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3.14 Required Supreme Court Cases
15 min read • may 3, 2023
AP US Government & Politics students should be thoroughly familiar with 15 Supreme Court Cases for the AP exam.
Not only should you be familiar with the final decisions, you should be familiar with the reasons for the majority opinion and how they impacted American society.
According to the College Board, these cases are essential content in college courses and in-depth analysis will help you gain the basis needed for future courses in politics.
Why Do I Need to Know These?
On your AP exam in May, your FRQ #3 will be a SCOTUS comparison essay.
You will be asked to compare one of the required cases (for which no information will be provided) with a case that is presented to you on the exam.
These required cases tend to appear throughout the AP exam multiple choice.
It is essential that you analyze these cases in depth so you are prepared for the AP Exam!
What Are The Required Cases?
Marbury v. madison (1803), mcculloch v. maryland (1819).
Schenck v. the United States (1919)
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
Engel v. vitale (1962), baker v. carr (1962), gideon v. wainwright (1963), tinker v. des moines independent community school district (1969).
New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)
Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)
Shaw v. reno (1993), united states v. lopez (1995), mcdonald v. chicago (2010), citizens united v. federal election commission (2010), why these cases.
According to the College Board, these cases are essential to college courses in introductory history and politics. Many of these cases are controversial or were decided 5-4.
These cases will help you further enhance your knowledge of the AP Government curriculum. You’ll be able to see how the content you learn about in class applies to real situations.
4 Key Points for Each Case
What context does the College Board want you to understand the case through? There is a reason why the College Board wants you to know each of the required Supreme Court cases for the AP exam. In their syllabus documents, they list out the exact reason why a particular case is relevant to government and politics. This can give you context on why each case is important, so make sure to read it!
A short summary of the case : Like an essay for your AP history class, you want to make sure that you provide context in your Supreme Court comparison FRQ. Therefore, it’s crucial that you understand the situation behind each of these cases.
Might be helpful - the date : Although you will never be asked to recall the exact date of a Supreme Court case, knowing the date can help you put the case into context and can enhance your FRQ response.
Constitutional issues: What does the American government revolve around? You got it - the Constitution! Make sure you understand the constitutional issue that each case presents.
Holding, Constitutional Principle & Majority Opinion: The holding of the case is based on something from the Constitution. Knowing the holding and constitutional principle that was used to decide the case is the most important part . These will help you answer FRQ #3, which will ask you to compare the holding in one of the 15 required cases to a case you will be presented with on the AP exam.
Cases Involving Federalism
College Board Context: “CON-2.B.2: The balance of power between the national and state governments has changed over time based on US Supreme Court interpretation of (these) cases.”
Short Summary : In 1816, the Second Bank of the United States was chartered; soon after, in 1818, however, Maryland decided to pass a law that imposed taxes on the bank. James McCulloch , who served as a cashier at the Baltimore branch of the Second Bank, decided not to pay the tax. The state court had ruled that the Bank was unconstitutional, to begin with, and that the federal government did not have the authority to charter a bank
Constitutional Issues: Two questions could be explored in this case. Did Congress have the implied power to create a bank? And secondly, could states tax a federal entity/bank?
Holdings and Constitutional Principles : Congress concluded based on the Necessary & Proper Clause that Congress is not limited by its expressed powers. It was decided that through Congress’ implied powers, they had the ability to create a bank. Congress also concluded based on the Supremacy Clause that because the national laws were superior to state laws, the states were not allowed to tax the federal government.
Implied Powers : implied powers expand upon the enumerated powers that are listed in the Constitution. Congress is allowed to borrow money, coin money, and tax expressly by the Constitution. The implied power of creating a national bank allows for the federal government to implement this expressed power.
Short Summary : Alfonzo Lopez was a Texas high school senior who took a concealed weapon inside his school. Federal charges were soon imposed because of his violation of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. The act stated that individuals could not possess firearms within school zones based on the premise of the Commerce Clause.
Constitutional Issue : This case explored a constitutional issue involving the commerce clause, and whether the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 exceeded the power allowed by the clause.
Holding and Constitutional Principles : In the ruling, the law was considered unconstitutional since having a gun in the school zone did not substantially affect interstate commerce , which is a clear provision in the commerce clause. This case also reaffirmed the Tenth Amendment, which protects states’ rights. It was clear through this case that the commerce clause did not grant Congress limitless power.
Straight from the AP US Government Course Description : this case “(introduced) a new phase of federalism that recognized the importance of state sovereignty and local control.”
Cases Involving the First Amendment
College Board Context: “LOR-2: Provisions of the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights are continually being interpreted to balance the power of the government and the civil liberties of individuals.”
TIP : Do you have trouble remembering the main points the First Amendment addresses? Remember the acronym FEE RAPPS !
F ree E xercise Clause
E stablishment Clause
P etition the Government
Short Summary : The New York Board of Regents had authorized that at the beginning of each day, a short but voluntary prayer would be recited. Several organizations filed suit against the Board of Regents, claiming that the prayer violated the Constitution. The New York Court of Appeals dismissed their arguments.
Constitutional Issue : This case was significant and interesting because this prayer was both voluntary and non-denominational. However, the organizations filed suit based on a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which states that a law could not be made “respecting an establishment of religion.”
Holding and Constitutional Principles : The court held that states could not hold prayers in public school EVEN IF it was voluntary and EVEN IF the prayer did not adhere to a specific religion. Because the act of prayer was considered a religious activity, having it occur in a public school (which is funded by the government) would go against the establishment clause of the first amendment.
Main Idea? School sponsorship of religious activities = violation of first amendment
Short Summary : Jonas Yoder, as well as other Amish parents, refused to send their children to school after the 8th grade. In accordance with their religion, they did not agree with high school attendance. They were later charged under a Wisconsin law that required students to attend school until age 16.
Constitutional Issue : This case relates to the other major religious clause of the 1st Amendment: the free exercise clause. By requiring Wisconsin parents to send their children to school, without a faith exception, did it violate the parents' rights to freely exercise their religion?
Holding and Constitutional Principles : The court held that the requirement to send children to school beyond the eighth grade was unconstitutional. It stated that an individual’s interest in the free exercise of religion was more powerful than a federal interest in sending children to school beyond the eighth grade.
Short Summary : A group of students decided to wear black armbands in order to protest the Vietnam War. Mary Beth Tinker and Christopher Eckhardt decided that they would wear their armbands to school despite warnings from school administration. After wearing the armbands to school, they were sent home. The students decided to sue their school district for violating the freedom of expression.
Constitutional Issue : The main question that was addressed here was whether the prohibition against wearing these armbands (and in general - symbolic protest) violated the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The Supreme Court held that students still have free speech rights at school, and in order to justify the suppression of speech, the speech must substantially interfere with school operations (explore the case Bethel School District v. Fraser - it’s interesting). As referenced earlier, this case relates directly to the First Amendment, and the ruling confirmed that students’ right of symbolic speech was more powerful than the potential disorder that it could cause.
Majority Opinion : A common phrase you might hear is: “students don’t shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate.” This quote comes from the majority opinion in this case!
New York Times Co v. United States (1971)
Short Summary : This case, also known as the Pentagon Papers case had to do with the First Amendment. The Nixon Administration tried to prevent the New York Times from publishing material that belonged to a Defense Department study about US intervention in Vietnam. President Nixon stated that it was necessary to national security to prohibit it before publication, also known as prior restraint.
Constitutional Issue : The Constitutional issue that revolved around this case was whether the Nixon administration’s prior restraint was constitutional and if preventing the publication of “classified material” was a violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of the press.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The Supreme Court, in this case, bolstered the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment. In a 6-3 vote, the Court established that there was a “heavy presumption against prior restraint” even for national security purposes. This is a key case to know for freedom of the press!
Schenck v. United States (1919)
Short Summary : During World War I, a pair of socialists, including Charles Schenck distributed leaflets that stated the draft violated the 13th Amendment - which prohibits involuntary servitude. The leaflet wanted people to disobey the draft. Schenck was charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917. They appealed on the grounds of the First Amendment.
Constitutional Issue : This was a First Amendment case and the question was whether the Espionage Act violated the First Amendment and if it was an appropriate way that Congress exercised its wartime authority.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The Supreme Court held that the Espionage Act did not violate the First Amendment and it was an appropriate exercise of Congress’ wartime authority. This was a key limitation on the First Amendment as the free speech clause does not allow for advocacy of unlawful behavior.
Cases Involving Selective Incorporation
College Board Context: “LOR-3: Protections of the Bill of Rights have been selectively incorporated by way of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause to prevent state infringement of basic liberties.”
Short Summary: Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in Florida state court on a felony - breaking and entering charge. During his trial, Gideon requested that he receive a court-appointed lawyer; however, in accordance with Florida State law, an indigent defendant could only have an attorney be appointed in capital crimes/cases. Gideon then filed a habeas corpus suit, stating that the court’s decision violated his rights to be represented.
Constitutional Issue : The constitutional issue in this case involved the Sixth Amendment and whether the right to counsel guaranteed in this amendment also applied to felony defendants in state court.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The holding was that the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel applies to state court defendants via the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court stated that because the right of counsel is fundamental, it should be incorporated into the states.
Roe v. Wade (1973)
*This case is no longer required on the AP Government exam, starting in 2023. However, due to its importance, we would like students to understand the case and its implications.*
Short Summary: Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) wanted an abortion but could not legally have one in the state of Texas, because of a state law that prohibited abortions except in cases where the mother’s life was in danger. She questioned the legality of this law.
Constitutional Issue : The Constitutional issue in this case was whether a woman’s right to have an abortion was permitted by the Constitution, and whether it fit into the broad right of privacy.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The Supreme Court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right of privacy that was clarified in Griswold v. Connecticut, and therefore was protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Laws in 46 states were affected by this ruling. This ruling expanded the definition of privacy .
Modern Connections : This case is one of the most controversial cases to appear before the Supreme Court. Political candidates are often split along party lines - Democrats often agree with this holding and Republicans often disagree.
Short Summary: Chicago passed a handgun ban law, and several suits were filed against the city challenging the ban after another case ( District of Columbia v. Heller ). In that case, the Court had held that a DC handgun ban violated the Second Amendment. There, since the law was enacted by the federal government, the Second Amendment was applicable.
Constitutional Issue : In this case, the applicability of the Second Amendment to the states was argued, and if the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms (interpreted as an individual right) also applied to the states. This involves selective incorporation!
Holding and Constitutional Principle : In its decision, the Court stated that the handgun ban was unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision. Because the right to self-defense was fundamental , the 2nd Amendment was incorporated to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.
Cases Involving the Equal Protection Clause
College Board Context: “PRD-1: The Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause as well as other constitutional provisions have often been used to support the advancement of equality.”
Short Summary: This is one of the most famous cases in US history. Relating to the racial segregation of schools, African American students had been denied admittance to public schools because of these segregation laws, and many argued that this was in violation of the Constitution.
Constitutional Issue : This was an issue in terms of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A previous case, Plessy v. Ferguson, held that segregated facilities were legal as long as the facilities were equal (called “separate but equal doctrine.”) In this case, racial segregation in public school education was argued against based on the Equal Protection Clause.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The Court held that “separate but equal is inherently unequal,” and therefore racial segregation of public schools is unconstitutional. The segregated schools allowed by the previous Plessy case were declared unconstitutional. This had a MAJOR IMPACT on the US and required desegregation of all public schools
Judicial Review : The Supreme Court is allowed to reverse previous rulings based on the premise of judicial review. See the Marbury v. Madison case for more info about this!
Stare Decisis : The case established that this principle, which states that current courts should look to previous decisions for interpretation, will not always be upheld.
Enforced? : The Court required states to desegregate "with all deliberate speed," and when schools had not desegregated after 10 years, the Court issued another opinion requiring immediate desegregation. This is an example of how judicial decisions may not be enforced by the federal or state executive departments.
Cases Involving Federal Policy
College Board Context: “PRD-2: The impact of federal policies on campaigning and electoral rules continues to be contested by both sides of the political spectrum.”
Short Summary: The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 had previously banned corporations from independent political spending and direct contributions to campaigns or political parties. In 2008, Citizens United was not allowed to show an anti-Hillary Clinton movie.
Constitutional Issue : The issue here was whether the BCRA applied to nonprofits, or if the First Amendment’s free speech clause protected such political speech.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The holding in this case was that corporations should be considered people and therefore their funding of “independent political expenditures cannot be limited.” This is considered a form of political speech , which is protected by the free speech portion of the First Amendment.
Further Impact : This led to the development of Super PACS and a significant increase in the amount of money contributed to political campaigns.
Note : In my opinion, this is one of the hardest cases to get straight! This is one I would definitely recommend studying early-on before the exam!
Cases Involving Districting & Representation
College Board Context: “CON-3: The republican ideal in the U.S. is manifested in the structure and operation of the legislative branch.”
Short Summary: Charles Baker stated that an old law (1901) that detailed the apportionment for Tennessee’s General Assembly had been ignored, and stated that reapportionment did not take into account the significant change that the state had gone through.
Constitutional Issue : The issue here was unique, and was regarding whether the Supreme Court as a unit had the authority to hear cases that related to legislative apportionment.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The chief justice and the Court concluded that because of the Fourteenth Amendment issues (through equal protection) that the case seemed to address, the Supreme Court did have the authority to hear this case.
Impact : This case opened the door to more challenges to unfair redistricting by way of the Equal Protection Clause. Eventually, it also led to the development of the one person, one vote doctrine.
Short Summary: Several North Carolina residents challenged a proposed, unusually shaped district. They believed that the only purpose of the district was that it would definitely elect African-American representatives.
Constitutional Issue : The constitutional issue here was whether racial gerrymandering took place with this district (it was very narrow) and if the district raised an Equal Protection Clause question.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The Supreme Court held, in a majority opinion authored by Sandra Day O’Connor, that because the district was shaped in such a clearly odd way, it was enough to prove that there was a very apparent effort to separate voters racially.
Further Impact : A key fact about this case is that majority-minority districts can be constitutionally challenged if race was the sole factor in their creation.
Cases Involving Judicial Review
College Board Context: “CON-5: The design of the judicial branch protects the Supreme Court’s independence as a branch of government, and the emergence and use of judicial review remains a powerful judicial practice.”
Short Summary: The 1800 election ended in a defeat for John Adams to Thomas Jefferson. Before Adams’ term ended, Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1801 (creating new courts, adding new judges). It was an effort by John Adams to keep his own influence in federal courts even though he was leaving office (still occurs today.) His appointments to these courts, however, were not valid until the appointed judges were delivered their commissions by Jefferson’s Secretary of State. Marbury was one of the judges appointed; however, his commission was not delivered.
Constitutional Issue : A key issue was whether the Court had the authority to order the delivery of commission, and if a federal judge could even bring the case to court.
Holding and Constitutional Principle : The Court held that although legally, the commission should have been delivered, the clause of the Judiciary Act of 1789 which enabled Marbury to bring the case to court was unconstitutional. By declaring a law made by Congress unconstitutional, the practice of judicial review was established.
How to study the required court cases?
We suggest making sure to create a study plan and set up your study space with a good environment. Then, go over each court case and quiz yourself on the details. To help with your productivity, especially during the last few days before the exam, you should use a pomodoro study timer to break up your sessions into intervals and make time for breaks. It is also hugely beneficial to study with friends so that you can motivate one another and crush the AP Gov exam together! 🙌🏾
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Analyzing Supreme Court Case Study Answers: Uncovering Key Insights
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States and plays a crucial role in interpreting the Constitution. Many landmark cases have shaped the course of American history and have had a lasting impact on society. Understanding the details and outcomes of these cases is essential for a comprehensive understanding of the Supreme Court’s role in our government.
One case that has had a significant impact on civil rights is Brown v. Board of Education . This case, decided in 1954, struck down the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public education and paved the way for desegregation. The Court’s unanimous decision held that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. This case was a major milestone in the civil rights movement and led to further advancements in equality.
Another important Supreme Court case is Roe v. Wade , decided in 1973. This case addressed the issue of a woman’s right to have an abortion. The Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to privacy and held that it included the right to terminate a pregnancy. This decision has been highly controversial and has had ongoing implications for reproductive rights and access to abortion services.
Additionally, the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has had a significant impact on campaign finance laws. Decided in 2010, this case held that political spending by corporations and unions is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment. The Court’s decision allowed for an increase in corporate and union spending in elections, leading to concerns about the influence of money in politics.
These are just a few examples of the many landmark cases that have shaped American law and society. Studying and understanding these cases is essential for anyone interested in the history and impact of the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Case Study Answers
In the realm of legal studies, Supreme Court case studies play a crucial role in understanding the interpretation and application of the law. These case studies provide answers to important questions regarding constitutional rights, legal precedents, and the balance of power between the branches of government. Examining these cases allows legal scholars and students to gain insight into the complexities of the legal system and the impact of Supreme Court decisions on society.
Marbury v. Madison (1803): This landmark case is often cited as a prime example of judicial review, the power of the Supreme Court to declare laws and actions of the executive and legislative branches unconstitutional. Marbury v. Madison set the precedent for the Supreme Court’s role in interpreting the Constitution and ensuring its adherence by other branches of government. This case reaffirmed the principle of separation of powers and established the Court as the final arbiter of constitutional interpretation.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954): One of the most significant cases in American history, Brown v. Board of Education ended racial segregation in public schools. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision declared that “separate but equal” educational facilities, which had been upheld by previous cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson, were inherently unequal and violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. This case marked a major milestone in the Civil Rights Movement and paved the way for desegregation efforts across the country.
- Miranda v. Arizona (1966): This case is synonymous with the Miranda rights read to individuals upon arrest. The Supreme Court held that suspects must be informed of their Fifth Amendment rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, before any custodial interrogation. The Miranda decision aimed to protect individuals from self-incrimination and ensure that their rights were upheld during police interrogations.
- Roe v. Wade (1973): In a landmark ruling for reproductive rights, the Supreme Court held that the right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment includes a woman’s right to have an abortion. This case established the legal framework for abortion rights in the United States, recognizing a woman’s autonomy over her own body and setting limits on state interference in personal medical decisions.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010): Citizens United v. FEC is a highly controversial case that dealt with campaign finance and the regulation of political spending by corporations and unions. The Supreme Court’s decision expanded the First Amendment rights of corporations to make political expenditures, leading to the rise of super PACs and increased corporate influence in elections. This case ignited a national debate over the role of money in politics and the extent of free speech protections for corporations.
In conclusion, Supreme Court case studies provide answers to a wide range of legal questions and offer valuable insights into the interpretation and application of the law. By examining landmark cases such as Marbury v. Madison, Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Roe v. Wade, and Citizens United v. FEC, legal scholars and students can deepen their understanding of the principles that underpin our legal system and the influence of Supreme Court decisions on society. These case studies demonstrate the evolving nature of constitutional law and the crucial role the Supreme Court plays in shaping our nation’s legal landscape.
What is a Supreme Court case study?
A Supreme Court case study is an in-depth analysis and examination of a specific legal case that has been brought before the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of the United States. These case studies are typically undertaken by students, scholars, and legal professionals to explore the legal issues, arguments, and decisions made within a particular Supreme Court case.
Supreme Court case studies involve an extensive review of the relevant legal documents, including the opinions of the Supreme Court justices, the briefs submitted by the parties involved, and the oral arguments presented during the court hearings. These case studies aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the legal principles at stake, the constitutional questions raised, and the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision on the broader legal landscape.
A Supreme Court case study often includes an analysis of the historical and social context surrounding the case, as well as an examination of the precedents and legal doctrines that guided the Supreme Court’s decision-making process. It may also involve a discussion of the impact and significance of the case on the development of constitutional law and the interpretation of the United States Constitution.
In these case studies, students and researchers delve into the details of the case, examining the arguments put forth by each side, the reasoning of the Supreme Court justices, and the potential implications of the decision for future cases. Through this thorough analysis, a Supreme Court case study aims to shed light on the complexities of the legal system, the role of the judiciary, and the importance of constitutional interpretation.
Key phrases: Supreme Court case study, analysis, legal case, legal issues, arguments, decisions, highest court, Supreme Court of the United States, students, scholars, legal professionals, relevant legal documents, opinions, briefs, oral arguments, court hearings, legal principles, constitutional questions, implications, broader legal landscape, historical and social context, precedents, legal doctrines, decision-making process, impact, significance, development of constitutional law, interpretation of the United States Constitution, details, reasoning, potential implications, thorough analysis, shed light, complexities, legal system, judiciary, constitutional interpretation.
Overview of the case study method used in Supreme Court studies
The case study method is commonly used in Supreme Court studies to examine and analyze specific cases that have reached the highest court in the United States. This method involves a detailed investigation of a particular case, examining all relevant documents, records, and legal arguments to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand. By conducting a case study, researchers and scholars can delve into the intricate details of a case, identify key factors that influenced the Court’s decision, and analyze the broader implications of the ruling.
One important aspect of the case study method in Supreme Court studies is the use of legal briefs. These briefs are written arguments submitted by the parties involved in the case, outlining their respective positions and the legal reasoning behind them. Researchers often rely on these briefs to gain insights into the legal arguments presented to the Court and to understand the different perspectives on the issue. The case study method also involves the examination of oral arguments presented before the Court, which provide further insight into the legal reasoning and strategies employed by the parties.
Furthermore, the case study method in Supreme Court studies often involves the analysis of majority and dissenting opinions. These opinions, written by the justices, provide the basis for the Court’s decision and offer valuable insights into the Court’s legal reasoning and interpretation of the Constitution. Researchers examine these opinions to understand the different perspectives and arguments put forth by the justices, as well as the legal principles and precedents that guided their decision-making process.
In addition to analyzing the specific case at hand, the case study method in Supreme Court studies also allows for the examination of the broader impact and implications of the Court’s ruling. Researchers may analyze how the ruling has affected subsequent legal developments and policy decisions, as well as its impact on society as a whole. The case study method provides a comprehensive and in-depth approach to understanding Supreme Court cases, allowing researchers to gain insights into the complex legal issues and dynamics that shape the highest court in the land.
The Importance of Supreme Court Case Studies
Supreme Court case studies play a crucial role in understanding and interpreting the law of the land. These studies provide valuable insights into the decisions made by the highest court in the United States and help shape the legal framework of the country.
First and foremost, Supreme Court case studies allow us to analyze and comprehend the reasoning behind landmark decisions. They provide detailed accounts of the facts, arguments, and legal principles involved in each case, giving us a comprehensive understanding of the Court’s decision-making process. These studies serve as valuable resources for legal scholars, practitioners, and students, enabling them to learn from the past and apply these lessons to future cases.
Moreover, Supreme Court case studies shed light on the evolving interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. As the Court’s decisions shape the meaning and application of the Constitution, studying these cases allows us to track the Court’s interpretation over time. By examining how the Court has applied constitutional provisions to real-life situations, we gain a deeper understanding of our constitutional rights and the limits of governmental power.
Supreme Court case studies also have significant political implications. They provide insight into the ideological leanings of the justices and the impact of their decisions on various societal issues. Examining the dissenting opinions in these cases helps us understand the different perspectives and reasoning behind the judges’ disagreement, giving us a glimpse into the broader political and social debates taking place in the country.
- Furthermore, these case studies serve as a reminder of the importance of an independent judiciary in a democratic society. As the final arbiter of legal disputes, the Supreme Court plays a crucial role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring equal justice for all. Through case studies, we can see how the Court has interpreted and protected fundamental rights and liberties, serving as a check on the other branches of government.
Overall, Supreme Court case studies provide valuable insights into the inner workings of the highest court in the land. They allow us to understand the legal reasoning behind landmark decisions, track the evolution of constitutional interpretation, reveal political and social implications, and highlight the importance of an independent judiciary. These studies are essential for anyone looking to gain a comprehensive understanding of the legal and political landscape of the United States.
Key components of a Supreme Court case study
A Supreme Court case study is an in-depth analysis of a legal case that has been brought before the highest court in the United States. These case studies are often used to examine the legal arguments, precedents, and outcomes of landmark Supreme Court cases that have had a significant impact on American society.
Case background: One of the key components of a Supreme Court case study is a thorough examination of the background and context of the case. This includes an overview of the parties involved, the legal issues at stake, and the events leading up to the case being heard by the Supreme Court. Understanding the background of the case is crucial for analyzing the arguments and outcomes.
Legal arguments: Another important aspect of a Supreme Court case study is an analysis of the legal arguments presented by both sides of the case. This includes examining the constitutional provisions, statutes, and precedents that were cited by the parties to support their positions. The case study should evaluate the strength of these arguments and assess how they were ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court decision: The decision of the Supreme Court is a key component of any case study. This includes a analysis of the majority and dissenting opinions, as well as the legal reasoning behind the Court’s decision. Understanding the rationale for the Court’s decision is essential for evaluating the impact and potential future implications of the case.
Social and political impact: Finally, a Supreme Court case study should also examine the social, political, and historical impact of the case. This includes analyzing how the Court’s decision has affected American society, politics, and legal doctrine. It is important to consider the broader implications of the case and its significance in shaping the legal landscape of the United States.
In conclusion, a comprehensive Supreme Court case study includes a detailed analysis of the case background, legal arguments, Supreme Court decision, and social and political impact. These key components provide a thorough understanding of the case and its significance in the American legal system.
What are the key components of a Supreme Court case study?
The key components of a Supreme Court case study include the facts of the case, the legal issues involved, the arguments presented by both sides, the Supreme Court’s decision, and the reasoning behind that decision.
Why is the facts of the case important in a Supreme Court case study?
The facts of the case provide the context and background information necessary to understand the legal issues at hand. They include the events that led to the case being brought before the Supreme Court, the parties involved, and any relevant details that help illustrate the legal questions being asked.
What are the legal issues in a Supreme Court case study?
The legal issues in a Supreme Court case study are the specific questions of law that are being addressed by the court. They can range from constitutional interpretation to statutory construction and can have far-reaching implications for the interpretation and application of the law.
Why are the arguments presented by both sides important in a Supreme Court case study?
The arguments presented by both sides provide insight into the different legal perspectives and interpretations of the law. They help the court and the reader understand the different positions being taken and the reasoning behind those positions.
What is the importance of the Supreme Court’s decision in a case study?
The Supreme Court’s decision is the ultimate outcome of the case and sets a precedent that will guide future legal interpretation and decision-making. It is the final word on the legal issues at hand and can have a significant impact on the law and society as a whole.
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The Supreme Court confronts its own failure in an appalling case about guns
Posted: October 24, 2023 | Last updated: October 24, 2023
The next gun rights case before the Supreme Court , United States v. Rahimi , involves an individual that no sensible society would allow to have a gun.
Three years ago, according to the Justice Department, Zackey Rahimi and his girlfriend had an argument in a parking lot where Rahimi threatened to take away their mutual child. He then allegedly grabbed her wrist, knocked her to the ground, dragged her to the car, and hit her head on the dashboard. After he realized that a witness had seen this fight, Rahimi allegedly pulled a gun and fired at this bystander .
He later called his girlfriend and allegedly threatened to shoot her if she told anyone that he’d assaulted her.
This is one of a series of gun crimes allegedly committed by Rahimi. In 2020, he allegedly threatened another woman with a gun. According to the Justice Department, “Rahimi also participated in a series of five shootings in December 2020 and January 2021.” In one alleged incident, he “fired into the man’s house with an AR-15 rifle.” In another, he allegedly followed a truck and “fired multiple shots at another car that had been traveling behind the truck” after the truck’s driver flashed their headlights at Rahimi.
Although Rahimi’s lawyers claim that these allegations are “disputed,” they do not deny any of the DOJ’s specific claims. Nor do they offer an alternative version of these events.
Yet last February, a federal appeals court held that Rahimi and other domestic abusers have a constitutional right to own a gun . The Supreme Court will consider whether this decision was correct at a November 7 oral argument.
The federal law at issue in Rahimi allows someone to be disarmed before they are actually convicted of a violent crime. But the law also provides several due process safeguards .
Before anyone can be disarmed under this law, a court must have issued a restraining order against them, in a proceeding where the defendant was given an opportunity to appear and make their case. Federal law does not disarm anyone unless a court has either explicitly determined that they are a violent threat to their partner or to a child, or implicitly made such a determination by prohibiting them from engaging in violence against that partner or child.
Nevertheless, the Fifth Circuit didn’t just strike down this law. It ruled that the law is unconstitutional on its face. That means that, if the Fifth Circuit’s decision is upheld by the Supreme Court, this federal ban on firearm possession by domestic abusers may never be applied to any individual, no matter how violent that individual may be and no matter how careful the court that issued a restraining order against such an individual was in ensuring that they received due process.
And that brings us to the single worst aspect of the Fifth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Rahimi : It was correctly decided. Or, at least, it was correctly decided under the Supreme Court’s incompetently drafted decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022), which places an extraordinarily high burden on any government lawyer tasked with defending any gun law in court.
Bruen was supposed to be the crown jewel of originalism — the belief, now ascendant among Republican lawyers and judges , that the only legitimate way to read the Constitution is to determine how it was understood when it was ratified. The Bruen opinion was the six GOP-appointed justices’ attempt to build an originalist framework from the ground up, one that forced judges to rely almost entirely on historical sources when deciding Second Amendment cases.
A little more than a year after Bruen , it is clear that this approach is an unworkable failure that produces deeply immoral outcomes and that has fostered mass confusion within the federal judiciary.
The core question in Rahimi , in other words, is whether the Court will back away from its decision in Bruen , which has led to all kinds of disastrous results, including the Fifth Circuit’s decision holding that abusive husbands have a right to keep a weapon they could use to murder their wives.
How the Supreme Court gave us the Fifth Circuit’s terrible Rahimi decision
Bruen held that, in order to justify nearly any law regulating firearms, “the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation .” This means that lawyers defending even the most widely accepted gun laws, such as the federal ban on gun possession by domestic abusers, must show that “analogous regulations” also existed and were accepted when the Constitution was framed — particularly if the law addresses “a general societal problem that has persisted since the 18th century.” If they cannot, the challenged gun law must be struck down.
This places an extraordinarily high burden on any lawyer defending a gun law. When the historical record is ambiguous or indeterminate , the government loses, and a gun law is effectively repealed by the courts. And lawyers defending gun laws face an especially heavy burden when they defend laws that seek to address a problem, like domestic abuse, that has existed for centuries.
Almost immediately, the Bruen decision sparked mass confusion in the federal courts . Judges have reached contradictory results in a multitude of post- Bruen challenges to gun laws. Courts applying Bruen have struck laws prohibiting guns in places of worship , requiring guns to have serial numbers that allow them to be tracked by law enforcement, and prohibiting underage ownership of guns — all claiming that these laws are inconsistent with “historical tradition.”
And if Bruen is legitimate, Zackey Rahimi must have a constitutional right to own a gun.
Until 1871 , when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that a husband and wife “may be indicted for assault and battery upon each other,” it was legal in every state for married partners to beat their spouses. There is historical evidence that abused women, in at least some parts of the country, were able to obtain court orders requiring their abusers to temporarily turn over money, which would be forfeited if the abuse continued. But there is no founding-era analog to the federal law disarming domestic abusers.
And so the question the Supreme Court must confront in Rahimi is whether a decision like Bruen , with its unworkable legal standard and catastrophic consequences, can be tolerated any longer.
It was obvious the day Bruen was decided that it is unworkable
On the day Bruen was decided, Justice Stephen Breyer warned in a dissenting opinion that, by requiring judges to dive into often-vague and indeterminate historical records, Bruen “ imposes a task on the lower courts that judges cannot easily accomplish .” “Courts are, after all, staffed by lawyers, not historians,” Breyer continued. And “legal experts typically have little experience answering contested historical questions or applying those answers to resolve contemporary problems.”
Indeed, Bruen has proved so unworkable — and has led so many judges to such upsetting conclusions — that many of those judges complain openly about it in their opinions. By announcing “an inconsistent and amorphous standard,” complained Judge Holly Brady, a Trump appointee to a federal court in Indiana, “the Supreme Court has created mountains of work for district courts that must now deal with Bruen -related arguments in nearly every criminal case in which a firearm is found.” Another judge slammed the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment cases as “filled with methodological flaws” that invite judges with an axe to grind to selectively find historical evidence that supports the outcome they want to reach anyway, and then use it to justify that result.
Judge Robert Miller, a Reagan appointee, was even more blunt in his assessment of Bruen. After holding that a federal law that prohibits individuals from receiving a firearm while they are under a felony indictment must be struck down under Bruen , Miller concludes his opinion by admitting it “was drafted with an earnest hope that its author has misunderstood New York State Rifle v. Bruen .” Bruen , Judge Miller continues, “insults” the framers by assuming “they were so short-sighted as to forbid the people, through their elected representatives, from regulating guns in new ways.”
Needless to say, sitting federal judges do not typically hurl these kinds of insults at the Supreme Court, as the high Court has more or less unlimited power to sabotage lower court judges’ work.
Bruen relied on a blinkered view of history
One fundamental problem with Bruen , as Judge Miller’s critique of the decision emphasizes, is that the six Republican-appointed justices who joined it appear to have no understanding of why changes in American society over the past 250 years make it difficult or impossible to draw meaningful analogies between modern gun laws and those that existed when the Constitution was written.
Recall that Justice Clarence Thomas’s majority opinion in Bruen announced that gun laws that address a “ general societal problem that has persisted since the 18th century ” are presumptively unconstitutional unless there is a “distinctly similar historical regulation” from the 1700s. Applying this newly announced rule, Thomas argued that a citywide handgun ban is unconstitutional because “firearm violence in densely populated communities” was a problem that existed at the time of the founding, but 18th-century lawmakers did not address it with a handgun ban.
But the kind of urban communities that exist in modern-day America did not exist in the early American Republic. According to the 1790 census, New York City had only 33,131 residents around the time when the Second Amendment was ratified. The second-largest city, Philadelphia, had fewer than 29,000 residents .
Eighteenth-century lawmakers, in other words, simply did not confront the problem of “firearm violence in densely populated communities” because densely populated communities of the kind that struggle with gun violence in modern-day America did not exist in the 18th century. At the time of the founding, America’s largest city had more or less the same population as modern-day Meridian, Mississippi — the eighth-largest city in the poorest state in the Union.
And yet, because the Supreme Court declared in a majority opinion that urban policymaking in 1790 was closely analogous to governing modern-day New York City, every judge in the country is now bound to follow this absurd conclusion.
Meanwhile, there are countless other ways that America in the 21st century would be unrecognizable to the framers.
For one thing, early America did not have police forces — or, at least, the kind of organized police forces that could enforce modern-day gun laws. While early US communities sometimes relied on citizen “watchmen” to keep the peace and used patrols to track down escaped enslaved people , publicly funded and organized police forces did not emerge until the middle of the 19th century. Many sources claim that the first such police force in the United States was formed in Boston in 1838 . New York City formed its police force just a few years later .
When the Second Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1791, in other words, neither the United States nor any state or municipality had the capacity to enforce a law seeking to disarm domestic abusers. But that doesn’t mean that such laws should be declared unconstitutional, any more than modern-day laws regulating the internet are unconstitutional because the framers lacked the ability to send electronic communications.
We simply have no idea how people in 1791 would have regulated guns — or what sort of regulations they would have deemed permissible — if early Americans actually had the state infrastructure necessary to do modern-day law enforcement. Bruen ’s inquiry into which kinds of laws existed in a pre-police society tells us nothing about which sort of laws the framers would have deemed constitutional.
Similarly, we have no idea how early American lawmakers would have regulated the kind of advanced weapons that are widely available today, but that did not exist at all — or that were at least very uncommon — when the Second Amendment was ratified.
Indeed, the sorts of firearms that were widely available in the 18th century are not the sort of weapons that were typically used to commit acts of violence against family members or romantic partners. As Ohio State University historian Randolph Roth explained in a 2019 book chapter , “fewer than 10 percent of household homicides” in colonial and revolutionary New England or Maryland were committed with a gun.
The most likely reason why 18th-century firearms were not often used in family violence is that the kind of muzzle-loading guns that were available at the time “could not be used impulsively unless they were already loaded for some other purpose.” These guns could not be kept loaded because the black powder used by these guns would corrode the weapon’s inner workings and would become moist, losing its ability to ignite. Loading such a gun took “at least a minute,” as the user had to “pour powder down the barrel, hold it in place with wadding, and drop or ram the shot or ball onto the charge.”
So one other likely reason why 18th-century Americans did not enact many of the sort of gun laws that exist today is that guns were fundamentally less dangerous in the early Republic. The fact that early Americans did not forbid impulsive men — the sort of men who might murder their wives — from owning a muzzle-loading musket tells us nothing about how the framers might have regulated a weapon that can be stored while loaded, that can be hidden in someone’s pocket or waistband, and that can rapidly discharge more than a dozen bullets.
In fairness, Bruen does acknowledge that cases involving “dramatic technological changes may require a more nuanced approach,” and it does include language indicating that, say, machine gun bans remain viable, even though machine guns were not invented until 1884. Bruen says that “the Second Amendment protects the possession and use of weapons that are ‘in common use at the time.’ ” So machine guns will remain illegal so long as they remain uncommon.
But the fact that the drafters and ratifiers of the Second Amendment were comfortable living in a world where muzzle-loaded muskets were commonplace tells us nothing about whether they would have also wanted the Constitution to protect weapons that can be carried while loaded and that can turn a mere argument into a murder in less than a second.
The specter of originalism is haunting the Supreme Court
At this point, you might be wondering how six Supreme Court justices — all of them legally trained and well-credentialed — could have embraced a legal framework with such obvious flaws that has been so harshly criticized by judges across the political spectrum. The short answer to this question is one word: “ originalism .”
Originalism, in Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s words , is the belief that “constitutional text means what it did at the time it was ratified and that this original public meaning is authoritative.” All reasonable judges believe that it is sometimes useful to inquire into how the Constitution was originally understood in order to decide cases, but originalism, at least in its strongest form, claims that this is the only legitimate way to interpret the Constitution.
Many Republican lawyers, including Thomas, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Barrett, view originalism as an important part of their identity .
Barrett, at least, also acknowledges two serious problems with the originalist methodology: It sometimes leads to terrible or ridiculous results, and it sometimes produces no result at all. As Barrett wrote in a 2016 article co-authored with scholar John Copeland Nagle, “adherence to originalism arguably requires, for example, the dismantling of the administrative state, the invalidation of paper money, and the reversal of Brown v. Board of Education ” — results that, Barrett admits, would “wreak havoc.”
Similarly, Barrett has also acknowledged that originalist methods don’t always produce a clear result, although her answer to how originalists should approach this problem is unsatisfying: “For an originalist, the meaning of the text is fixed so long as it is discoverable .”
Justice Thomas’s biggest innovation in his Bruen opinion is that he figured out a way for originalists to resolve Second Amendment cases even when it is not clear how that amendment would have been understood at the time it was ratified — simply apply a presumption that all gun laws are unconstitutional, and strike down the law unless the government produces sufficient historical evidence to rebut this presumption.
Thomas’s innovation makes a lot of sense if you are an originalist judge who wants to solve the problem of not knowing how to rule on a case if the historical record is indeterminate — provided, of course, that you don’t care one bit what happens to the people of the United States after countless gun laws are struck down. But Bruen does nothing to solve the other problem acknowledged by Barrett’s scholarship: What should an originalist do if their methodology leads to a truly awful and destabilizing result?
A responsible Court would confess that it erred in Bruen and come up with a new framework that can be applied in a sensible and predictable way by lower court judges. (As it happens, in the decade before Bruen , lower court judges came up with a two-step framework for deciding Second Amendment cases that was accepted by every federal appeals court that considered it. The Supreme Court could simply bring that framework back.)
And there is a precedent for the Court swiftly abandoning a disastrous legal framework after a majority of the justices realized it led to disaster.
In Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940), the Supreme Court upheld a public school district’s decision to expel two students who refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance in class — the students were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they objected to saying the pledge on religious grounds. Almost immediately after it was handed down, the Gobitis decision triggered a wave of hate crimes against Witnesses, with one Southern sheriff dismissing the violence because “ they’re traitors — the Supreme Court says so, ain’t you heard? ”
Three years later, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), a humbled Court reversed course, holding that the First Amendment forbids the government from forcing anyone to say something they do not want to say.
Will today’s justices show the same humility their predecessors showed in Barnette ? Unlikely. But there is a way out of the Bruen dilemma that will allow the six justices who joined that benighted decision to save face, while affirming that the government may enact reasonable gun regulations such as a ban on gun possession by domestic abusers.
Mr. Kavanaugh, tear down this precedent!
Although Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh both joined Thomas’s opinion in Bruen , they also joined a separate concurring opinion by Kavanaugh, which enumerated several categorical exceptions to the right to bear arms :
[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. ... We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those in common use at the time. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
Kavanaugh added, moreover, that this list “does not purport to be exhaustive,” which implies that he would also endorse other categorical exceptions — perhaps one for domestic abusers, or for people that the legislature has determined are too dangerous to be armed.
This list of Second Amendment carve-outs, moreover, appeared in the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Court’s first decision holding that the Constitution protects an individual right to bear arms. And these carve-outs were not added to the Heller opinion because the Court determined that they fit into some kind of originalist framework.
Rather, as Justice John Paul Stevens revealed less than a year before his death in 2019, Justice Antonin Scalia, the author of Heller , added this language after relatively moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy asked for “some important changes” to the original draft of the Heller opinion.
Kennedy is no longer on the Court, but Kavanaugh, his successor, appears to have appointed himself as the keeper of this compromise that Kennedy struck with Scalia. Add on Roberts’s decision to join Kavanaugh’s Bruen opinion, plus the Court’s three liberals, and that’s five votes that are willing to create categorical carve-outs to the right to bear arms which exist outside of Thomas’s originalist framework.
Moreover, while Thomas’s framework supports the Fifth Circuit’s unconscionable decision in Rahimi , Kavanaugh’s framework offers the Court a way to rule that domestic abusers do not have a constitutional right to own a gun. As the Justice Department argues in its brief, the Court can add a new carve-out to Kavanaugh’s list, holding that the Second Amendment permits lawmakers to disarm people who are “ not law-abiding, responsible citizens .”
That’s not a particularly satisfying answer to the legal questions presented by Rahimi because it places the Court in the role of an arbitrary policymaker, striking down some gun laws and upholding others because five or more justices think that a new carve-out should apply. But it’s a much more sensible outcome than affirming the Fifth Circuit and allowing abusers to have guns.
The most responsible course the Supreme Court could take, given Bruen ’s many flaws, would be to overrule that decision in its entirety and announce a different, more workable framework that courts can apply in future Second Amendment cases — such as the two-step framework that was used by the courts of appeals before the Supreme Court made them abandon that framework in Bruen .
But, since this Supreme Court is unlikely to admit that it erred, Kavanaugh’s willingness to create categorical exceptions to the right to bear arms offers the Court a way to save face while also reversing the Fifth Circuit’s terrible Rahimi decision.
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What Matters Most in the Supreme Court’s Upcoming Social Media Cases
By Jameel Jaffer
Mr. Jaffer is a lawyer and the executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
Americans spend a lot of time on social media, and this term the Supreme Court will do the same. Over the next few months — beginning Tuesday — the court will hear a series of cases requiring it to resolve First Amendment questions arising out of the role that major social media platforms play in hosting, shaping and setting the limits of public discourse online.
One striking feature of these cases is that they involve conflicts internal to free speech — not conflicts between free speech and other values, like equality or national security, but conflicts between the competing free speech claims of government, platforms and ordinary citizens. In resolving these conflicts, the court should remember that the First Amendment’s highest purpose — its “central meaning,” as Justice William Brennan put it nearly 60 years ago — is to protect the speech that’s necessary to democracy.
The two cases the court will hear on Tuesday pose the question of when a public official’s social media account is subject to First Amendment constraints. One case was brought by parents in Southern California who were blocked from school board members’ Facebook pages after they posted hundreds of comments about racism at local schools. The other case was filed by a Michigan resident who was blocked from the Port Huron city manager’s Facebook page after he criticized the city’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plaintiffs in both cases argue their First Amendment rights were violated when public officials blocked them based on their viewpoints, but the public officials invoke the First Amendment, too. They argue that they have a constitutional right to use social media — and to block other users from their accounts — just like everyone else.
These cases may seem trivial, but they’re not. Some officials’ social media accounts have become vital forums for speech relating to those officials’ exercise of government power, and for speech about public policy more broadly. We need the First Amendment to protect ordinary citizens from government censorship in these forums to ensure that public officials don’t suppress dissent, insulate themselves from criticism and transform these democratically important spaces into echo chambers.
A few years ago, the Knight First Amendment Institute, which I direct, filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump on behalf of users he had blocked from his Twitter account after they had criticized him. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with us, but after Mr. Trump lost the election, the Supreme Court declared the case to be moot and vacated the appeals court’s ruling. The two cases the court is hearing Tuesday morning provide it with an opportunity to recognize, as the appeals court did, that public officials who use their social media accounts as extensions of their offices are not protected by the First Amendment but constrained by it.
Those two lawsuits are about government officials’ use of social media. Other cases the court will hear this term are about government efforts to regulate the platforms. Two of the cases concern the constitutionality of social media laws enacted by Florida and Texas . Both require the platforms to carry speech they might prefer not to carry. Florida’s law restricts platforms’ right to remove or suppress the posts of political candidates and media organizations, and Texas’ bars platforms from taking down content because of its viewpoint. Both states’ laws also require the platforms to provide explanations to users whose posts the platforms take down.
A threshold question the court will have to answer is whether platforms’ content moderation policies reflect the exercise of editorial judgment, since editorial judgment is protected by the First Amendment. Texas and Florida say no, and if the court agrees, then the states win. But the platforms have the better of this argument. In fact, it was the states’ disagreement with the platforms’ editorial judgment, particularly with the decision of some of them to eject Mr. Trump after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, that led the states to pass these laws.
The harder question is what follows from this. Nearly half a century ago, the court held that the First Amendment foreclosed the government from requiring newspapers to provide space in their pages for political candidates to respond to editorials that had criticized them. Whether the First Amendment should be similarly hostile to so-called must-carry rules imposed on the platforms is a question whose answer might turn on whether we think the platforms are meaningfully distinguishable from newspapers — perhaps because of the way these platforms exercise editorial judgment, the significance of their users’ free speech interests or the reasons the government is seeking to regulate them.
Even those who believe that these provisions of the Florida and Texas laws are unconstitutional, as I do, should be wary of a First Amendment regime that would categorically foreclose all must-carry rules — even those that might be narrower, better supported by legislative findings and more closely connected to democratically legitimate goals.
Equally consequential will be how the court addresses the provisions of the Florida and Texas laws that require platforms to notify users whose posts are removed. The platforms argue that these provisions are so onerous and the penalties for violating them so draconian that they will deter platforms from taking down speech they would otherwise take down. The court should give real weight to this argument, particularly because the laws are poorly drafted.
It would be a mistake, though, for the court to make the First Amendment an insurmountable obstacle to carefully drawn laws that strengthen democracy by empowering and protecting platforms’ users, enabling the public to better understand how major platforms are shaping public discourse, and mitigating the outsize power that a small number of platforms have over free speech online. It should certainly matter how heavy a burden a law imposes on platforms’ editorial judgment. But ordinary citizens have free speech interests, too, and First Amendment doctrine needs to account for those.
The last case also relates to the government’s power to regulate social media, though here the regulation takes the form of government speech rather than formal legislation. The case is mainly about efforts the White House and federal agencies undertook during the pandemic to impel the major platforms to suppress what the Biden administration believed to be dangerous misinformation about vaccines. Administration officials repeatedly requested or demanded that the platforms take down this content, sometimes berating them or vaguely threatening regulatory reprisal. At one point President Biden told the press that the platforms were “killing people” by failing to suppress vaccine misinformation more aggressively.
The question at the heart of the case is how the courts should distinguish legitimate government speech from illegitimate government coercion. Here, once again, we are presented with a conflict — or at least a tension — between two competing claims, both of which sound in free speech. The plaintiffs, whose posts the platforms suppressed, argue that the government’s pressure campaign was a form of censorship, and a particularly insidious one because of its informal character, which insulated the government’s actions from the usual democratic checks.
But the best version of the government’s argument registers as a kind of free speech claim, too, even if the government doesn’t have free speech rights in the way that private actors do. A democratically elected government surely has a legitimate role to play in persuading private actors to be attentive to the public interest. And government speech is sometimes essential to informing autonomous decision making by platforms and other private speech intermediaries — especially when the government has information that private decision makers don’t, as is often the case with matters relating to public health.
Construing First Amendment rights so broadly that the government is precluded from sharing information and from encouraging powerful private corporations to act on it would compromise public discourse, not protect it. We need a First Amendment framework that can distinguish government speech that informs the platforms’ editorial autonomy from government speech that overrides it.
More broadly, we need a First Amendment that resolves conflicts among competing speech claims in the digital public sphere by privileging the speech that is most necessary for democracy. This will be a formidable challenge for the court, but it could hardly be more important. Though we might wish it were otherwise, social media platforms are where a lot of public discourse takes place. It’s on these platforms that we hear from our elected leaders, hold them to account, learn about government policy, engage with other citizens, organize collective action and advocate change — which is why the court once described these platforms as among the “vast democratic forums of the internet.”
By making democracy its North Star, the court can fulfill the promise implicit in that description and ensure that, in this sphere that has become so important to our society, the First Amendment does the work we need it to do.
Jameel Jaffer is a lawyer and the executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .
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How do essay writing services work?
In the modern world, any company is trying to modernize its services. And services for writing scientific papers are no exception. Therefore, now it is very easy to order work and does not take time:
- First, you need to choose a good site that you can trust. Read their privacy policies, guarantees, payment methods and of course reviews. It will be a big plus that examples of work are presented on the online platform.
- Next, you need to contact a manager who will answer all the necessary questions and advise on the terms of cooperation. He will tell you about the acceptable writing deadlines, provide information about the author, and calculate the price of the essay.
- After that, you sign the contract and during the indicated days stay in touch with the employee of the company.
- Then you receive the file, read it attentively and transfer a certain amount to the company's bank card. After payment, the client downloads the document to his computer and can write a review and suggestions.
On the site Essayswriting, you get guarantees, thanks to which you will be confident and get rid of the excitement. The client can ask any questions about the writing and express special preferences.
There are questions about essay writing services that students ask about pretty often. So we’ve decided to answer them in the form of an F.A.Q.
Is essay writing legitimate?
As writing is a legit service as long as you stick to a reliable company. For example, is a great example of a reliable essay company. Choose us if you’re looking for competent helpers who, at the same time, don’t charge an arm and a leg. Also, our essays are original, which helps avoid copyright-related troubles.
Are your essay writers real people?
Yes, all our writers of essays and other college and university research papers are real human writers. Everyone holds at least a Bachelor’s degree across a requested subject and boats proven essay writing experience. To prove that our writers are real, feel free to contact a writer we’ll assign to work on your order from your Customer area.
Is there any cheap essay help?
You can have a cheap essay writing service by either of the two methods. First, claim your first-order discount – 15%. And second, order more essays to become a part of the Loyalty Discount Club and save 5% off each order to spend the bonus funds on each next essay bought from us.
Can I reach out to my essay helper?
Contact your currently assigned essay writer from your Customer area. If you already have a favorite writer, request their ID on the order page, and we’ll assign the expert to work on your order in case they are available at the moment. Requesting a favorite writer is a free service.
Well-planned online essay writing assistance by PenMyPaper
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Orders of are accepted for more complex assignment types only (e.g. Dissertation, Thesis, Term paper, etc.). Special conditions are applied to such orders. That is why please kindly choose a proper type of your assignment.
EssayService strives to deliver high-quality work that satisfies each and every customer, yet at times miscommunications happen and the work needs revisions. Therefore to assure full customer satisfaction we have a 30-day free revisions policy.