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American Government Lecture Notes

CIVIL LIBERTIES

 

 

  • I.  THE BILL OF RIGHTS

 

  • 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).

 

 

  • II.  FREEDOM OF RELIGION

 

  • 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)

b)

.

 

 

  • III.  FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

 

  • 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. 

 

 

  • IV. RIGHTS OF DEFENDANTS

 

  • 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

 

 

  • V.  THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY

 

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

 

 

 

 

  • 2. 
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