Case law

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Case law

  1. 1. Plessy v. Ferguson Texas v. Johnson Tinker v. Des Moines
  2. 2.   In 1890, Louisiana passed a law called the Separate Car Act. This law said that railroad companies must provide separate but equal train cars for whites and blacks. A group of black citizens and the East Louisiana Railroad Company didn't’ like this new act so they had a black man, Homer Plessy, buy a railroad ticket and sit with the whites. After he was asked to get he replied no and then was arrested .  The Plaintiff argued that Plessy violated the statue that was passed stating that this, Separate car act, said that railroads in Louisiana were to be separate but equal.” John Howard Ferguson was the judge presiding over Plessy's criminal case in the district court. He had previously declared the Separate Car Act "unconstitutional on trains that traveled through several states." However, in Plessy's case he decided that the state could choose to regulate railroad companies that operated solely within the state of Louisiana. Therefore, Ferguson found Plessy guilty and declared the Separate Car Act constitutional.”(http://www.streetlaw.org/en/Page/421/Background_Summary__ Questions_) Plessy v. Ferguson
  3. 3.   Plessy argued that the Separation Act violated his thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the constitution. The fourteenth amendment states that the government treat people equally and the thirteenth amendment bans slavery throughout the U.S. “Plessy appealed the case to the Louisiana State Supreme Court, which affirmed the decision that the Louisiana law was constitutional. Plessy then took his case, Plessy v. Ferguson, to the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the country. Judge John Howard Ferguson was named in the case because he had been named in the petition to the Louisiana State Supreme Court, not because he was a party to the initial lawsuit”.(http://www.streetlaw.org/en/Page/423/Background_Summary__Q uestions_) Plessy v. Ferguson
  4. 4.   In a 7-1 decision the court ruled against Plessy testifying that the separation act does not conflict with the thirteenth amendment. The dissent, written by Justice John Marshall Harlan, disagreed, arguing that segregationist laws indoctrinate society with the belief that the two races are not equal. The justices explained that because the Louisiana law did not conflict with the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, the only remaining question was whether it was reasonable, and enacted in good faith for the promotion for the public good. The amendments involved are the 13th and 14th amendments. This is a landmark case because it argued against the “separate but equal” policy and later set up court cases to argue the same such as Brown v. Board of Education. Plessy v. Ferguson
  5. 5.   Two students named John and Mary Beth Tinker wore black armbands that symbolized protesting against the Vietnam War. Their school didn’t allow these armbands to be worn, but they wore it anyway. The two students were asked to take the armbands off. They refused to do so, so they were suspended until they agreed to take the armbands off.  The tow students sued the school district and claimed they violated their freedom of speech. They claimed that the armbands are were a form of symbolic speech and they brought there case to the U.S. District Court Tinker v. Des Moines
  6. 6.   The plaintiff stated that the armbands were a disruption to the learning of students. “Claiming that the school officials' actions were reasonable in light of potential disruptions from the students' protest. The Tinkers appealed their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals but were disappointed when a tie vote in that court allowed the District Court's ruling stand. As a result they decided to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of the United States.”(http://www.streetlaw.org/en/Page/230/Background_summary__qu estions_) Tinker v. Des Moines
  7. 7.   The Court ruled 7 to 2. Justice Fortas delivered the majority opinion of the Court. Five justices agreed with the majority opinion. Two justices concurred, meaning that they agreed with the Court's decision that the school policy was unconstitutional, but they wrote separately to explain their reasoning. Two justices dissented. Justice Fortas delivered the majority opinion of the Court.  It was the first ruling that looked at the issue of the 1st amendment rights for students at public schools. What they decided is that in fact the 1st Amendment does protect student speech, but student speech is subject to "constitutionally valid" controls by school administration. Tinker v. Des Moines
  8. 8.   In 1984, the Republican National Convention was held in Dallas, Texas. Gregory Lee Johnson took part in a demonstration there. He and his group were protesting against nuclear weapons among other things. They marched through the streets shouting. Johnson was carrying an American flag. When he reached Dallas City Hall, Johnson poured kerosene on the flag. Then he set it on fire. While the flag burned, people shouted, "America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you." No one was hurt, but some people who were there said they were very upset.  Johnson was arrested. He was charged with violating a Texas law that said people couldn't vandalize a respected object. He was convicted, sentenced to one year in prison, and fined $2,000. Johnson appealed his case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which agreed with him Texas v. Johnson
  9. 9.   “The court first found that Johnson's burning of the flag was expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. Therefore in order for a state to criminalize or regulate such conduct it would have to serve a compelling state interest that would outweigh the protection of the First Amendment.”(http://www.streetlaw.org/en/Page/674/Background_summar y__questions_)  The court concluded that criminally permitting flag desecration in order to protect the flag as a symbol of national unison was not a persuasive enough interest to endure the constitutional challenge. Texas v. Johnson
  10. 10.   The case was decided 5 to 4 The court first looked at whether the First Amendment protected non-speech acts, since Johnson was convicted of flag desecration rather than verbal communication. As to the "breach of the peace" justification, however, the Court found that "no disturbance of the peace actually occurred or threatened to occur because of Johnson's burning of the flag," and Texas conceded as much.  Texas v. Johnson is considered a landmark case because it overturned a state law prohibiting flag desecration and formally declared the act a form of “expressive political speech” which is protected by the 1st amendment. Texas v. Johnson
  11. 11.   In most of the cases the 1st amendment is looked at very deeply in each case. In the Texas v. Johnson case the 1st amendment was looked at and made it official that expressive political speech is protected under the 1st amendment. In the Tinker v. Des Moines case the Freedom of Speech under the 1st Amendment was looked at for the 1st time for student rights. The Plessy v. Ferguson case investigated the 13th and 14th amendments and whether the separate but equal acts violated these rights. This case was dismissed , but it set up arguments for future similar situations including the Brown v. Board of Education Case. Concluding summary

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