On This Date in Legal History

On March 1, 2005, the United States Supreme Court decided Roper v. Simmons. The case involved a high school student, Christopher Simmons, who confessed to a murder and was tried and sentenced to death. He was 17 at the time. The Supreme Court held that the execution of juvenile offenders, younger than 18 when the crime was committed, violated the Eighth Amendment. So Christopher Simmons’ death sentence was overturned. Justice Kennedy, who authored the Court’s opinion, remarked that a majority of states had already banned the execution of juveniles under 18. In fact, the world frowned upon it. He wrote, “Our determination that the death penalty is disproportionate punishment for offenders under 18 finds confirmation in the stark reality that the United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty.” You can listen to the attorneys argue this case before the Supreme Court at https://goo.gl/xd6lBr.

Also on this date, but in 1954, the Senate confirmed Earl Warren as the 14th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Read more at https://goo.gl/rj370p.

d7e87ebee45e0aab17140d324128aff3

Busts of all former Chief Justices are exhibited in the Great Hall at the Supreme Court

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

The Good News Club, a private Christian organization for children, wanted to use Milford Central School property for their after school meetings. Milford denied their request. The Club sued, claiming that their rights to free speech were violated. Their case was appealed up to the Supreme Court. On February 28, 2001, the Court heard oral arguments (at https://goo.gl/G1nVWF), and on June 11, 2001, the Court held in the Club’s favor. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas explained,”by denying the Club access on the ground that the Club is religious in nature, discriminated against the Club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of Free Speech Clause.” The Court also found that any Club meetings on school property, after school hours, wouldn’t violate the Establishment Clause. You can listen to the Court’s announcement at https://goo.gl/G1nVWF.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, Lawsuit, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 22nd Amendment

On February 27, 1951, the 22nd Amendment was ratified. It established term limits for the president. No person can serve more than “two terms in office, a total of eight years,” unless he or she “serve[d] two years or less of [a] former president’s term.”

white-house

The White House serves as the principal workplace (and residence) for the President of the United States.

Learn more at http://goo.gl/hF3UM0.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, Legislation/Laws, On This Date, Social Studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

Clarence Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan leader, spoke at a rally and remarked– if matters continued as is, then “revengeance” might have to be taken. He was referring to the government’s alleged “suppress[ion] of the white, Caucasian, race.” On another occasion, his speech included racist and anti-Semitic statements. He was arrested and convicted of violating an Ohio law that clamped down on speech advocating violence. Brandenburg was fined $1,000. and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. He argued on appeal that the Ohio statute was unconstitutional, as it violated his First Amendment rights, and his conviction ought to be reversed. The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on February 27, 1969, and on June 9, 1969, the Court handed down its decision in favor of Brandenburg.  The Court explained, “constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action [emphasis added].” The Justices  found that Brandenburg’s remarks didn’t rise to the level of inciting or producing imminent lawless behavior; thus, his speech was protected. You can listen to the oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court at http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_492.

Posted in Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, Legislation, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

On February 26, 1962, the United States Supreme Court unequivocally stated in Bailey v. Patterson that “no State may require racial segregation of interstate or intrastate transportation facilities.” Read the decision at https://goo.gl/2AY4vh.

1c4e510fc7c5aeb3abefccf315a820fd

To learn more visit the extraordinary National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

On March 2, 1961, African American students gathered to protest racial segregation in South Carolina. They began their demonstration in a church and marched to the State House in small groups of about 15. There were 187 students, in all. They neither obstructed pedestrian walkways nor street traffic. They were quiet, orderly and nonviolent; however, when the police asked them to disperse, they sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and other patriotic and religious songs. After 15 minutes the students were arrested and convicted of breaching the peace. Their sentences ranged from a $10 fine or 5 days in jail, to a $100. fine or 30 days in jail. They appealed their convictions up to the United States Supreme Court where their convictions were reversed.

b2021627b1bc7eca6458660ac8622f64

These segregation signs are on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

On February 25, 1963, Justice Stewart delivered the Opinion of the Court explaining—“The Fourteenth Amendment does not permit a State to make criminal the peaceful expression of unpopular views.”

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

In 1903 the Oregon legislature enacted a statute providing, “no female [shall] be employed in any mechanical establishment or factory or laundry” “more than ten hours during any one day.” Curt Muller, the owner of a laundry, was convicted of violating that law and fined $10.00, when a female employee worked more than the permissible number of hours. He challenged his conviction claiming the law was unconstitutional, but on this date in 1908, the Supreme Court disagreed. Louis Brandeis (who became a United States Supreme Court Justice in 1916) filed a brief that pointed to ample reasons for the Court to find the statute reasonable. His brief (nowadays known as ”The Brandeis Brief”) presented a novel way to argue before the United States Supreme Court. He referenced non-legal data, such as state and foreign laws, reports, proceedings and statistics that supported the principle that disparate treatment of the sexes was justifiable. You can read the Brandeis brief at https://goo.gl/Q7Z5ma. The Supreme Court,  which based its decision largely on the Brandeis brief, agreed and found the work restrictions constitutional because a “woman’s physical structure and the performance of maternal functions place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence.”

82b226fe83b0d1750d18fd699280a60c

From 1916-1939, Louis Brandeis was an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. He was the first Jewish Justice to sit on the Court.

Justice Brewer, who authored the Court’s opinion, further explained– “[t]his is especially true when the burdens of motherhood are upon her. Even when they are not, by abundant testimony of the medical fraternity continuance for a long time on her feet at work, repeating this from day to day, tends to injurious effects upon the body, and as healthy mothers are essential to vigorous offspring, the physical well-being of woman becomes an object of public interest and care in order to preserve the strength and vigor of the race.”

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

One extremely entertaining (and educational) way of celebrating Black History Month is to watch The Butler. This historical drama traces the fictional life of a former slave, Cecil Gaines, who becomes a butler for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan.* The movie makes for a fascinating civics lesson—referencing numerous historical events including the Little Rock school crisis, Selma, the torching of a Freedom Riders’ bus, the Woolworth sit-in, to name a few.

*Cecil Gaines is a fictional character—based on the life of Eugene Allen, who was a black butler who served eight presidents. Learn more about him at https://goo.gl/v3ap1D.

Posted in Civics, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Justice Frankfurter

On November 15, 1882, former Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter was born in Austria. In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt nominated him to the United States Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed his nomination, and he served on the Court until he retired on August 28, 1962. On February 22, 1965, Justice Frankfurter passed away.

Supreme Court

In 1935 the Supreme Court of the United States moved into its own building.

Learn more about his work as a lawyer, presidential advisor, professor, and justice at http://goo.gl/RoPCEe and https://goo.gl/fzzrYV.

Posted in Civics, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

On February 21, 1936, Barbara Jordan was born. She was a lawyer, educator and trailblazing politician. Jordan was the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate. While serving in the Senate, members elected her president pro tempore. Then in 1972, she became the first African-American woman from the South elected to the United States House of Representatives. While serving in the House she obtained a coveted seat on the Judiciary Committee. She played a pivotal role during the Watergate impeachment hearings. Learn more at http://goo.gl/KFxzdL and https://goo.gl/MRR6oX.

Posted in Civics, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 21st Amendment

On February 20, 1933, Congress proposed the 21st Amendment to repeal prohibition. On December 5, 1933, the Amendment was ratified by the States. Learn more at https://goo.gl/3D0gAw, and watch this interesting newsreel from that period https://goo.gl/gVxqEo.

Posted in Civics, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, Legislation, Legislation/Laws, Social Studies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Executive Order 9066

After Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, West Coast residents became very suspicious of Japanese Americans. They were concerned that they’d assist Japan in further attacking the U.S. The hysteria eventually caused President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, to issue Executive Order 9066. (See FDR’s Order at http://goo.gl/63cQrZ.)

4d5c7d20d0e0af098edad62c2daa3904

Executive Order 9066

The Order called for the forced relocation of over 100,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps. When the Order was contested at the Supreme Court the government vigorously defended its actions and the Court sided with them. The United States Department of Justice has since issued a “Confession of Error” which can be found at http://goo.gl/hgD9UG.

When you’re in New York, I highly recommend visiting Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Presidential Library and Museum. Take a look at some of the exhibits you’ll see there at https://goo.gl/Wdik6j. The Museum includes an exhibit on Executive Order 9066.

Posted in Civics, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

In November 1987 President Reagan nominated Judge Anthony Kennedy to the United States Supreme Court. You can watch President Reagan’s press conference at http://goo.gl/hzSncr. At the time he was serving as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On February 3, 1988, the Senate confirmed his nomination, and on February 18, 1988, he was sworn in as an Associate Justice. Take a look at the Congressional Record at http://1.usa.gov/1VBpWin. To learn more, watch this great news clip from Washington Week’s “The Backstory: Justice Anthony Kennedy– The Decider” at http://bit.ly/1HVs7nq.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

On February 17, 1942, Attorney General Francis Biddle wrote President Roosevelt to express his reservations about the immediate evacuation and internment of Japanese on the west coast. Read his memorandum below.

IMG_8907

IMG_8908

Exhibited at the Home of Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site

Posted in Civics, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

The 5th Amendment states private property can’t “be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In 1822 John Barron brought a lawsuit against the City of Baltimore claiming their actions caused him to lose the use of his wharf— violating his 5th Amendment rights. On February 16, 1833, however, the United States Supreme Court didn’t agree. Chief Justice John Marshall explained– the 5th Amendment was not applicable to states or local governments. It was meant to regulate the federal government. When Baltimore deprived Barron of the use of his land he had no remedy under the Bill of Rights. Notably, that changed after the passage of the 14th Amendment.

Learn more by listening to this video at https://goo.gl/X8uTPx.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, Lawsuit, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From 1914 to 1932 Benjamin Nathan Cardozo served on the New York State Court of Appeals (initially as an Associate Justice, later as Chief Justice). On February 15, 1932, President Hoover appointed him to the United States Supreme Court where he remained until his death in 1938.

90bb1dc2c69b5b7b53fa152eab63b2e5

Today that nomination would be unheard of– a Republican president nominating a Democrat to the Supreme Court.  More surprising in today’s world, however, is that in 1932 the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination.  You can learn more about Justice Cardozo at http://bit.ly/1Kt1vzq.

Posted in Civics, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Esther Hobart Morris

In February 1870 Esther Hobart Morris “became the first woman to hold judicial office in the modern world.” She was appointed justice of the peace for the South Pass District in Wyoming. A statue of her stands at the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Learn more at https://goo.gl/cH6bSr.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, Social Studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

In January 1916 President Woodrow Wilson appointed Louis D. Brandeis to the United States Supreme Court. His nomination was controversial; nonetheless, the Senate confirmed his appointment in a 47 to 22 vote, and he became the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice.

82b226fe83b0d1750d18fd699280a60c

Justice Louis Brandeis

From June 5, 1916, until February 13, 1939, Justice Brandeis served on the Court. Learn more about him at http://goo.gl/aGNaoB.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Celebrate Former President (Attorney) Abe Lincoln

On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. Before becoming our 16th President he was a well-respected lawyer. You can learn about his legal career at http://goo.gl/Xa9ix9. President Lincoln is most remembered, however, for his accomplishments as president, including the passage of the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery. It was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, the same year.

ff1bd98a28f6be642494d690f4ad433c

It took five more years–until 1870–before the 15th Amendment (which was meant to protect against racial discrimination in voting) was finally adopted.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On This Date in Legal History

On February 11, 1856, the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford was argued before the Supreme Court; and on Mar 6, 1857, the Court held that African-American slaves (and their descendants) were not citizens. Consequently, they had no standing to sue for their freedom in a United States court.

c5ce3eb2d42978f25ba2f1c0c1b97522

View at the National Museum of African American History & Culture

Chief Justice Taney wrote, “in the opinion of the court, the legislation and the histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.”  See the original ruling maintained by the National Archives at http://goo.gl/Ub8Cd.

Posted in Civics, Constitutional Law, History/Social Studies Common Core Curriculum, On This Date, Social Studies, United States Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment