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Introduction to the Bill of Rights


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Part of a series of lectures given to students in their third semester of the University of Osnabrück's foreign law program.

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Introduction to the Bill of Rights

  1. 1. Introduction to U.S. Law The Bill of Rights
  2. 2. The Story of the Bill of Rights
  3. 3. The Bill of Rights● First Amendment –Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.● Second Amendment – A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.● Third Amendment – No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.● Fourth Amendment – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  4. 4. The Bill of Rights● Fifth Amendment – No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.● Sixth Amendment – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
  5. 5. The Bill of Rights● Seventh Amendment – In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.● Eighth Amendment – Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.● Ninth Amendment – The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.● Tenth Amendment – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
  6. 6. Later Amendments: Governing Fixes● 12th Amendment (1804) ➢ replaced Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 ➢ resulted in President and Vice-President being chosen on same ballot.● 17th Amendment (1913) ➢ supersedes Article I, § 3, Clauses 1 and 2 of the Constitution. ➢ Provides for direct election of U.S. Senators.● 20th Amendment (1933) ➢ provides for succession when president-elect dies. ➢ changes start date of President and Congress.
  7. 7. Governing Fixes● 22nd Amendment (1951) ➢ fixes Presidential terms to 2.● 23rd Amendment (1961) ➢ gives residents of Washington D.C. an electoral college vote.● 25th Amendment (1967) ➢ clarifies presidential and vice-presidential succession. Allows President to temporarily step aside.
  8. 8. Civil War Amendments● 13th Amendment (1865) – abolishes slavery● 14th Amendment (1868) ➢ Defines citizenship; “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. “● 15th Amendment (1870) ➢ Prohibits states from denying voting rights based on “account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” and gives Congress power to enforce this.
  9. 9. Additional Voting Fixes● 19th Amendment (1920) ➢ gave women the right to vote.● 24th Amendment (1964) ➢ prohibits both Congress and the states from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other types of tax.● 26th Amendment (1971) ➢ moved voting age to 18 from 21.
  10. 10. The Remainder● Alcohol Consumption ➢ the 18th Amendment prohibited consumption, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th.  It is the only amendment to have been ratified using the state ratifying convention method.● Income Tax ➢ the 16th Amendment allows the federal government to collect an income.  this was necessary because the Supreme Court had ruled that taxes on income generated from property to be an unconstitutional direct income tax.
  11. 11. The Remainder● State Sovereign Immunity ➢ the 11th Amendment prohibits citizens from suing states in Federal Court.  This is a confusing and complicated area of the law, and courts have created various rules and exceptions to the immunity created under this Amendment.● Congressional Pay ➢ The 27th Amendment was one of the original draft Bill of Rights but was not ratified until 1992!
  12. 12. Application to the States● If the goal of the Bill of Rights was to limit the power of the new federal government, then do these rights/protections also apply to the states? ➢ Clearly the subsequent Amendments that specifically grant Congress the power to regulate the behavior of the states do, but what about the rest?● Read the Baron and Gitlow cases. Note that the 14th Amendment was passed after Baron but before Gitlow. Why is this important?