Summary of Cases

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 74 S. Ct. 686 (1954)

A series of cases went to the Supreme Court from the state of Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. Since all of the cases involved the same basic problem: black minors, through their legal representatives, seeking the aid of the courts in obtaining admission to the public schools of their respective communities on a nonsegregated basis. All were determined by one decision of the Court. The Kansas case is taken as the nominal leading case. In the various states, the black children were of elementary or high school age or both. Segregation requirements were on a statutory and state constitutional basis except in Kansas, where only statutory provisions were involved.

Opinions by Mr. Chief Justice Warren (Vote: 9-0)

Question - Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?

Decision - Yes.

Reason- Intangible factors involved in the separation of students of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race need very serious consideration. Such segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children, an impact, that is greater when it has the sanction of law. It "generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.... 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."

Miranda v. Arizona, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966)

Here four cases were decided by one opinion. They came from Arizona, New York, California, and the federal courts. In each of the cases the law enforcement officials had taken the defendant into custody and had interrogated him for the purpose of obtaining a confession. At no time did the police effectively advise a defendant of his right to remain silent or of his right to consult with his attorney. In the lead case, Ernesto Miranda had been arrested at his home and then taken to a Phoenix police station where he was questioned by two police officers. After two hours. he made a written confession. He was subsequently convicted of kidnapping and rape. In the New York case the charge was first degree robbery, in the California case it was robbery and first degree murder, and in the federal case robbery of a savings and loan association and a bank in California.

Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Warren

Question - Are statements obtained from an individual subjected to custodial police interrogation under these circumstances admissible as evidence?

Decision - No.

Reason - An individual held for interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult counsel and to have his lawyer with him during interrogation. Financial inability of an accused person to furnish counsel is no excuse for the absence of counsel since in such an instance a lawyer must be appointed to represent the accused. If he answers some questions and gives some information on his own prior to invoking his right to remain silent this is not to warrant an assumption that the privilege has been waived.

The Court noted that "the prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory, or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way."

Katz v. United States, 88 S. Ct. 507 (1967)

Charles Katz was convicted in federal district court in California of violation of federal communication statutes by transmitting wagering information by telephone from Los Angeles to Miami and Boston. At the trial, evidence was introduced of Katz's telephone conversations at his end overheard by FBI agents who had attached an electronic listening and recording device to the outside of the public telephone booth from which Katz had placed his calls. The court of appeals had rejected the contention that the recordings had been obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment because there was "no physical entrance into the area occupied" by the accused.

Opinion by Mr. Justice Stewart

Question - Was the search and seizure conducted in this case in compliance with constitutional standards?

Decision - The Fourth Amendment protects people and not simply "areas" against unreasonable searches and seizures. The reach of that amendment cannot turn upon the presence or absence of a physical intrusion into any given enclosure. The protection does not extend only to tangible property and to incidents where there has been trespass. What a person seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.

In this case the surveillance was so narrowly circumscribed that a judge could have authorized bypassing the safeguards provided by an objective predetermination of probable cause and substituted instead the far less reliable procedure of an after-the- event justification. This sort of bypassing leaves individuals secure from Fourth Amendment violations only in the discretion of the police.

School District of Abington Township, Pa. v. Schempp, 374 U. S. 203; 83 S. Ct. 1560; 10 L. Ed. 2d 844 (1963)

Pennsylvania by statute required that at least ten verses from the Bible should be read, without comment, at the opening of each public school on each school day. Any child could be excused from attending the Bible reading upon written request of his parent or guardian. The Schempp family, members of the Unitarian church, brought suit to enjoin enforcement of the statute. In a companion case, (Murray v. Curlett), Mrs. Murray and her son, professed atheists, brought similar action against a similar situation in Baltimore.

Opinion by Mr. Justice Clark

Question - Does the requirement of Bible reading in public school violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment?

Decision - Yes.

Reason - The Court noted that the Establishment Clause withdrew all legislative power respecting religious belief or the expression thereof. "The test may be stated as follows: What are the purpose and the primary effect of the enactment? If either is the advancement or inhibition of religion, then the enactment exceeds the scope of legislative power as circumscribed by the Constitution...The conclusion follows that in both cases the laws require religious exercises and such exercises are being conducted in direct violation of the rights (of the appellees) and the petitioners. Nor are these required exercises mitigated by the fact that individual students may absent themselves upon parental request, for that fact furnished no defense to a claim of unconstitutionality under the Establishment Clause."

Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U. S. 643: 81 S. Ct. 1684: 6 L Ed. 2d 1081 (1961)

Cleveland police officers requested admission to a home to seek a fugitive who was reportedly hiding there. They had also received information that a large amount of policy paraphernalia was hidden in the house. Without a warrant, the police forced their way into the house. There they found obscene materials. This evidence was used to convict Miss Mapp in the state courts.

Opinion by Mr. Justice Clark

Question - Is evidence obtained in violation of the search and seizure provisions of the Fourth Amendment admissible in a state court?

Decision - No.

Reason - Previous decisions have held that the security of one's privacy against arbitrary intrusion of the police is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty and as such enforceable against the states through the due process clause. However, the Court has previously refused to exclude evidence thus secured from state courts as "an essential ingredient of the right." Since the Fourth Amendment's right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is enforceable against them by the same sanction of exclusion as is used against the federal government. All evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court.

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc., v. United States. 379 U.S. 241: 85 S. Ct. 348 13 L. ed. 2nd 258 (1964)

The owner of a large motel in Atlanta, Georgia, which restricted its clientele to white persons, brought suit for a declaratory judgment and for an injunction to restrain enforcement of Title 11 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed distinguishing on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin in making available public accommodations.

Opinion by Mr. Justice Clark

Question - Does Congress have the power to enact this type of legislation under the power to regulate interstate commerce?

Decision - Yes.

Reason - The power of Congress over interstate commerce includes the power to regulate local incidents and activities in both the states of origin and destination of the commerce that might have a substantial and harmful effect on that commerce. The Court concluded that "the action of the Congress in the adoption of the Act as applied here to a motel which concededly serves interstate travelers is within the power granted it by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution as interpreted by this Court for 140 years." The Court made brief mention of the power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment, but its decision was basically that the commerce power was here being exercised.

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