Supreme Court Docket

Supreme Court Docket

A Chapter by Debbie Barry
"

An essay about contemporary civil rights cases on the Supreme Court docket. Written for HIS 303: The American Constitution.

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Supreme Court Docket


2/25/2010


 

In examining the civil rights section of the Supreme Court docket on Oyez.com, I found only eleven civil rights cases listed since the beginning of 2005, and no civil rights cases listed after June of 2006.  Of these eleven cases, only two cases came close to dealing with the U.S. Constitution and the Amendments.  Three cases dealt with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Two cases dealt with the Reconstruction Civil Rights Acts.  Of the four remaining cases, one dealt with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one dealt with Immigration and Naturalization, one dealt with Medicaid and provisions of the Social Security Act, and one dealt with Education of the Handicapped and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Acts (IDEA).  Of the two cases with Constitutional applications, one dealt with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and with the Eleventh and Fourteenth Amendments; the other dealt with Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment (Cases -- Civil Rights, n.d.).  For my discussion, I have chosen the case of the United States v Georgia, which was unanimously decided in favor of the United States on January 10, 2006.

The facts of the case are that a paraplegic inmate in a Georgia prison, Tony Goodman, sued the state of Georgia "for maintaining prison conditions that allegedly discriminated against disabled people and violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)" (United States v Georgia, 2006, para. 1).  Georgia claimed sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.  The Supreme Court found that "Title II abrogates sovereign immunity ... [and] Congress can enforce the 14th Amendment against the states ... which can involve abrogating state sovereign immunity" (United States v Georgia, 2006, para. 4).  In his opinion on the case, Justice Antonin Scalia referred to Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections v Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206, 210 (1998), when he stated that "[w]e have previously held that [public entity] includes state prisons" (United States v Georgia et. al., 2006, para. 4), while explaining how the provisions of the ADA applied to Goodman's case.

The Constitutional issues in this case are:

·      The sovereign immunity of the state of Georgia, provided by the Eleventh Amendment; and

·      Goodman's right to equal protection, provided by Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

A reading of Chapter 6 of the text by O'Connor and Sabato (2008) shows that the major civil rights cases of the 1950s and the 1960s addresses matters of racial discrimination.  Brown v Board of Education occurred in 1954, and was revisited in 1955.  This famous case resulted in the racial desegregation of public schools in the United States.  In 1955, "Rosa Parks made history when she refused to leave her seat on a bus to move to the back to make room for a white male passenger" (O'Connor and Sabato, 2008, 11.4.2), and her case made it to federal court in 1956.  The Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.

The arguments of United States v Georgia differ from the cases of the 1950's and 1960's in that Goodman's case was not based on issues of race or gender.  However, the case is similar to the cases of the 1950's and 1960's because the original case of Goodman v Georgia et. al. was based on an issue of discrimination, just as the cases of the 1950's and 1960's were based on issues of discrimination.  Goodman claimed that he was discriminated against for his disability, while the discrimination in the cases of the 1950's and 1960's was generally based on race or gender.  The differences are actually fairly minor, and may be attributed to the laws that were passed in the 1960's.  We still hear about cases of racial discrimination and gender discrimination in today's world, especially in relation to employment equality; those cases just didn't happen to be on the Supreme Court docket when I accessed it.  The similarities among the cases may be attributed, at least in part, to human nature, and also to ingrained social habits.  Many people feel better about themselves when they feel that they are superior to people who are different from them, so people often discriminate against groups of people who are different.  Also, people get used to treating others, or being treated, in certain ways, and it is often very difficult for society to learn new habits.  Individuals may be able to learn to be accepting and affirming of people who are different from them, but it is much more difficult for society to change.

 


References


Cases -- Civil Rights.  (n.d.).  Retrieved February 24, 2010, from           http://www.oyez.org/issues/Civil%20Rights


O'Connor, K. and Sabato, L.J.  (2008).  American government: Continuity and change,    [Electronic version].  New York: Pearson-Longman.


United States v Georgia.  (2006, January 10).  Retrieved February 22, 2010, from       http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_04_1203


United States v Georgia et. al..  (2006, January 10).  Retrieved February 24, 2010, from           http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/05pdf/04-1203.pdf

 




© 2017 Debbie Barry



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Debbie Barry
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Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI



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I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..

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