HGov: Supreme Court Cases Amendments 1-5


first-amendment
The case of Engel v Vitale challenged the recitation of a standard prayer each day in New York’s public schools. In its decision, the Court struck down the practice. State-sponsored prayer in schools was wholly inconsistent with the Establishment.

In West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, the Court said that Jehovah’s Witnesses could refuse to salute the flag. Jehovah’s Witnesses view pledging allegiance to the flag as a form of idolatry prohibited by the Bible. Their right to do so was protected under their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.

In Lemon v Kurtzman, using public funds to support private religious schools was unconstitutional. This case established a three-point “Lemon test” to determine if and when a government action violates the Establishment Clause. To be constitutional, a government action must have a secular, or nonreligious, purpose; neither help nor hurt religion; not result in an excessive entanglement of the government and religion.

In the case of Brandenburg v Ohio, a Ku Klux Klan leader was arrested for giving a speech advocating illegal activities. In its decision, the Court offered a two-part test to determine whether a clear and present danger exists that might justify suppressing free speech. First, such speech has to be directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action. Second, the speech must be likely to incite or produce such action. The Court found that the Klan leader’s speech, though containing hateful statements, was unlikely to produce any unlawful actions.

In Texas v Johnson, the Court concluded that flag burning as an expression of opinion was protected symbolic speech. Gregory Lee Johnson had been arrested in Texas for burning a flag to protest government policies. His actions violated a state law against flag desecration.It said that a state could not prohibit such actions, even if it found them offensive.

The Near case involved a newspaper that Minnesota officials wanted to shut down. The paper had published articles exposing political corruption. In Near v. Minnesota, the Court declared such attempts at prior restraint to be unconstitutional. The Court declared that a government had no right to call for prior restraint. Keeping information from being published could be allowed only under very special circumstances, such as protecting national security. If officials were worried about possibly libelous articles, they could sue the publisher after the materials were in print.

second-amendment
In the United States v. Miller case, the Court supported the conviction of two men who had failed to register a sawed-off shotgun. The Court’s decision directly tied gun ownership to militias. Because militias never used sawed-off shotguns for common defense, the Court determined that government had the right to regulate such weapons.

third-amendment
No court cases.

fourth-amendment
The case of Katz v. United  States hinged on recordings of a suspect’s conversation made from a public phone booth. Because the recording device was placed outside the booth and recorded only the suspect’s voice, the police believed they did not need a warrant. The Court disagreed and concluded that a warrant was required because the suspect had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a phone booth.

In the case of Terry v. Ohio, three men’s behavior caused a police officer to suspect that they were about to rob a store. After questioning the men, the officer frisked them by patting down the outside of their clothing. Two of the suspects had guns, and they were later convicted for carrying concealed weapons. The men appealed their conviction claiming that the officer did not have probable cause to frisk them. The Court decided that the officer’s observations provided adequate cause for the search. His actions and suspicions were reasonable given the behavior of the suspects.

Amendment 5
In Miranda v. Arizona, Ernesto Miranda was arrested at his home and taken in custody to a police station where he was identified by the complaining witness. He was then interrogated by two police officers for two hours, which resulted in a signed, written confession. The Court set forth a procedure for ensuring that suspects know their rights. These rights of the accused became known as Miranda rights.

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