3rd Nine Weeks Extra Credit
Gibbons v. Ogden
1824, Chief Justice John Marshall
A New York state law gave two individuals the exclusive right to operate steamboats on waters within state jurisdiction. Laws like this one were duplicated elsewhere which led to friction as some states would require out-of-state boats to pay substantial fees for navigation privileges. In this case a steamboat owner who did business between New York and New Jersey challenged a law which forced him to obtain an operating permit from the State of New York to navigate on that state's waters.
The main question presented in the case was: did the State of New York exercise authority in a realm reserved exclusively to Congress, namely, the regulation of interstate commerce? The license issued to Gibbons by Congress gave him permission to be "employed in carrying on the coasting trade." The boats operated by Gibbons were used to transport passengers, not goods, so Congress should not be able to regulate that movement. Also, The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." There are many areas in which the national government and state governments have concurrent power (shared power); however, in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that when state and federal laws conflict, the federal law is supreme. Under the U.S. Constitution, states are able to pass inspection laws, quarantine laws, health laws of every description, as well as laws for regulating the internal commerce of a state.
The Court found that New York's licensing requirement for out-of-state operators was inconsistent with a congressional act regulating the coasting trade. The New York law was invalid by virtue of the Supremacy Clause.
In his opinion, Chief Justice Marshall developed a clear definition of the word commerce, which included navigation on interstate waterways. He also gave meaning to the phrase "among the several states" in the Commerce Clause. Marshall's was one of the earliest and most influential opinions concerning this important clause. He concluded that regulation of navigation by steamboat operators and others for purposes of conducting interstate commerce was a power reserved to and exercised by the Congress.
Justice Johnson gave a concurring opinion which basically stated the same reasoning as Marshall with the exception of having adopted different conclusions on views of “the subject materially different from those of my brethren…I have also another inducement: in questions of great importance and great delicacy, I feel my duty to the public best discharged by an effort to maintain my opinions in my own way.”
Since the decision in Gibbons v. Ogden, there have been many cases before the Court that have dealt with the Commerce Clause. Over time, the Congress has used its commerce power to justify many pieces of legislation that may seem only marginally related to commerce. The Supreme Court of the United States has, at various points in history, been more or less sympathetic to the use of the Commerce Clause to justify congressional legislation.
INS v. Chadha
1983, Chief Justice Burger
In one section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Congress authorized either House of Congress to invalidate and suspend deportation rulings of the United States Attorney General. Chadha had stayed in the U.S. past his visa deadline and was ordered to leave the country. The House of Representatives suspended the Immigration judge's deportation ruling. This case was decided together with United States House of Representatives v. Chadha and United States Senate v. Chadha.
The question presented was: Did the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allowed a One-House veto of executive actions, violate the separation of powers doctrine? ----------
The Court held that the particular section of the Act in question did violate the Constitution. Recounting the debates of the Constitutional Convention over issues of bicameralism and separation of powers, Chief Justice Burger concluded that even though the Act would have enhanced governmental efficiency, it violated the "explicit constitutional standards" regarding lawmaking and congressional authority.
Dred Scott v. Sandford
1857, Chief Justice Taney
Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri. From 1833 to 1843, he resided in Illinois (a free state) and in an area of the Louisiana Territory, where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After returning to Missouri, Scott sued unsuccessfully in the Missouri courts for his freedom, claiming that his residence in free territory made him a free man. Scott then brought a new suit in federal court. Scott's master maintained that no pure-blooded Negro of African descent and the descendant of slaves could be a citizen in the sense of Article III of the Constitution.
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 outlawed slavery forever in certain areas. Dred Scott's owner took him to these free areas. Thus, Scott became free forever. However, Dred Scott is not a citizen because if he were he would be entitled to all of the privileges and immunities of a citizen, one of which is the right of free movement. It is clear that the laws governing slavery do not permit this, thus he cannot be a citizen. Even before the Constitution, some states allowed blacks to vote. The Constitution does not say explicitly that blacks cannot be citizens. It was law in many states and had been common law in Europe for centuries that a slave who legally traveled to a free area automatically became free. In the case of Strader v. Graham (1850), the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case of three slaves who had been taken from Kentucky to Indiana and Ohio and then back to Kentucky. The Court declared that the status of the slave depended on the laws of Kentucky, not Ohio. The Constitution recognized the existence of slavery. Therefore, the men who framed and ratified the Constitution must have believed that slaves and their descendants were not to be citizens. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 that outlawed slavery in some future states was unconstitutional because Congress does not have the authority to deny property rights of law-abiding citizens. Thus, Scott was always a slave in areas that were free.
Dred Scott was a slave. Under Articles III and IV, argued Taney, no one but a citizen of the United States could be a citizen of a state, and that only Congress could confer national citizenship. Taney reached the conclusion that no person descended from an American slave had ever been a citizen for Article III purposes. The Court then held the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, hoping to end the slavery question once and for all.
The question the court answered was “Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen?” One of which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution. The court believed people of African ancestry were not citizens, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and could therefore claim none of the rights and privileges “which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.”
The vote was seven against two and Justice McLean wrote the dissenting opinion. “He [Scott] is averred to have had a Negro ancestry, but this does not show that he is not a citizen of Missouri, within the meaning of the act of Congress authorizing him to sue in the Circuit Court.” Females and minors could sue in the Federal courts, and so could any individual who had a permanent domicile in the State under whose laws his rights were protected, and to which he owed allegiance. They believed that being born under our Constitution and laws, no naturalization was required to make him a citizen. The most general and appropriate definition of the term citizen is "a freeman." Being a freeman, and having his domicile in a State different from that of the defendant, he, they believed, was a citizen within the act of Congress, and the courts of the Union are open to him.
In the North, legislatures and Republican politicians responded to the Dred Scott decision by questioning whether this was a Supreme Court decision that they should abide by.
The Dred Scott decision did cause a genuine level of despair in northern black communities by the summer of 1856, and for some years after that.
The Dred Scott decision, the birth of the Republican Party, this whole new political crisis over slavery, is also important in the South among slaves themselves. There is plenty of evidence that shows us that, beginning in 1856, with the presidential election campaign of 1856, and again in '58 Congressional elections, and certainly in 1860, there's a lot of reaction in the Southern white press, saying that slave owners should keep their slaves away from political meetings, because the more slaves gather around these political meetings, the more they're going to become aware of the political crisis over slavery.
Korematsu v. U.S.
1944, Chief Justice Stone
During World War II, Presidential Executive Order 9066 and congressional statutes gave the military authority to exclude citizens of Japanese ancestry from areas deemed critical to national defense and potentially vulnerable to espionage. Korematsu remained in San Leandro, California and violated Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 of the U.S. Army.
The Court sided with the government and held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Korematsu's rights. Justice Black argued that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, is justified during circumstances of "emergency and peril."
Justice Frankfurter gave the concurring opinion, while Justice Roberts, justice Murphy, and Justice Jackson gave the dissenting opinion.
US v. Nixon
1974, Chief Justice Burger
A grand jury returned indictments against seven of President Richard Nixon's closest aides in the Watergate affair. The special prosecutor appointed by Nixon and the defendants sought audio tapes of conversations recorded by Nixon in the Oval Office. Nixon asserted that he was immune from the subpoena claiming "executive privilege," which is the right to withhold information from other government branches to preserve confidential communications within the executive branch or to secure the national interest. Decided together with Nixon v. United States.
In United States v. Nixon, the President's lawyers claimed that Nixon had an absolute right of executive privilege. Since the power of executive privilege is not expressly stated in the Constitution, there was some controversy over this matter. For years, Presidents had claimed executive privilege on the grounds that there was a need to protect military, diplomatic, or national security secrets. The prevailing thought was that a president cannot be forced to share with other branches of government certain conversations, actions, or information if sharing that information could place the United States foreign relations at risk. This "state secrets privilege" was generally accepted. In the Supreme Court case of United States v. Nixon, Nixon's lawyers argued that executive privilege should extend to certain conversations between the president and his aides, even when national security is not at stake. They argued that in order for aides to give good advice and to truly explore various alternatives, they had to be able to be candid. If they were going to issue frank opinions, they had to know that what they said was going to be kept confidential.
The Court held that neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the generalized need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified, presidential privilege. The Court granted that there was a limited executive privilege in areas of military or diplomatic affairs, but gave preference to "the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of justice." Therefore, the president must obey the subpoena and produce the tapes and documents. Nixon resigned shortly after the release of the tapes.
The justices turned to the claim that the subpoena should be quashed because it demands "confidential conversations between and President and his close advisors that it would be inconsistent with the public interest to produce" . . . The first contention is a broad claim that the separation of powers doctrine precludes judicial review of a President's claim of privilege. The second contention is that if he does not prevail on the claim of absolute privilege, the court should hold as a matter of constitutional law that the privilege prevails over the subpoena. . . . In support of his claim of absolute privilege, the President's counsel urges two grounds, one of which is common to all governments and one of which is peculiar to our system of separation of powers. The first ground is the valid need for protection of communications between high government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their manifold duties; the importance of this confidentiality is too plain to require further discussion. The second ground asserted by the President's counsel in support of the claim of absolute privilege rests on the doctrine of separation of powers. . . . Here it is argued that the independence of the Executive Branch within its own sphere . . . insulates a president from a judicial subpoena in an ongoing criminal prosecution, and thereby protects confidential presidential communications. However, neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of high level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances. The President's need for complete candor and objectivity from advisers calls for great deference from the courts. However, when the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises. Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic or sensitive national security secrets, we find it difficult to accept the argument that even the very important interest in confidentiality of Presidential communications is significantly diminished by production of such material for in camera inspection with all the protection that a district court will be obliged to provide. The impediment that an absolute, unqualified privilege would place in the way of the primary constitutional duty of the Judicial Branch to do justice in criminal prosecutions would plainly conflict with the function of the courts under Art. III.
There were neither concurring nor dissenting opinions.
The decision reached by this case heavily influenced Nixon’s decision to resign because if that incriminating information had not come forward, the case against Nixon would not have been as strong. Also, the president’s claim to executive privilege was weakened due to the case’s outcome.
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