Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Constitutional Law 101

Apparently the only United States Supreme Court case Sarah Palin could name was Roe v. Wade. She did not have an answer when Katie Couric asked Palin to name another case. Let’s give Sarah Palin a little help. Here are ten cases which even a public school education would have given her.

Marbury v. Madison (1803). One of the early cases decided by the Court, it established the principle of judicial review. The Supreme Court became the ultimate arbiter of the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress.

Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857). A pre-civil war case which declared that slaves where property and not persons who could bring suits in court.

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The Supreme Court ruled that separate facilities for blacks and white did not violate the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution.

Gitlow v. New York (1925). A case which held that First Amendment protections such as free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, applied to the states.

Korematsu v. United States (1944). The Court upheld an Presidential Executive order which led to the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent who resided in the Western United States.

Roth v. United States (1957). A case which determined that “obscenity” was not protected by the First Amendment.

Miranda v. Arizona (1964). This case made the famed “Miranda rights” against self-incrimination the law of the land.

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Connecticut had a law which prohibited the use of contraceptives. The Court ruled that such a law violated the right of privacy found in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of other constitutional protections. This case became the basis for Roe v. Wade.

Nixon v. United States (1974). President Nixon could not use “executive privilege” to withhold recorded tapes from the Congress.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). Perhaps the most important abortion case since Roe v. Wade. It upheld and reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, but allowed for a number of restrictions on abortions.

Bush v. Gore (2000). The landmark case, of no precedential value, which stopped the Florida vote recount, and effectively gave George Bush the Presidency.

We know Palin is not a Harvard law grad or a constitutional law professor, and we probably shouldn’t expect her to know all those “inside the beltway cases, but how about a case which every Alaskan should know --- Exxon v. Baker (2008).

In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court heard the case involving the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, which cause incredible damage to Prince William Sound (a body of water less than fifty miles from Palin’s home town of Wasilla, Alaska.) A jury had socked Exxon with a $5 billion punitive damage award. The Supreme Court limited the damage award to about $500 million.

In fact, on January 29, 2008, the State of Alaska filed an amicus curiae (friends of the court) brief in the case, as did both Alaska US Senators and sole Alaska US House member.

Maybe there was no mention of this in the plethora of newspapers Sarah Palin reads.

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