Events Affecting the Constitution
Through history, certain events have shaped how the Constitution has been interpreted or viewed by the public. This page will provide an overview of these events, most of which are Supreme Court cases, and provide a starting-point for further research. The primary sources for this information varies. Supreme Court cases are available online. The book A People's History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons was an indispensable resource for many cases.
The list is presented in chronological order.
If you have any suggestions for other Supreme Court cases or other important events, please email the Webmaster.
Shays' Rebellion, 1786-1787
In the summer of 1786, a group of farmers formed under Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays. They were protesting the Constitution of Massachusetts and the seizure of farms for non-payment of debts. The group marched on Springfield with the intent of seizing a federal armory, but they were turned away by General Benjamin Lincoln, commanding a militia force paid for by Bostonian merchants. This event shocked much of the upper and ruling classes, as they realized how close the young United States came to a mass rebellion, and how ineffective the Articles of Confederation were in the quelling of such rebellion. The Rebellion was a motivating event that ultimately led to the Constitutional Convention.
Chisholm v Georgia (2 U.S. 419), 1793
The Supreme Court accepted original jurisdiction on the case of Alexander Chisholm, of South Carolina, against the state of Georgia. This action angered Georgia and was disconcerting to the rest of the states — despite the clear jurisdiction granted under Article 3, Section 2, the states were not keen on the idea of being sued in federal court. The immediate result of the decision of the Court was the rapid passage and ratification of the 11th Amendment by 1795.
Whiskey Rebellion, 1794
In 1791, the new United States government imposed on excise tax on whiskey, at the behest of Alexander Hamilton. The bulk of the burden of the tax fell upon grain farmers in Pennsylvania, whose livelihood depended upon the distilling of the beverage. Slowly, dissent grew, culminating in riots that led to the death of a federal officer. In August, President George Washington signed a proclamation requiring the governors of bordering states to organize their militia. When negotiations failed in October, the militia was sent in, and the rebellion was quietly quelled. Several people were arrested, but they were later pardoned by Washington. This was the first real test of the power of the new federal government and its law enforcement powers.
Marbury v Madison (5 U.S. 137), 1803
In the final days of John Adams' presidency, he created dozens of new judgeships and appointed political friends and allies to the positions. It turned out to be the last gasp of the Federalist Party, done just before Thomas Jefferson took office. One of these appointments was of John Marshall to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Another, to one of the new positions, was of William Marbury to a judgeship. Jefferson's Secretary of State, James Madison, refused to sit Marbury. Marbury sued and under the Judiciary Act, he appealed directly to the Supreme Court. In the case, Marshall played Solomon and said that though under the law, Marbury was entitled to be seated, the law itself was unconstitutional, because it expanded the Court's original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court, for the first time, voided an act of Congress. For more detail, see Q&A Board Message 597.
McCulloch v Maryland (17 U.S. 316), 1819
The constitutionality of a national bank was called into question, and a strict reading of the Constitution, barely 30 years old, would say that Congress has no such power. But Chief Justice Marshall again left his mark on the history of the Constitution by ruling that under the Necessary and Proper Clause, the establishment of a national bank was constitutional. He noted that any law or act that was within the scope of the Constitution, if not prohibited, was constitutional. This case also helped establish the ability of the Supreme Court to strike down a state law or action as unconstitutional.
Nullification is a concept that states that if a state believes that a law or rule of the federal government overreaches its bounds, it is unconstitutional, and a state has the ability to ignore, or nullify, the law. In 1832, a state convention in South Carolina declared a high protective tariff null and void. President Andrew Jackson threatened to send federal troops into Charleston to ensure enforcement of the tariff; but a compromise tariff was worked out before force was actually used. The nullification issue was not new in 1832, but this case is the best remembered. The next time the issue came to a head, the South seceded from the Union.
Scott v Sandford (60 U.S. 393), 1857
Known better as the Dred Scott Case, Scott v Sandford formally declared that blacks in the United States could not be considered citizens. Chief Justice Robert Taney's opinion for the Court was that even freed blacks were not citizens of the United States, and could never be so, and thus had no right to sue in federal court. The ruling also invalidated portions of the Missouri Compromise, which Congress had enacted to maintain the status quo between slave and free states, and which had helped keep the peace between the North and the South since 1820. Scott himself claimed that because he lived in a free state, although as a slave, upon the death of his master he and his wife should be free. The decision threw them back into slavery, though they were bought and freed. Scott died a few months later.
The Confederacy, 1860-1865
In response to many culminating events, but particularly the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency, South Carolina started the ball rolling for the Confederate States of America (The Confederacy or CSA). On December 20, 1860, South Carolina voted to secede from the United States. Several states followed, and in February, 1861, a convention of the states was held to propose a constitution and elect a provisional president. It created a constitutional crisis that Lincoln vowed to fight with force; the result was the Civil War, which financially decimated the South — the North and the South both suffered tremendous casualties as well. Though it may have seemed moot to many, in 1869, the Supreme Court declared that secession was unconstitutional (Texas v White, 74 U.S. 700).
Ex parte Milligan (71 U.S. 2), 1866
On September 15, 1863, Abraham Lincoln announced that military officers had the ability to suspend the writ of habeas corpus whenever they deemed it necessary. On October 5, 1864, Lamdin Milligan was arrested by the military in Indiana on charges of conspiracy against the United States and treason. He was tried by military tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging. The Supreme Court ruled that the authority to suspend habeas corpus is indeed a right of the President, but it is available to him only when an area is under martial law — and martial law cannot be proclaimed unless all legal civil authority in an area is rendered ineffective: "Civil liberty and ... martial law cannot endure together; the antagonism is irreconcilable, and, in the conflict, one or the other must perish."
The National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1890
The NAWSA was a merger of two groups, the National Woman Suffrage Association led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and the American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe. Both were formed in the 1860's, though each had a different strategy for achieving women's suffrage (the NAWSA wanted a constitutional amendment, like the 15th, whereas the AWSA worked on a state-by-state basis). The formation of the NAWSA combined both efforts, ultimately culminating in various state laws and the 19th Amendment. The NAWSA was reorganized as the League of Women Voters, an organization with strong ties to today's political process.
Plessy v Ferguson (163 U.S. 537), 1896
In the 1890's, Louisiana law provided for separate rail cars for whites and non-whites — the cars were the same, but only whites could sit in the white cars, and only blacks in the black cars. When two cars were not available, single cars were split by partition. Fines and imprisonment were provided for when a person sat in the wrong car. Plessy, a mixed-race man, was required to sit in the non-white car; when he refused, he was ejected from the car and arrested. Plessy appealed his conviction on the basis that he was not a colored person, but also on the allegation that the act was unconstitutional under the 13th and 14th Amendments. The Court disagreed, and for the next 60 years, "separate but equal" was the norm in much of America.
Chicago v Chicago (166 U.S. 226), 1897
In 1890, the city of Chicago was looking to widen some of its streets. Under the authority of Illinois law, the city condemned land belonging to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company for the purpose of the widening. State law provided for a jury to decide in these cases the amount of compensation the state should pay for the taking. The jury awarded CBQRC $1 for its land. CBQRC appealed to the state supreme court and lost, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the ruling violated its rights under the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause. The city contended that the amount of the award is a local issue with no federal interests. The railroad argued not that is had been denied procedural due process, but that it had been denied substantive due process. In other words, the proceedings were fair, but the outcome was not. The Court disagreed, noting that due process had been served with the proceedings, and granted the railroad nothing. It did, however, note that the Takings Clause did apply to the city (and hence the state). The ruling was significant as one of a string of rulings that led to incorporation of the Bill of Rights to apply to the states.
Lochner v New York (198 U.S. 45), 1905
The Lochner case pitted a conservative-minded Supreme Court against a liberal-minded New York legislature, in the area of labor law. A New York law was enacted that restricted bakers to no more than 10 hours per day and no more than 60 hours per week. It also prohibited workers from having sleep quarters within a baking room. The legislature was aware of great abuses in the baking industry, with some working seven 12-hour days. Joseph Lochner was convicted of violating the new law, and appealed his conviction up to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the hours that a baker works, and where he might sleep, are things that the state has no right to regulate under its police powers - these are items of contract between the employer and employee. The decision was hailed by business interests and panned by labor interests.
Twining v State (211 U.S. 78), 1908
Albert Twining and David Cornell were convicted of showing false banking papers to a New Jersey state banking auditor. The case hinged on whether the rights of either Twining or Cornell were violated by the state courts; specifically the 5th Amendment, applied to the states via the 14th Amendment. Twining and Cornell refused to take the stand to confirm or refute the validity of the documents, citing their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. The Court rejected their arguments that the 14th Amendment's due process clause incorporated the 5th Amendment's self-incrimination clause. The Court did establish a new standard, however, for examining the rights that the 14th did incorporate: "Is it a fundamental principle of liberty and justice which inheres in the very idea of free government and is the inalienable right of a citizen of such a government? If it is, and if it is of a nature that pertains to process of law, this court has declared it to be essential to due process of law." This case was one in a string of cases, dating back to the Slaughterhouse cases, that nationalized the Bill of Rights.
Schenck v U.S. (249 U.S. 47), 1919
Charles J. Schenck was the general secretary of the Philadelphia Socialist Party, which was strongly opposed to the draft for World War I. Schenck, at the behest of the Party, printed and mailed a leaflet comparing the draft to slavery, and exhorted men of draft age to petition the government to oppose the draft. Schenck and four other members were arrested under the Espionage Act for conspiring to obstruct the draft. The judge in the trial instructed the jury to acquit three of the accused, but they found the other two, Schenck and Elizabeth Baer, guilty. Between the time of the conviction and the case making it to the Supreme Court, the war and the draft had ended. The defense's argument against the Act was that Schenck was exercising his right to free speech. Writing for the Court, which upheld the convictions, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted that the speech would normally have been protected. "But," he wrote, "the character of every act depends on the circumstances in which it is done." Essentially, in a time of war, the Court said, civil liberties may have to take a back seat. Holmes also made this famous statement: "The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has the right to prevent." This test has never been overruled, but it has been eroded over time.
Olmstead v U.S. (277 U.S. 438), 1928
Roy Olmstead and others were convicted of conspiring to import and sell liquor illegally. Olmstead was the manager of the conspiracy, which involved ocean-going vessels to bring the liquor from Canada, and over 50 other persons. Sales, according to the Supreme Court's ruling, topped 200 or more cases of liquor per day. Prohibition officers intercepted telephone calls to the offices that took orders for the liquor. The taps on the lines were made without entering any of the target premises. For months, evidence was gathered, and Olmstead was arrested. Olmstead contested his conviction on 4th and 5th Amendment grounds. The Supreme Court disagreed with him in a 5-4 decision, finding that conversations are not material things, which the 4th Amendment protects, and that since the conversations were not confessions per se, no violation of the 5th Amendment could be found. This ruling was later overturned in Katz v U.S.
Near v Minnesota (283 U.S. 697), 1931
In 1927, The Saturday Press, a newspaper published by Jay Near in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was closed down by the state courts. The Press was a scandal sheet, highly critical of local politicians and a grand jury convened at the time. The newspaper was also anti-Semitic and accused many public officials of being "gangsters." Under Minnesota public nuisance laws of the time, a court could enjoin a newspaper, magazine, or any other publication, from printing. State courts upheld the closing of the newspaper, but the cause was taken up by Robert McCormick, a powerful Chicago publisher, and several national newspaper associations. The case was heard in the Supreme Court, where for the first time, the Court ruled that "prior restraint" is unconstitutional. Only after something had been published could its legality be ruled upon. This concept was leveraged decades later in the Pentagon Papers case. The Saturday Press started publishing again, after the ruling, but closed its doors after a few years.
Brown v Board (347 U.S. 483), 1954
In the early 1950's, de jure, people of color, blacks, were free — as free as any Caucasian. But de facto, in many regions of the country, governmental services and economic disparity made blacks sorely unequal to whites. Such separation had been authorized by the Supreme Court in Plessy v Ferguson in 1896. No where was the doctrine of "separate but equal" belied more than in education. Schools set aside for blacks were consistently of poorer quality than those for whites, even in the same district. In Topeka, Kansas, Linda Brown lived a stone's throw from a white elementary school, but she was forced to attend the black school a mile away. When Brown's father attempted to enroll her in the white school, she was turned away. The NAACP was asked to help in the case that ensued. The first court ruled against Brown, citing Plessy. Appealed to the Supreme Court, the case took several years to be argued — in one session, the justices could not come to a decision. Finally, in 1954, the Court declared that "separate but equal" was not proper: "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
Gideon v Wainwright (372 U.S. 335), 1963
In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested in Florida for allegedly burglarizing a pool room. Gideon was unable to pay for a lawyer to aide in his defense, and because the charge was not capital (did not carry the possibility of the death penalty), the Florida court refused to appoint a lawyer. Gideon had to defend himself. Gideon was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. He wrote to the Supreme Court, pleading for a hearing in a hand-written motion, claiming he had been denied due process by being denied a lawyer. The Supreme Court granted a hearing, and appointed Gideon a lawyer, Abe Fortas, who later took a seat on the Court. Fortas argued that the Court's prior decision, Betts v Brady, needed to be overturned. The Court agreed and unanimously overturned Betts. Gideon was granted a new trial, and was acquitted. This case firmly established one of our most cherished rights, that to have an attorney, even if one must be appointed.
Heart of Atlanta v U.S. (379 U.S. 241), 1964
Building on the Brown case, the Court was asked if the separate but equal doctrine is properly extended to public accommodation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade discrimination in public accommodation, such as hotel rooms, on the basis of race. The Heart of Atlanta Motel, which the Court noted advertised nationally and on public roadways, did not rent rooms to blacks. The motel's argument is that the government overstepped its bounds by using the Commerce Clause to exert influence over the hospitality industry in forcing them to treat black guests as they would white guests. Oddly, the motel argued that the Congress had forced the motel to rent to blacks, placing it in a state of indentured servitude, forbidden by the 13th Amendment. The motel lost its case in district court and appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court found that the Congress did have the power exerted in the Act, and that the motel had no case against the Act. It was forced to remove its no-blacks policy, cutting down one of the main roots of segregation.
Griswold v Connecticut (381 U.S. 479), 1965
In 1961, Estelle Griswold and Dr. Lee Buxton opened a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut. Their intent was two-fold: to offer contraception to married couples and, in doing so, to break the law. Connecticut law provided for a criminal fine and up to a year imprisonment for the distribution of contraceptive devices or drugs. Griswold and Buxton were each fined $100 under the law, and they appealed the fine through the court system. In this case, the Supreme Court found a right to privacy under which the case could be considered: "the right of privacy which presses for recognition here is a legitimate one." The Court's opinion, written by Justice Douglas, was short and to the point. In just two paragraphs, the Court placed the marriage relationship in a "zone of privacy" that it found the government should not be able to intrude: "The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship." In its unequivocal ruling the Court struck down all laws that prevented married couples from acquiring and using contraceptives, and opened new doors to the right to privacy.
Miranda v Arizona (384 U.S. 436), 1966
The Miranda ruling is detailed on this site's Miranda Warning Page.
Katz v U.S. (389 U.S. 347), 1967
Charles Katz was suspected by the police of conducting illegal gambling activities. In particular, he was suspected of placing bets to betting parlors in major cities by way of a public phone booth. Without a warrant, the police wiretapped the public phone booth and arrested Katz based on the conversations they overheard. Katz appealed, claiming that his 4th Amendment rights had been violated with the warrantless wiretap. The Supreme Court ruled that the police do need a warrant, despite the public nature of the phone booth, because the 4th Amendment was designed to protect an individual's privacy, not just literal intrusion into certain areas such as the home. The Court noted that anything willingly exposed to the public, even in the home, is not protected. But when a person takes steps to ensure privacy, such as stepping into a phone booth, they have a reasonable expectation of privacy that can only be intruded upon with a warrant. The wiretap was the search. The seizure was the conversation itself, which implies that a seizure can be made on an intangible.
Loving v Virginia (388 U.S. 1), 1967
Another in the line of civil rights cases, the Loving case is being used in the late 1990's and early 2000's to support the position of gay-marriage advocates that to deny marriage rights to gay people is a violation of civil rights. In Virginia, and in many states, miscegenation laws, laws to prevent the marriage of white and black persons, were common. Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving wanted to marry, and since it was illegal to do so in Virginia, they married in Washington, DC. Virginia refused to recognize the marriage, and in fact prosecuted the Lovings. The one-year sentence was suspended, if the Lovings agreed to leave the state and not return for 25 years. The Lovings moved to Washington DC, and then sued Virginia in federal court, claiming a violation of the 14th Amendment. The Court agreed, reiterating that marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, and that the state has no business dictating which races may or many not intermarry.
Oregon v Mitchell (400 U.S. 112), 1970
This case was the impetus for the 26th Amendment that required all states allow 18-year-olds to vote in all elections. In the 1970 Voting Rights Act, the Congress lowered the voting age to 18 across the nation. It also banned literacy tests and set standards for residency and absentee ballot requirements. Oregon balked at these provisions, arguing that these sorts of regulations should be the exclusive powers of the states. The Supreme Court disagreed with Oregon on the constitutionality of all of the provisions of the Act, save one: that the vote could be extended to 18-year-olds by Congress for state and local elections. The Congress, and most of the remaining states, were distressed by the ruling, especially since the nation was embroiled in the war in Vietnam, where young soldiers were dying daily. The ruling was issued on December 21, 1970. The 26th Amendment was ratified on July 1, 1971, just over six months later.
New York Times v U.S. (403 U.S. 713), 1971
In June, 1971, the New York Times and the Washington Post published classified military documents known as the Pentagon Papers. The story detailed U.S. involvement in Vietnam dating back three decades. The Times and the Post were warned by Attorney General John Mitchell against publishing any more of the Papers. Mitchell was able to get an injunction against the newspapers to prevent further publication — two weeks later, the Supreme Court had heard arguments and ruled on the case. The two cases, one for the Times and one for the Post, were heard separately; in both cases, the lower courts had ruled that the government had not met its burden to prove that the stories should be subject to prior restraint. In the Court's opinion, Justice Black noted that the case brought by the government should have been dismissed without even hearing oral arguments in the lower courts: "Every moment's continuance of the injunctions against these newspapers amounts to a flagrant, indefensible, and continuing violation of the First Amendment." Black was incredulous that the ruling was not unanimous: "In my view it is unfortunate that some of my Brethren are apparently willing to hold that the publication of news may sometimes be enjoined. Such a holding would make a shambles of the First Amendment." Finally, Black cemented the press's role in our constitutional system: "Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government... In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do."
Roe v Wade (410 U.S. 113), 1973
This case is one of the most widely recognized Supreme Court cases in United States history. Its main question, whether states can ban abortion, a medical procedure whereby a pregnancy is terminated by artificial means, evokes strong reactions from those who support abortion rights and those who oppose abortion. In the case, Jane Roe (a pseudonym used to protect the woman's privacy — the woman later revealed herself as Norma McCorvey) brought suit against the state of Texas over a law that prohibited abortion except in the case of danger to the health of the mother. A married couple, using the pseudonym of Doe, joined Roe in the suit, alleging future harm from the law, but the various courts ruled the Does has no standing to sue. One argument against Roe's suit was that by the time it reached the courts, she was no longer pregnant (Roe suffered a miscarriage). The Supreme Court ruled that because of the time-sensitive nature of pregnancy, an on-going pregnancy is not necessary to continue the suit. The Supreme Court ruled against the Texas abortion law, and all abortion laws, as a violation of the right to privacy inherent in the Constitution. Recognizing, however, the state's interest in protecting unborn life, the Court set up a system of trimesters, with varying degrees of regulation possible. In the first three months of pregnancy, the first trimester, the state was not permitted any regulation of abortion. In the second trimester, the state could enact some regulations to protect the health of the mother. In the third trimester, regulation and even banning of abortion was permitted. The decision generated controversy at the time, and continues to do so to the present day. Its exact requirements have been changed by subsequent decisions which modified and even discarded the trimester scheme.
Gregg v Georgia (428 U.S. 153), 1976
Troy Gregg was accused of committing murder in Georgia in 1973. He and a companion, Floyd Allen, were hitchhiking and were picked up by two other men, Fred Simmons and Bob Moore. After an over night stop, Simmons and Moore were found dead. A third hitchhiker, who had been picked up and dropped off by Simmons and Moore, informed the police that he was with Gregg and Allen and gave them descriptions of the men. The pair were caught driving Simmons's car, and Gregg confessed to the killings, claiming they were made in self-defense. Allen's testimony was that the killings were in cold blood. The jury found Gregg guilty of murder and robbery in the trial phase, and sentenced him to death in the penalty phase. Gregg appealed, claiming that the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the 8th Amendment. In an earlier case, Furman v Georgia, the Supreme Court had laid out rules for the imposition of the death penalty that effectively stopped its use. After Furman, the laws in several states were changed to conform with the rules. Gregg was the first test of the application of these rules. The Court found that the rules Georgia followed were fair and in compliance with the Court's constitutional requirements. It ruled that because the proper procedures were followed, the death sentence imposed was not in violation of the 8th Amendment. Before he could be put to death, Gregg died in a shooting following a prison break.
Webster v Reproductive Health (492 U.S. 490), 1989
In this case, a group of health professionals brought suit against the state of Missouri for a 1986 law enacted in that state to regulate abortion. In particular, the law recognized that "life of each human being begins at conception" and gave unborn children all the same rights enjoyed by all other persons. It also required doctors to test fetuses for "viability" if the pregnancy is at 20 weeks or more, and had several sections that prohibited the use of public funds, personnel, or facilities for the performance of abortions that were not necessary to save the mother's life. The district and appeals court struck down the law as counter to Roe, but the Supreme Court opened the door for change when it decided the case. Specifically, the Court said that no state must be forced to support abortion by use of its resources - the ability of a state to favor childbirth over abortion, because the Constitution does not "confer an affirmative right to governmental aid." The question of the 20 week viability test consumed the bulk of the Court's ruling. It noted that Roe's trimester test was too rigid and unworkable. It abandoned the trimester test, ruling instead that abortion prior to viability should be unrestricted, and subject to regulation after viability.
Planned Parenthood v Casey (505 U.S. 833), 1992
In 1982, Pennsylvania enacted a law that placed several conditions on the performing of an abortion. At issue in this case in particular were requirements that a woman seeking an abortion provide "informed consent" (meaning that she must be given certain information about abortion and alternatives) and that she must wait at least 24 hours after seeking an abortion before it could be performed. It also required that minors acquire consent of one parent or a court and that married women must stipulate that they informed their husband of the intent to have an abortion. It also defined a medical emergency that could trump all requirements and certain reporting procedures that abortion clinics had to follow. Before the law went into effect, a group of abortion clinics and doctors sued the state to prevent the law from taking effect. The district court found all provisions to be unconstitutional, but the appeals court reversed most of the district court's ruling. The Supreme Court heard the case and reaffirmed Roe with Webster's modifications: abortion was a right of the individual, but that following viability, the state could take an interest in the processes and procedures and regulate them. The majority in the Court's opinion took great pains to reaffirm the essential holdings of Roe, it did note that a state can take a pro-childbirth position and promote that position in law, so long as the provisions of the law do not place an undue burden on the rights of the woman seeking the abortion. The Court specifically noted that even with restrictions and provisions, the state may not ban abortion. The Court found that the spousal notification provision was an undue burden, but the remaining provisions were constitutional.
City of Boerne v Flores (95-2074), 1997
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was enacted to overturn a Supreme Court decision that allowed a state to criminalize the use of peyote by Native Americans. The Act prohibited the government from imposing "substantial burdens" on individuals in their exercise of religious practices. The law used the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to show it had cause to make the law. The Supreme Court overturned the RFRA, noting that the Congress has the power to enforce constitutional rights, but that it had no authority to interpret the Constitution — that being the exclusive right of the Supreme Court. Said the Court: "Broad as the power of Congress is under the Enforcement Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, RFRA contradicts vital principles necessary to maintain separation of powers and the federal balance."
The 2000 Election
The results of the election of 2000 will have implications on the United States for at least four years, and perhaps more. The day after the election, calls were already ringing out for the abolition of the Electoral College, along with as many calls defending it. This could indicate a sea change to how we elect our President - or it could amount to nothing at all. If nothing else, the election of 2000 renewed the prominence of the Constitution in the minds of the common citizen.