and included in that category are such serious crimes as aggravated criminal damage to property.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Louisiana, attorney Dorothy D. Wolbrette, “The facts of this case are exceedingly simple.

The simple facts as shown by the record make it clear that appellant who was 19 years old, even according to his own testimony, made an intentional bodily contact on the victim who was 14 years old without his consent.

The simple facts of this case show that the appellant committed a simple battery of misdemeanor.

That he was given a fair trial and that he was sentenced to 60 days in the Parish Jail, and a $150.00 fine.

The 60-day sentence for a simple battery brings this case squarely under this Court’s decision in Cheff versus Schnackenberg, if the Sixth Amendment jury trial right applies to the states.

Cheff held that the imposition of an actual sentence of six months or less is constitutionally permissible under Article III and the Sixth Amendment without a trial by jury if the inherent nature of the offense charged is that of a petty offense and Mr. Justice Brennan, that answers your question about the federal system.

It would have to be a serious, I mean, it would have to be a petty — the nature of the offense would have to be petty.

Therefore, it could not involve any crime in a federal system with more than a year penalty because if you have more than a year penalty, you go to the federal — you may go to the federal penitentiary and this Court has held that that is an infamous offense in the federal system.”

Justices:

On the majority side, also the affirming side, Justice White wrote the opinion. He wrote, “In determining whether the length of the authorized prison term or the seriousness of other punishment is enough, in itself, to require a jury trial, we are counseled by District of Columbia v. Clawans, supra, to refer to objective criteria, chiefly the existing laws and practices in the Nation. In the federal system, petty offenses are defined as those punishable by no more than six months in prison and a $500 fine. In 49 of the 50 States, crimes subject to trial without a jury, which occasionally include simple battery, are punishable by no more than one year in jail. Moreover, in the late 18th century in America, crimes triable without a jury were, for the most part, punishable by no more than a six-month prison term, although there appear to have been exceptions to this rule. We need not, however, settle in this case the exact location of the line between petty offenses and serious crimes. It is sufficient for our purposes to hold that a crime punishable by two years in prison is, based on past and contemporary standards in this country, a serious crime, and not a petty offense. Consequently, appellant was entitled to a jury trial, and it was error to deny it.”

In the side of the opposition, Justice Harlan wrote the opinion. He wrote, “The point is not that many offenses that English-speaking communities have, at one time or another, regarded as triable without a jury are more serious, and carry more serious penalties, than the one involved here. The point is, rather, that, until today, few people would have thought the exact location of the line mattered very much. There is no obvious reason why a jury trial is a requisite of fundamental fairness when the charge is robbery, and not a requisite of fairness when the same defendant, for the same actions, is charged with assault and petty theft. The reason for the historic exception for relatively minor crimes is the obvious one: the burden of jury trial was thought to outweigh its marginal advantages. Exactly why the States should not be allowed to make continuing adjustments, based on the state of their criminal dockets and the difficulty of summoning jurors, simply escapes me.

In sum, there is a wide range of views on the desirability of trial by jury, and on the ways to make it most effective when it is used; there is also considerable variation from State to State in local conditions such as the size of the criminal caseload, the ease or difficulty of summoning jurors, and other trial conditions bearing on fairness. We have before us, therefore, an almost perfect example of a situation in which the celebrated dictum of Mr. Justice Brandeis should be invoked. It is, he said,

one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory. . . .

New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262, 280, 311 (dissenting opinion). This Court, other courts, and the political process are available to correct any experiments in criminal procedure that prove fundamentally unfair to defendants. That is not what is being done today: instead, and quite without reason, the Court has chosen to impose upon every State one means of trying criminal cases; it is a good means, but it is not the only fair means, and it is not demonstrably better than the alternatives States might devise.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority opinion. In the Constitution, no where in the Sixth Amendment does it mention “petty crimes.” Because this was not explicitly stated, there was no reason Duncan should have been denied a trial by jury. Like the justices said in their majority opinion, denying a jury trial would be considered both a violation to the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment.

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