CASES       PRACTICE

 

1

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the McCulloch excerpt, what two (2) fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case
     

  2. In his opinion Marshall opens with the following: “No tribunal can approach such a question without a deep sense of its importance, and of the awful responsibility involved in its decision.”  Provide contextualization to this case.  Why were the issues addressed in this case, at that time, considered to be so important?  How might our government look different had the Court ruled in favor of Maryland?
     

  3. Identify other examples where our national government has exercised its implied powers using “the necessary and proper clause.
     

  4. Identify other examples where our national government has exercised its powers under “the supremacy clause.
     

  5. Imagine TWITTER was around in 1819, as a court reporter Tweet out a 140 character or less summary.

2

United States v. Lopez (1995)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Lopez excerpt, what is the fundamental constitutional question answered in this landmark case.
     

  2. Early in Rehnquist’s opinion he provided a brief civics lesson.  Summarize the “first principles” of American government.
     

  3. Identify the Court precedent in the Lopez decision.  How does this opinion fulfill the “first principles” as mentioned by Rehnquist?
     

  4. Despite the opinion in Lopez, the interstate commerce clause continues to be used to expand the power and authority of the national government.  Identify a Court decision that affirmed the Congress’ power to pass a law using the interstate commerce clause.
     

  5. What policies are best implemented at the national level?  What policies are best implemented at the state and local level? How would you define the limits the “interstate commerce clause”?

 

3

Engel v. Vitale (1962)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Vitale excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. The ruling in Engel v. Vitale (1962) was made possible due to the landmark ruling in Everson v. Board of Education (1947).  Review the Everson ruling and explain its significance to Engel v. Vitale.
     

  3. This case seemingly impacted both the establishment clause and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.  Did the court correctly focus on the establishment clause?  Explain.
     

  4. The uses of religion in the public square, even today, are hardly settled.  We still have “In God We Trust” printed on our currency.  Congress still opens every session with a prayer.  In the light of the Engel precedent, how can these practices continue?  Research and write a legal brief explaining what can and cannot be tolerated with respect to religion in the public square today.

4

Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Yoder excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case? Why does the opinion reference both the First and Fourteenth Amendments?
     

  2. According to this opinion the State has “a high responsibility for education of its citizens.” Explain.
     

  3. Explain how the Court opinion utilized history in the argument?  Do you think judges should limit themselves to the letter of the law or also use history to make their decisions?
     

  4. The tone of this opinion suggests that the Court was reluctant to grant this or any exemption to state law.  Explain. 

 

5

Tinker v. Des Moines  (1969)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Tinker excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. According to this opinion what was the school districts rationale for punishing the students? Explain.  Check out the Court’s dissenting opinion by Justice Hugo Black. 
     

  3. Justice Fortas writes in his opinion, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” This is one of the most quoted lines from Supreme Court history.  Write it in your own words. Our liberties have limits.  What reasonable limits should apply to students at school.
     

  4. Investigate how the Tinker precedent plays out in your school.  Provide examples.

 

6

New York Times v. U.S.  (1971)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the NYTimes excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. The court opinion begins with, “We granted certiorari…” What does this mean?  How many cases appealed to the Supreme Court each year receive certiorari?  Using the context clues from the opinion, what was the journey of this case before it reached the Supreme Court?
     

  3. What does this court mean by “prior restraint”? The court does not deny that the government can use prior restraint, but just not in this case.  Investigate.  When and how can the government meet the heavy burden of prior restraint?
     

  4. What is so special about our First Amendment freedoms? Why did Madison call them “the great bulwarks of liberty”?

 

7

Schenck v. U.S.  (1919)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Schenck excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. Justice Holmes’ opinion relies on “circumstances.”  Explain. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of argument?  Find other historical examples where circumstances affected legal outcomes.
     

  3. Schenck established the “clear and present danger” test?  Explain.  Is it still used today?
     

  4. In his opinion Holmes wrote one of the most noted lines in Court history, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”  Do you find it to be persuasive? What is the operative free speech precedent today?

 

8

Gideon v. Wainwright  (1963)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Gideon excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. Explain how and why the Sixth Amendment was not applied to Clarence Gideon during his original trial.  What legal provision was necessary in order for the Court to apply the Sixth Amendment to the states?
     

  3. INVESTIGATE.  How many men were incarcerated in Florida prisons in 1963 without counsel at their trials?  What happened to them after the Gideon decision? How many states did not provide for counsel before 1963?​
     

  4. FOR DEBATE. Some would argue today that having counsel in a trial is no longer enough. Any defendant should be guaranteed competent counsel.  What do you think?
     

9

Roe v. Wade  (1973)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Roe excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?

  2. Justice Blackmun recognized the “sensitive and emotional nature” of this case.  Explain.
     

  3. Justice Blackmun acknowledged that privacy is not explicitly mentioned in the constitution. Roe asserted that her right to privacy was “protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.”  Explain.
     

  4. FOR DEBATE. Research Pro-Choice and Pro-Life views.  What are the best arguments on both sides? Make your argument. Should there be any limits?

10

McDonald v. Chicago  (2010)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the McDonald excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. The McDonald case piggybacked on the DC v. Heller (2008) case.  Explain the relationship. Do you agree with the decision in Heller?
     

  3. Justice Alito mentions the National Rifle Association (NRA) in his opinion.  What is this group and explain how groups like this help determine legal agendas in our court system.​
     

  4. FOR DEBATE. Certainly gun violence is an issue in the United States.  Does the McDonald decision render governments powerless in the fight against gun violence? Explain by looking at how municipal governments have responded to the precedent in McDonald and the ongoing fight against gun violence.

 

11

Brown v. Board of Education I  (1954)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Brown excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. In what way did separate schools deprive the plaintiffs of their equal protection?
     

  3. Summarize in your own words the Court’s argument on the importance of education.  Do you agree?
     

  4. INVESTIGATE. Compare and contrast schools from the 1950s to today.  What might Chief Justice Warren say today about public schools, the opportunities they provide, and the impact of this decision?

 

12

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission  (2010)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Citizens excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. Describe the types of campaign finance addressed in this case.  What is the current status of these categories today?
     

  3. The essence of this decision is that the First Amendment’s free speech clause can be applied to corporate involvement with campaign finance.  Do you agree? Investigate the arguments made with the passage of the Tillman Act (1907).
     

  4. INVESTIGATE. This decision provoked a loud response both positive and negative.  Assess both sides.  Find actual data that supports your view.

13

Baker v. Carr  (1961)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Baker excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. This case pivoted on the idea of a “justiciable” constitutional question.  What does this mean? Why would the court be reluctant to take on a “political question”?
     

  3. The merits of this case relate to state reapportionment and redistricting.  Define these terms. Why might these issues require interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment?
     

  4. DEBATE. Chief Justice Earl Warren considered the Baker decision the Court’s most important decision during his tenure. Consider the implications of this decision.  How important has it been to our current political culture?

 

14

Shaw v. Reno  (1993)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Shaw excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. Few topics are more complicated as reapportionment and gerrymandering.  Summarize what is at stake in this case.  Explain gerrymandering in the simplest of terms.
     

  3. The essence of this case comes down to “strict scrutiny.”  Explain this judicial concept.
     

  4. DEBATE. The court in this case appears to acknowledge the dangers of racial classifications and then allows for these racially gerrymandered districts to remain.  Investigate the dissenting opinions in this case. Which side are you on?

15

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

  1. Using what you already know and context clues from the Marbury excerpt, what fundamental constitutional questions were answered in this landmark case?
     

  2. Define judicial review.  What are the implications of judicial review for the balance of power in our government? How often is judicial review used?
     

  3. By its own admission, the Court was addressing one of the “fundamental principles of our society” in this case.  Explain.  Is this principle still true today?
     

  4. DEBATE:  The court argued, “It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is.” This authority empowers the court in unprecedented terms.  How is the court checked from abusing this authority? Are the checks sufficient?

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