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Supreme Court Cases Concerning Constitutional Civil Liberties
. During Harlan's childhood, he 'learned to shoot and hunted such game as there was.... everybody in Kentucky could shoot, generally with a rifle. ' Id. at 10. As a Supreme Court Justice, Harlan was a popular and frequent guest at the annual 'Shad Bake River Excursion' put on by the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. Id. at 171. There, Justice Harlan played baseball, bowled, and 'shot at the mark in the shooting gallery.... [H]e hit the bull's eye in the shooting gallery practically every time he tried and this with the greatest ease.' Id. at 171 (footnotes omitted). During the Mexican War, Harlan, age 13, joined the Kentucky militia, although the unit never left the state. See id. at 16. Harlan joined the militia again during the Civil War, this time serving as a captain, where he organized a regiment of the Union Army and saw extensive combat duty as the commander of the regiment. See id. at 45-46, 51-67. While pursuing Morgan's Raiders, Harlan and his men nearly shot one of Morgan's officers, Horace H. Lurton, who would join Harlan on the Supreme Court in 1909. See id. at 176.
Joining the Holmes opinion in Beard was a young new Justice, Louis Brandeis, who later wrote: "[w]e shall have lost something vital and beyond price on the day when the state denies us the right to resort to force.. . ." "Holmes scholars have generally ignored Brown v. United States" because the opinion is seen as contradictory to Holmes's "supposedly more enlightened opinions" in free speech and other civil liberty cases. Yet as Brown (the leading historian of American violence) recognizes, "to Holmes - as to so many other Americans - the right to stand one's ground and kill in self- defense was as great a civil liberty as, for example, freedom of speech." In the early Twenty-First Century, *320there are still many millions of Americans who cherish their freedom of speech, but who value much more deeply their right to use a firearm or other weapon to defend themselves and their families against predators like Hermes. Justices such as Harlan, Holmes, and Brandeis understood these Americans and this tendency of the American mind. To the extent that some modern judges do not, the law is delegitimated in the eyes of tens of millions of American citizens.
supreme court cases concerning constitutional civil ..
Although all were important, the Civil Rights movement alone would have reached the same end without the help of the Supreme Court, and the devotion of its many members and leaders is the major factor in advancing Civil Rights.
Most Americans think of civil rights and liberties as principles that protect freedoms all the time. However, the truth is that rights listed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are usually competing rights. Most civil liberties and rights court cases involve the plaintiff's right vs. another right that the defendant claims has been violated.
cases concerning constitutional civil liberties;
Justice Holmes' opinion in Brown provided a link between the Supreme Court's two greatest civil libertarians of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. Holmes' opinion quoted Justice Harlan's opinion from Beard, and in private correspondence, Holmes wrote approvingly of the anti-retreat view of "old Harlan."
The majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, has been justly criticized for having noconnection with the text of the Constitution, and only a tenuous connection withthe prior precedents of the Supreme Court. Justice Potter Stewart, perhaps recognizing the weakness of the Blackmunopinion, authored a concurring opinion coming to the same result as JusticeBlackmun, but attempting to ground the result more firmly in precedent. As part of the analysis arguing that the right to abortion was part of the"liberty" protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Stewartquoted Justice Harlan's dissenting opinion in Poe v. Ullman ,which had listed the right to keep and bear arms as among the libertiesguaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment:
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Supreme court cases concerning constitutional civil liberties essay.
Noting that the Second Amendment was not at issue in the case before the Court(the case was brought by sheriffs who did not want to be subject to federalcommands, rather by gun buyers or gun dealers), Justice Thomas gently urges therest of the Court to take up a Second Amendment case in the future. And heleaves no doubt about his personal view of the issue, as he quotes the 19thcentury legal scholar and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, who saw the rightto bear arms "as the palladium of the liberties of a republic." *124
Supreme Court Cases Civil Liberties & Civil ..
Planned Parenthood is the second of the four Supreme Court opinions that quotethe Harlan dissent in Poe. (The other two will be discussed infra.) Had theauthors of those opinions chosen to delete the "right to keep and beararms" words, by using ellipses, they certainly could have done so. As weshall see when we come to the original Harlan opinion in Poe v. Ullman, the fullHarlan analysis *128of the scope of Fourteenth Amendment liberty includes important materialwhich later Justices carefully avoided quoting.
The Supreme Court . Expanding Civil Rights . Court …
*296Before discussing the individual cases, a key part of the factual background is needed. Of the Self-Defense Cases the Court heard in 1893-96, all but one came from a single federal district court, the Western District of Arkansas. This court was located in Fort Smith, Arkansas, near the Oklahoma state line. At the time, Oklahoma was Indian Territory. The jurisdiction of the Western District of Arkansas did not include the western part of the state of Arkansas, but it did include 74,000 square miles of Indian Territory, stretching all the way west to Colorado. As Indian Territory, Oklahoma was under the jurisdiction of the federal courts for all crimes committed there, except for crimes committed against Indians by Indians. Thus, many of the Self-Defense Cases contain introductory paragraphs establishing that the alleged crime occurred on Indian Territory, and that either the perpetrator or the victim was not Indian. The Fort Smith court had been established because of concerns that juries within the Indian Territory would not be willing to hand down convictions. The federal district judge for the Western District of Arkansas, the court with jurisdiction over Indian Territory in Oklahoma, was Judge Isaac C. Parker. Despite Chief Justice Rehnquist's praises, the titles of Judge Parker's biographies say it all: Hanging Judge; He Hanged Them High: An Authentic Account of the Fanatical Judge Who Hanged Eighty-Eight *297Men; and Hell on the Border; He Hanged Eighty-Eight Men. Parker sentenced 88 men to be hanged by the neck until dead. Judge Parker's court was nationally famous, and he presided over trials of notorious outlaws such as Belle Starr. President Theodore Roosevelt's Attorney General, Philander C. Knox, observed: "Judge Parker. . . tried and sentenced to death more murderers than any judge who ever sat within the limits of the United States." Due to a drafting error in an 1877 statute, defendants in Judge Parker's court could not appeal to a Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fort Smith court was granted the powers of a Circuit Court of Appeal, which inadvertently made Judge Smith the appellate judge of his own cases. The error was corrected in 1889 by a statute which created a distinct federal circuit for the Western District of Arkansas. More significantly, for purposes of this article, all federal defendants sentenced to death were given a right of direct appeal to the United States Supreme Court, via a writ of error. The statute was apparently enacted because of congressional concerns about Judge Parker's arbitrariness. Two years later, Congress followed up with the Judiciary Act of 1891 (also known as the Evarts Act, or the Circuit Court of Appeals Act). This Act created the modern Circuit Courts of Appeals, with final appellate authority, except for capital or other infamous crimes. Before 1891, the Supreme Court had no general appellate jurisdiction for federal criminal cases. In 1896, the Congress stripped Parker's Western District of Arkansas of its jurisdiction of cases in the Indian Territory, and Parker retired from the bench. In 1897 Congress enacted a bill titled "An Act To Reduce The Cases In Which The Death Penalty May Be Inflicted." The new law cut *298the number of federal capital offenses to only five and made the death penalty discretionary even for those cases. By the time that Parker retired, the Supreme Court had reviewed forty-four of Parker's capital sentences, and reversed thirty-one of them. In the appeals of Parker's death sentences, a defendant's chances before the Supreme Court had a great deal to do with whether he was invoking his right to self-defense. Nine defendants from Parker's court raised appeals involving self-defense; eight of them won reversals. One of them won a reversal again, after a second trial. Thus, when the Supreme Court reviewed a Parker capital case which did not involve self-defense, the Supreme Court reversed in twenty-two out of thirty-five cases.The late Nineteenth Century was a period when the death penalty was widely accepted, especially for use against outlaws, such as those who often fled other parts of America to take up residence in Oklahoma. But Judge Parker's zeal for hanging went too far, as he repeatedly forced juries to bring in guilty verdicts against people who were defending themselves against criminal attack. Today, Judge Parker's most notable fan appears to be Chief Justice Rehnquist. Besides writing a tribute law review essay to the Judge, Justice Rehnquist in his opinions has cited Parker's expertise in Indian law, and has approvingly quoted the Hanging Judge's statement, "I never hanged a man. It is the law." But according to the Supreme Court of the 1890s, too much what Judge Parker did was not the law - Parker infringed on the right to self-defense.I refer to these cases collectively as the Self-Defense Cases, since they form a coherent group of cases involving common issues, like the Passenger Cases, the Selective Draft Law Cases, or the Head Money *299Cases. Although a group of cases which becomes known as a set of "Cases" is often decided on the same day, sometimes the group may span several years. For example, the Insular Cases, dealing with the application of the Constitution to newly-acquired territories, involved cases decided from 1901 to 1922. The Self-Defense Cases involve a dozen cases regarding the use of deadly force, all decided between 1893 and 1896, plus one more case from 1921, and can properly be considered part of a coherent set.
The defendant in Gourko v. United States, John Gourko, was a 19- year-old Polish immigrant. He lived with his brother, Mike, in a mining camp in the Choctaw Nation. Peter Carbo, another Polish immigrant aged 40-45, had a dispute with them over certain loads of coal, which he claimed the Gourko brothers had filched. According to a witness, Carbo threatened "to shoot John like a dog." Carbo was easily capable of violence - he weighed 200 pounds, was very strong, and was considered dangerous. John Gourko, weighing only 135 pounds, was considered delicate "and was deemed a quiet, peaceable boy."
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