American Government Lecture Notes






  • A. Civil Liberties are individual legal and Constitutional protections against the government for purposes of maintaining democracy.


  • 1.


  • 2.



  • 3. Cases become difficult when liberties conflict (free press v. public trial or free speech v. public order)


  • B. The Bill of Rights – the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
    • 1. At first only protected citizens from the federal government, but later applied parts to state governments via the 14th Amendment (due process clause).





  • A. The First Amendment includes two statements about religion – 1. the establishment clause, and 2. the free exercise clause.
    • 1.  The Establishment Clause –


  • 2.  Thomas Jefferson said that the 1st Amend. “created a wall of separation between church and state.
  • 3.  Issues:
    • a)  Does government funding of private religious schools violate the establishment clause?
    • b)  Does prayer in public schools violate the establishment clause? (Engel v. Vitale & Pennsylvania v. Schempp) The Supreme Court ruled that voluntary prayer when done as part of classroom exercises violates the establishment clause.
    • *The majority of the public has never supported this decision.

4.  The Free Exercise Clause –



a) Free exercise of religious beliefs sometimes clash with other laws. (Amish case Yoder v. Wisconsin, right of parents to keep kids out of public schools)







  • A. The question of whether freedom of expression is absolute has been difficult for courts to decide.
    • 1.  There are times when speech must be controlled. (ex. Yelling fire in a crowded theater)
    • 2.  The Courts have also had to decide what kinds of activities constitute speech.
      • a)
      • b)



  • B. The next question courts have had to answer regarding protected speech is when can the government censor what is said? (before or after?)


C. Prior Restraint –


  • 1.  Near v. Minnesota – Sup Ct (1931) struck down prior restraint.


  • D.  Efforts to define obscenity have perplexed the courts for years.
    • 1. 


  • 2. 



  • 3.  



E.  Libel & Slander:



  • 1. Neither is protected by the 1st Amendment


  • F. Symbolic Speech – consists of actions that express opinion.
    • 1. 



  • G. Commercial Speech –


H. Free Speech v. Public Order: Wartime exceptions Scheneck v. U.S., 1919 –




  • I. Free Press v. Free Trial – can a trial be fair if press coverage makes it impossible to find an impartial jury?


  • J. Freedom of Assembly
    • 1. 
    • 2. 





  • A.  The 4th, 5th, 6th, & 8th Amendments generally are applied to criminal justice cases.


  • B.  The 4th Amendment is specific in forbidding unreasonable searches and seizures
    • 1. 
    • 2. 


Poisonous Tree doctrine)

  • a) Does it let the guilty go free?


  • C.  The 5th Amendment prohibits forced self incrimination.
    • 1.  Suspects cannot be compelled to provide evidence that can be used against them.
    • 2.  Miranda v. Arizona, 1966,



  • D.  The 6th Amendment – Although the 6th assures a right to council, it was not applied to in non-federal cases until Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963.
    • 1.  It also ensures a speedy and fair trial, which includes:





  • 2.  About 90% of all criminal cases end in a plea bargain


  • E.  The Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment, but does not define the phrase.
    • 1.  As a general rule, the punishment must fit the crime.
      • See – 3 Strikes Rule





  • A.  Today’s technology has raised questions about ethics and the Constitution.
    • 1. 





  • 2.