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Flag-burning Case

Texas v. Johnson
FACTS: Gregory Lee Johnson (defendant and member of
the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade) burned an
American flag at the Republican National Convention in
1984. The Plaintiff in this case is the State of Texas and the
defendant was Johnson. Lower courts sentenced him to one
year in prison due to violation of Texas law but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
reversed it stating that this ruling was not consistent with the First Amendment. A writ of
Certiorari was given to review the lower court’s decision for error.

ISSUES: The main legal question of the appellate courts is if the burning of the American
flag was symbolic speech that was protected under the First Amendment.

RULE: The main law involved in this case is the First Amendment.

ARGUMENTS: The claims of Texas are that its interest in preventing breaches of the
peace justifies Johnson's conviction for flag desecration. However, no disturbance of the
peace actually occurred or threatened to occur because of Johnson's burning of the flag.
Johnson argues what Texas fails to prove: “The American Flag was burned as Ronald
Reagan was being renominated as President. And a more powerful statement of symbolic
speech, whether you agree with it or not, couldn't have been made at that time.” So
Johnson is seeking protection under the First Amendment.

DECISION: In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that Johnson's burning of a flag was
protected expression under the First Amendment. The Court found that Johnson's actions
fell into the category of expressive conduct and had a distinctively political nature. The
fact that an audience takes offense to certain ideas or expression, the Court found, does
not justify prohibitions of speech. The Court also held that state officials did not have the
authority to designate symbols to be used to communicate only limited sets of messages,
noting that "[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the
Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the
idea itself offensive or disagreeable." The dissenting opinion by the Chief Justice
states that he appears to believe that Johnson's conduct may be prohibited and, indeed,
criminally sanctioned, because "his act . . . conveyed nothing that could not have been
conveyed and was not conveyed just as forcefully in a dozen different ways."

PRECEDENT: The precedent set is that flag-burning is expressive speech and is
protected under the First Amendment. More attempts have been had to create a Flag
Protection Act, but it is always struck down.

The United States has many more arguments but these are the most important. . the Court held that the Commerce Clause allowed Congress to regulate local incidents of commerce. A three-judge District Court upheld the constitutionality the provisions attacked. RULE: The law that is important is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Thirteenth Amendment and Interstate Commerce clause ARGUMENTS: The claims of Heart of Atlanta Motel state that the law violates the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition of slavery or involuntary servitude and takes private property for public use without just compensation.’” The United States argues that the Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a valid exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause as applied to a place of public accommodation serving interstate travelers. and Congress' action in removing the disruptive effect which it found racial discrimination has on interstate travel is not invalidated because Congress was also legislating against what it considered to be moral wrongs. free from governmental regulation. on appellees' counterclaim. DECISIONS: In a 9 to 0 decision. Supreme Court. There was no dissenting opinion. The motel was the appellate to the U. permanently enjoined appellant from refusing to accommodate black guests for racial reasons. ISSUES: The legal question that needs to be answered is if the Commerce Clause of the Civil Rights Act applies to people “trafficking” through hotels and motels. “Such prohibition does not violate the Thirteenth Amendment as being ‘involuntary servitude. United States FACTS: The Heart of Atlanta Motel was only allowing whites into their hotel after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. PRECEDENT: The decision in Heart of Atlanta reaffirmed the power of the Interstate Commerce Clause. ." The Court thus concluded that places of public accommodation had no "right" to select guests as they saw fit. Motel Discrimination Case Heart of Atlanta Motel v. this was found to not be the case and they state. . and set a precedent for future legislation that established more powerful civil rights protections.S. The Court noted that the applicability of Title II was "carefully limited to enterprises having a direct and substantial relation to the interstate flow of goods and people. However. in violation of the Fifth Amendment. and. and that the Civil Right Act of 1964 passed constitutional muster. the interstate movement of persons is "commerce" which concerns more than one State.

DECISION: In a Six-to-Two decision. and did the Supreme Court have jurisdiction over questions of legislative apportionment? RULE: The law to be applied is under the Fourteenth Amendment and the equal protection of the law as well as a discussion of Supreme Court jurisdiction. In one year. the Court held that there were no such questions to be answered in this case and that legislative apportionment was a justiciable issue. ARGUMENT: Baker’s argument was that he is being denied his equal protection of the law when other votes are worth more than his. In his opinion. Brennan concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection issues which Baker and others raised in this case merited judicial evaluation. He predicted that the injection of the courts into this clash of political forces in political settlements could undermine their authority. . Carr. The merit of Baker is valid because if it has not been redistricted in the time discussed in the state constitution then it is breaking a law. The dissenting opinion view was that the federal courts should not intervene in the “essentially political conflict of forces by which the relation between population and representation has time out of mind been and now is determined. Carr FACTS: Charles Baker (Republican from Tennessee) complained that the legislative districts have not been redistricted since 1901 and the Tennessee State Constitution requires it be done every 10 years with the national census and now some cities were disproportionate and votes were worth more than others. The other argument was more within the Supreme Court itself. Justice Brennan provided past examples in which the Court had intervened to correct constitutional violations in matters pertaining to state administration and the officers through whom state affairs are conducted. Redistricting Case Baker v. PRECEDENT: It is a landmark reversal of the Court's prior holdings that apportionment cases are not within the jurisdiction of the courts. It did not take long for other states to go through the door opened by Baker v. Joe Carr was sued as the ex officio (the person who was ultimately responsible for the conduct of elections in the state and for the publication of district maps) for denying the equal protection of laws to Baker and people similarly situated. thirty‐six states had become involved in reapportionment lawsuits. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter and that no claim was stated upon which relief could be granted. ISSUES: The main legal question in this case is: are the plaintiffs being denied their equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. and if it should be meandering in cases such as these. So.