Gov: Eighth Ninth and Tenth Amendment Rights


Amendment 8
The Eighth Amendment protects people in the criminal justice system from excessive bail, fines, or cruel and unusual punishments. Most of the legal challenges to this amendment have involved the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that beliefs of what is cruel and unusual may change over time. Some Americans today hold that capital punishment or the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. However, most death penalty cases have focused on the method of execution and not on the death sentence itself.

The case of In re Kemmler, said that any method of execution is acceptable as long as it does not involve torture or lingering death.

In Furman v. Georgia, the Court  concluded that capital punishment was cruel and unusual when it was inconsistently and unequally applied from one case to another. The court observed that all too often, two people convicted of a capital crime received very different penalties. One might sentenced to life in prison while the other was condemned to death. The Court’s decision put a sudden halt to all executions in the United States. Convicts on death row received reprieves and had their death sentences converted to life in prison.

Many states had rewritten their death penalty laws to apply capital punishment in a more consistent manner.In the Gregg v. Georgia case, the Court concluded that the death penalty was constitutional under the new laws. As a result, capital punishment once again became a sentencing option in most states.

Amendment 9
The Ninth Amendment is the Bill of Rights safety net. It states that other rights and liberties may exist beyond those listed in the Constitution and it offers protection for those unenumerated rights. Some of these unlisted rights were later protected under other amendments and laws.

In the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court declared that the Ninth Amendment includes the right to privacy. An official with Planned Parenthood had provided medical advise to married couples on how to prevent pregnancy. This violated a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of contraceptives. In its decision, the Court declared that the law violated marital privacy rights. Although the Constitution does not specifically mention privacy, the Court said it was an implied right in the First, Third, and Fourth amendments. The Ninth Amendment provides further support by stating that a right need not be cited in the Constitution to be valid.

Amendment 10
The Tenth Amendment is concerned more with federalism, the balance of federal and state powers, than with individual rights. It limits the powers of the federal government t those granted under the Constitution, reserving other powers for the states and the people. Under our federal system of government, the states must uphold laws enacted by Congress. When state laws clash with federal laws, federal laws takes precedence under the Supremacy Clause of Article VI. However, many areas of the law are not mentioned in the Constitution or granted to the federal government.For example, laws governing marriage and divorce. The power to regulate these and many other matters that shape our daily lives is reserved for the states.

In the case of United States v. Morrison, federal law had overstepped the government’s constitutional authority. The Violence Against Women Act allowed victims of domestic violence to sue their attacker in federal court. The Supreme Court struck down this law saying that violent crime between individuals was an issue for the states, not the federal government.

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