Thursday, December 1, 2011

US Case Law on Fundamental Rights

These cases are excerpted from a New York Times article.

1. Kelo v. City of New London 545 U.S. 469 (2005)

This is a classic case of balancing private property rights and the public good. The city of New London, Conn., having lost traditional industries, needed economic development to reverse urban decay. But could private companies get rich in the process? The Supreme Court found that economic development under the city’s plan would not violate the Fifth Amendment (which prohibits the taking of private property for public use “without just compensation”) solely because there was some private gain.

2. Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 551 U.S. 701 (2007)

 Can a city school board use race or ethnic identity as a factor in school admittance? I tell my students that if they want to understand modern American society, they should study both the evolving idea of equal protection and the history behind it: slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow, the 14th Amendment and Brown v. Board of Education. But the concept continues to evolve, as is shown by this case; in it, the Supreme Court, while recognizing that school districts have a compelling interest in diversity, ruled against school district plans that used race as a factor in assigning students to public schools.

3. Stanford v. Kentucky 492 U.S. 361 (1989) and Roper v. Simmons 543 U.S. 551 (2005)

Can the death penalty be imposed on a defendant who committed murder as a juvenile? In a 1989 case in Kentucky, the Supreme Court held that executing a juvenile offender did not violate “common standards of decency,” or the cruel and unusual punishments clause of the Eighth Amendment. But it reversed this decision in 2005, finding that the standards had evolved to a point at which such executions were unconstitutional.

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