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Constitutional Law I
University of Mississippi School of Law
Cochran, George C.

Constitutional Law Cases

8th Amendment—Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Harmelin v. Michigan – court held that a life sentence for possession of cocaine was ot cruel and unusual punishment – Scalia said look at modes of punishment, not length of sentences when applying the 8th amendment

Louisiana v. Resweber – black man raped a white woman and was sentenced to death by electrocution – chair did not work the first time and the execution was postponed – was it constitutional or unconstitutional to electrocute him again?

Provanzado v. Florida – suit for use of poor equipment in that electric chair was allegedly defective – test is whether or not method employed to carry out death penalty causes torture, lingering death, or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain – electric chair is constitutional because it passes test

Rupe v. Wood – alleged that hanging was cruel and unusual punishment – Stanley Reed went back to English common law – hanging is constitutional according to Provanzado test if it is done correctly – look at Provanzado evolving standard –Hanging that is likely to result in decapitation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under Eighth Amendment, and is contrary to public perception of standards of decency (Westlaw). Marshall says Constitution adapts to the times like the evolving standard.

Cases Concerning Presidential Immunity

Nixon v. Fitzgerald – Nixon fired Fitzgerald and Fitz. says he was punished for exercising his 1st amendment rights so he sued Nixon for damages – Marbury says you can sue the President for equitable relief (injunction of mandamus) but can’t sue for damages (Harlow v. Fitzgerald).

Jones v. Clinton – act not done when he was President – Nixon v. Fitzgerald only applies to acts done while the President is in office – while in office can sue President for equitable relief not damages

Cooper v. Aaron – governor refused to comply with the order to integrate schools in Little Rock – Sup. Ct. issues write of mandamus – executive branch backed up the judicial branch by sending troops – reaffirmed Marbury because Sup. Ct. can interpret what the law is

Cases determined to be non-reviewable by SCt

Massachusetts v. Laird – Massachusetts brings suit to declare Vietnam War unconstitutional because Congress never declared war – court would not rule because it was a political question

Goldwater v. Carter – alleged that the defense treaty with Taiwan was unconstitutional – decided it was beyond judicial expertise b

ve to bring shrimp to LA to get dehulled. Reason given was a fertilizer shortage in LA, but the real purpose of the law is to favor the canning of meat and the manufacture of bran in LA by withholding raw or unshelled shrimp from MS plants—favoring instate economic interests. Court invalidated this law.

Grosjean v. American Press Co.—Tax statute passed in LA on newspapers with a large circulation. Real purpose was to tax newspapers that were anti Huey Long. SCt. found the tax unconstitutional under the due process b/c it abridged the freedom of the press.

Palmer v. Thompson—Jackson City Council passed an ordinance closing the public swimming pools in 1960’s. Said closing pools b/c of financial hardship, but real reason was to keep blacks out but couldn’t say this b/c of equal protection. Ct. held it constitutional.

Greene v. City of Memphis—City street was closed supposedly b/c of heavy traffic, child safety, tranquility, etc…, but real motive was to keep blacks out of the area. SCt.