Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Supreme Court’

TDIH: Thurgood Marshall Confirmed to the Supreme Court

“I believe he earned his appointment. He deserves the appointment. He’s the best qualified by training and by very valuable service to the country. I believe it’s the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man, and the right place.”–President Lyndon Johnson, on nominating Thurgood Marshall to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court

“There is very little truth in the old refrain that one cannot legislate equality. Laws not only provide concrete benefits; they can even change the hearts of men–some men anyway–for good or for evil.”Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall (on telephone), President Lyndon B. Johnson, 6/13/1967
by Yoichi R. Okamoto/White House Photograph Office
via National Archives [public domain]

Fifty years ago today, August 30, 1967, Thurgood Marshall’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate, making him the first African American to serve as a Justice on the highest court in the land. Marshall had a lasting and significant impact on civil rights in the United States. He argued and won cases, and later wrote opinions from the bench that changed the nation’s laws on segregation and racial injustice.

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 2, 1908, the great-grandson of a slave. He attended the racially segregated public schools there graduating from high school in 1925, then went on to the historically black Lincoln University in Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, graduating with honors in 1930. He then applied to the all-white University of Maryland Law School but was denied admission because he was Black. This event went on to direct his future professional life. He was accepted at another historically black school–Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., that same year. He received his law degree in 1933, graduating first in his class (magna cum laude).

Between 1934 and 1961, as an attorney for the NAACP, Marshall traveled throughout the United States, representing clients in many different disputes involving questions of racial justice. Marshall’s first major civil rights case came in 1936 when he successfully sued the University of Maryland for their unfair admissions policy. Murray v. Pearson was the first in a long line of cases designed to undermine the legal basis for racial segregation in the United States.

He argued thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court, more than anyone else in history, and won an astounding twenty-nine of them. His first victory at the high court was in 1940. Chambers v. Florida demonstrated that police brutality and coerced confessions were a violation of the 14th Amendment’s right to due process. Other notable cases were Smith v. Allwright (1944), which invalidated the so-called white primary (the practice of barring blacks from the Democratic party primary in a state where that party controlled state government), Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), which prohibited state courts from enforcing racially restrictive real estate covenants, and the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which invalidated state-enforced racial segregation in the public schools.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where he wrote over 150 decisions. None of his 98 majority decisions were ever reversed by the Supreme Court.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson named him Solicitor General of the United States, another racial first. The Solicitor General represents the U.S. when it is sued by a corporation or an individual. He served until 1967, when Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court, winning 14 of the 19 cases he argued.

In his 24 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Marshall was an outspoken liberal on a Court dominated by conservatives, often voting in the minority. He consistently voted to uphold gender and racial affirmative action policies. He also dissented in every case that the Court refused to overturn a death sentence, as well as opposing all efforts to limit abortion rights. He believed that the Constitution requires the government to provide certain benefits to everyone–including education, legal services and access to the courts–regardless of their ability to pay for them. He succeeded in fashioning new protections under the law for women, children, homeless persons, and prisoners.

On June 27, 1991, Marshall announced his intention to retire from the Court. President George H.W. Bush nominated 43-year-old Black conservative Clarence Thomas to replace him a week later. Marshall died of heart failure in Bethesda, Maryland on January 24, 1993, at the age of 84.

To learn more about Justice Marshall, navigate to these websites available on SIRS Knowledge Source:

Justice for All: The Legacy of Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall Before the Court

Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

Or direct your students to the SIRS Knowledge Source feature on the U.S. Supreme Court. Students can browse editorially-selected cases by Constitutional Articles & Amendments, or by Topic. This feature includes a list of Landmark Cases by category, profiles of the current Justices, as well as biographical information on all the Justices who have served on the Court throughout history, including Justice Marshall. A glossary, a graphic that explains how the Court is organized, supplementary references with links to related articles in the product, and a link to the official U.S. Supreme Court website are also provided. An additional link includes the text of the U.S. Constitution.

Don’t have SIRS Knowledge Source at your school or library? Free trials are available.

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3 Trending Leading Issues: Supreme Court Edition

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, DC <br />  By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, DC
By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Debates on several Leading Issues are about to heat up. Over the next few weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is expected to rule on several landmark cases addressing some of the most controversial issues of our day. Public awareness of SCOTUS may be limited, but these rulings will affect the rights of all Americans. These rulings are also likely to affect SCOTUS’s favorability, which has declined in recent years.

Here are three of the most talked about Leading Issues that SCOTUS will address in the coming weeks:

1. Health Care Reform

SIRS Leading Issue: Health Care Reform by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

SIRS Leading Issue: Health Care Reform
by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

King v. Burwell. This case addresses subsidies offered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The plaintiffs argue that the ACA only allows subsidies for health insurance purchased through state-run exchanges. The defendants argue that the ACA was intended to offer subsidies for health insurance purchased through federal- and state-run exchanges. According to the New York Times, if SCOTUS rules in favor of the plaintiffs, “about 7.5 million people could lose their subsidies in 34 states that use the federal health care marketplace.”

2. Same-Sex Marriage

SIRS Leading Issue: Same-Sex Marriage <br> by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

SIRS Leading Issue: Same-Sex Marriage
by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

Obergefell v. Hodges. This case addresses same-sex marriage. SCOTUS has raised two questions: Does the U.S. Constitution grant same-sex couples the right to marry? Should states without legalized same-sex marriage be required to recognize same-sex marriages obtained lawfully in other states? A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could potentially legalize same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

3. Capital Punishment

SIRS Leading Issue: Capital Punishment <br> by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

SIRS Leading Issue: Capital Punishment
by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

Glossip v. Gross. This death penalty case addresses whether a controversial lethal-drug combination used to carry out executions violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiffs argue that the sedative midazolam, the first drug administered in the three-drug series, fails to prevent prisoners from enduring the intense pain caused by the two other drugs. This severe pain, they argue, is cruel and unusual punishment. If SCOTUS rules in favor of the plaintiffs, states that use midazolam will have to find more reliable drugs or turn to other execution methods like firing squads.

ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher and SIRS Government Reporter editors will follow all of the Supreme Court rulings in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

What do you think about these Supreme Court cases? Comment below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.

60 Years Ago: Brown v. Board of Education

Post-Brown Integrated Classroom

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  So begins the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.  For African Americans, we know this was not the case, especially regarding education.  In 1952-1953, the case of a group of Topeka, Kansas parents and their children came to the U.S. Supreme Court that would challenge inequalities in education.  Sixty years later, Brown v. Board of Education remains a turning point in the fight for civil rights in the United States.

In 1896, the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson ruled constitutional the “separate but equal” doctrine with regard to racial segregation and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Fifty-eight years passed with “separate but equal” being the law of the land to justify discrimination based on race not only in schools but also in housing, transportation and recreation.

Thurgood Marshall together with the NAACP took the Brown case, a combination of school desegregation lawsuits, and argued it before the Supreme Court.  On May 17,Brown Celebration 1954, the Court ruled “separate but equal” unconstitutional in a 9-0 decision.  Chief Justice Earl Warren writing the opinion of the Court stated, “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Brown changed civil rights history.  It paved the way for good – James Meredith, Ruby Bridges – and not so good – the Little Rock integration crisis, George Wallace’s stand in the schoolhouse door.  Sixty years may sound like a long time, but the implications of Brown continue.  Take time to learn more about the Brown decision and integration of the American education system since 1954 by using eLibrary and its many resources.

This Day in History: U.S. Supreme Court Decides Dred Scott Case

Dred Scott

Dred Scott, a Virginia slave, was the plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Scott v. Sandford. Image credit: Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis [Public Domain]

On this day in history in 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision on the Dred Scott case, the outcome of which helped set the chain of events leading to the Civil War. Dred Scott was a slave who had been taken by his owner from Missouri (a slave state) to Illinois (a free state) and also to Wisconsin Territory (where slavery was banned).  Scott brought suit against his master, claiming that he was a free man because of his residence on free soil. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that Scott was still a slave and that anyone descended from black Africans could not become a U.S. citizen. The Court also struck down the Missouri Compromise, a federal law, as unconstitutional by negating the doctrine of popular sovereignty when it ruled that Congress had no power to exclude slavery from any part of U.S. territories. View the primary source DRED SCOTT v. SANDFORD in ProQuest SIRS.

To learn more about the Dred Scott case and other stepping stones in American civil rights history, direct your students to ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher, where they can find a range of editorially-selected resources. A Civil Rights Timeline highlights the expanding scope of civil rights in the United States, from colonial times to the present. Students can delve deeper by examining Leading Issues in civil rights, including affirmative action, gay rights, and privacy rights for teenagers.

Is there a civil rights issue you’d like to see us cover in ProQuest SIRS? If so, send us your suggestions in the comment box below.

Discoverer In the News: Voting Rights Act

March for Black Suffrage

Demonstrators participating in a march for black suffrage.
by Bruce Davidson/Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Discoverer [Public Domain]

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1870, gave African American men the right to vote. But some people in Southern states did not agree with the amendment, and so passed discriminatory laws that made it hard for African Americans to cast their votes. Some parts of the South enacted a poll tax or forced black people to take a literacy test. Sometimes white Southerners harassed or intimidated African Americans when they tried to register to vote.

Almost 100 years later, as a result of the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act was passed. This 1965 civil law made voter discrimination illegal. So all of the local election rules that made it difficult for African Americans to register to vote or cast a vote were now against national law.

The Voting Rights Act has been upheld by Congress several times. However, in June 2013, the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Section 4 prohibits states with a history of voter discrimination from making new election rules without special permission. Some people agree with this decision, others do not.

What do you think of this controversial decision? Check out this month’s “Discoverer In the News” feature and decide for yourself. Quiz yourself on the Voting Rights Act and decipher the meaning of an editorial cartoon on this topic.

U.S. Supreme Court Wraps Up a Momentous Term

The United States Supreme Court has recessed for the summer, but this year’s term saw more than its share of landmark opinions by the nine justices of the Nations’ highest court. Some of the noteworthy decisions that will have far-reaching impacts on American society include:

U.S. Supreme Court Building

U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

Hollingsworth v. Perry: The proponents of California’s Proposition 8 ballot measure which bans same-sex marriage in that state did not have standing to appeal the district court’s order invalidating the ban.

United States v. Windsor: The Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The federal government is required to recognize same-sex marriages.

Shelby County v. Holder: Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional. Its formula can no longer be used as a basis for designating which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin: Affirmative action and race-based university admissions policies must be strictly reviewed, but they are not illegal.

Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics: The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are not patentable because they are “products of nature.” Naturally occurring DNA sequences cannot be held as the exclusive intellectual property of companies or individuals.

Which of the recent Supreme Court decisions do you think is most important, and why? We welcome your comments in the space below.

Educators can turn to SIRS Government Reporter’s U.S. Supreme Court feature for primary source materials on these, as well as many other selected cases. Each case in SIRS Government Reporter includes a full-text version of the opinion, with an easy-to-understand summary explaining the question before the court and its decision. Cases can be browsed by topic, by Constitutional Article and Amendment, or alphabetically. Also find biographical information on current and past Justices, a reference article that explains the role of the Supreme Court and its history, a full-text version of the U.S. Constitution with amendments and historical notes, a list of supplementary references for students and educators, and more.

SIRS Government Reporter: U.S. Supreme Court

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” This rather archaic language is the traditional chant used by the Marshal to announce the entrance of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court into the courtroom.Group Photo of Supreme Court 2010

SIRS Government Reporter’s database feature on the U.S. Supreme Court provides educators primary source documents and other resources to promote students’ critical thinking skills by exploring how historic and recent Supreme Court decisions impact their lives and shape American society and history.

The feature offers fulltext versions of selected Supreme Court cases, including an easy-to-understand summary that provides a brief synopsis of the case and an explanation of the Court’s decision. Users can browse the Court’s decisions alphabetically by case listing, by Constitutional Articles and Amendments, or by topic. Find a glossary of terms, biographical information on current and past Justices, a reference document explaining the workings of the Court, view the text of the U.S. Constitution, and more. The Landmark Cases section provides information on the decisions that have significantly altered Constitutional doctrines. A list of supplementary references for students and educators is also provided.

Turn to SIRS Government Reporter’s U.S. Supreme Court feature for a wealth of information on the Nation’s highest court.

Health Care Reform

“Health Law Stands” via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

Keep up to date with the latest developments on health care reform with SIRS Issues Researcher.

Although some students and teachers are on summer break, the SIRS editorial team has been busy updating the Health Care Reform Leading Issue with new and relevant content from the recent Affordable Care Act decision, including the Supreme Court case syllabus and majority & dissenting opinions.

To access all the Health Care Reform Leading Issue content, simply click on the issue from one of the convenient listings: Visual Browse, Groups, A-Z, or Top 10.

Just a small example of how SIRS Issues Researcher provides users with current and relevant articles with enduring research value.

–Kim Kobayashi & Tami Kirk