The Supreme Court


Article III of the Constitution establishes the federal judiciary. Article III, Section I states that “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Although the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court, it permits Congress to decide how to organize it. Congress first exercised this power in the Judiciary Act of 1789. This Act created a Supreme Court with six justices. It also established the lower federal court system.

The Justices

Over the years, various Acts of Congress have altered the number of seats on the Supreme Court, from a low of five to a high of 10. Shortly after the Civil War, the number of seats on the Court was fixed at nine. Today, there is one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices of the United States Supreme Court. Like all federal judges, justices are appointed by the President and are confirmed by the Senate. They, typically, hold office for life. The salaries of the justices cannot be decreased during their term of office. These restrictions are meant to protect the independence of the judiciary from the political branches of government.

The Court’s Jurisdiction

Article III, Section II of the Constitution establishes the jurisdiction (legal ability to hear a case) of the Supreme Court. The Court has original jurisdiction (a case is tried before the Court) over certain cases, e.g., suits between two or more states and/or cases involving ambassadors and other public ministers. The Court has appellate jurisdiction (the Court can hear the case on appeal) on almost any other case that involves a point of constitutional and/or federal law. Some examples include cases to which the United States is a party, cases involving Treaties, and cases involving ships on the high seas and navigable waterways (admiralty cases).

uscourts.gov For the complete article

Did you know September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month –


National Hispanic Heritage Month 2017

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.

Telling All Americans’ Stories: American Latino Heritage

The breadth of Latino/a experience is a vital aspect of America’s rich and diverse past. The places explored here barely begin to hint at the varied ways their lives intersected with one another. Discover these remarkable stories preserved in our national parks and historic places
Read the stories »

Photo credit:Tumacácori and Visitors by Full Moon. ARC Photography, January 29, 2016. National Park Service.

1883 – The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. It allowed for individuals and corporations to discriminate based on race ~Black History


Written By: Melvin I. Urofsky

image by Blace Female Artist

ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

Civil Rights Cases, five legal cases that the U.S. Supreme Court consolidated (because of their similarity) into a single ruling on October 15, 1883, in which the court declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to be unconstitutional and thus spurred Jim Crow laws that codified the previously private, informal, and local practice of racial segregation in the United States. In an 8–1 decision, the landmark ruling struck down the critical provision in the Civil Rights Act prohibiting racial discrimination in public places (such as hotels, restaurants, theatres, and railroads), what would later be called “public accommodations.” The ruling barred Congress from remedying racial segregation and in effect legalized the notion of “separate but equal” (though the ruling did not use this language) that would predominate in American society until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was a devastating blow to the rights of African Americans. The five consolidated cases were United States v. Stanley, United States v. Ryan, United States v. Nichols, United States v. Singleton, and Robinson and wife v. Memphis & Charleston R.R. Co.

Background
The Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment brought an end to slavery in the United States, but they did not give the former bondsmen either legal or political equality. In fact, the Southern states almost immediately passed a series of laws known as “Black Codes,” which, though not enslaving the freedmen, severely restricted their freedoms and put them at the mercy of whites. Opposition to freedom for African Americans often took extralegal forms as well, notably brutal attacks on former slaves by the Ku Klux Klan.

During the period known as Reconstruction, Congress tried to protect African Americans through a series of civil rights and enforcement statutes and through two more amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment defined a citizen of the United States as any person born in the country or who had immigrated and been naturalized. It also prohibited the states from denying to any citizen the due process of law or the equal protection of the laws or from abridging the privileges and immunities attached to citizenship. The Fifteenth Amendment declared that the right to vote could not be denied because of race.

During the time when Union troops occupied the former Confederate states, the army protected African Americans and enforced these rights, while resentment grew among white Southerners. By the 1870s the North had tired of the conflict with the South over race relations and civil rights. Racism, moreover, continued to afflict American society in general, including its justice system.

The Supreme Court ruling
In the last of the great Reconstruction statutes, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, the Republican majority in Congress tried to secure by law some semblance of racial equality that could be protected by the government and by courts. While no one expected that such legislation would change the prevailing racial attitudes held by both Northern and Southern whites, the law aimed to protect African Americans from deprivation of the minimal rights of citizenship

A critical provision of the Civil Rights Act prohibited racial discrimination in public places, what would later be called “public accommodations,” which rested on Section 5—the enforcement clause—of the Fourteenth Amendment. Five cases testing the application of this section rose in both the North and the South, and the Supreme Court combined them for a single hearing in March 1883. The government argued on behalf of the Civil Rights Act, declaring that the Thirteenth Amendment had not only abolished slavery but conferred all the rights of free citizens on the former slaves and that the Fourteenth Amendment had given Congress the power to protect those rights through appropriate legislation.

The Court disagreed, and, in the opinion for the 8–1 ruling, Justice Joseph P. Bradley denied both of the government’s contentions. In effect, the ruling robbed the amendments of much of their meaning. Bradley argued that, because not every example of discrimination against African Americans could be interpreted as a renewal of slavery, the Thirteenth Amendment could not be invoked as a ban on racial prejudice.

Although the Fourteenth Amendment had in fact been drafted specifically to ensure African Americans’ rights, Bradley denied that Congress had any affirmative powers under the amendment. Congress could legislate in a remedial manner to correct an unconstitutional law. It could intervene only if a state enacted a law that restricted the rights of African Americans. Bradley also held that if a state failed to take action but, by inaction, tolerated discrimination—such as exclusion from hotels, restaurants, and clubs—Congress could not legislate. By this decision, the court in one stroke nullified all congressional power to protect African Americans under the Fourteenth Amendment and left their fate to the states. It also invited the Southern states not only to tolerate but to encourage private discrimination. The ruling would remain in force until the Court disavowed it in upholding the 1964 Civil Rights Act, nearly a century after the Civil War ended.

Justice John Marshall Harlan entered the lone dissent in the Civil Rights Cases, pointing out that the court had eviscerated the Fourteenth Amendment of its meaning. He also noted the bias in the court’s judgment, since before the war the court had accorded Congress comparable powers in upholding the various Fugitive Slave Acts. Harlan utilized the idea of “affected with a public interest,” which the court had expressed in Munn v. Illinois (1876), and argued that facilities such as railroads, hotels, restaurants, and theatres performed a public function, a notion that had long been recognized in common law and that served as the basis for regulating those services. If such businesses discriminated, then they did so with the consent of the state; this constituted state action and could be reached under the Fourteenth Amendment, even using Bradley’s crabbed view of Section 5 power. Although Harlan wrote in dissent, his theory of state action would be the basis on which the court built up a civil rights jurisprudence after World War II.

The ruling in the Civil Rights Cases not only barred Congress from taking affirmative steps against racial discrimination but permitted states to legally allow private discrimination simply by looking the other way, which they did. In tandem with the landmark decision in Plessy v. Ferguson 13 years later, which sanctioned the doctrine of “separate but equal,” the Civil Rights Cases inaugurated the Jim Crow era.

Resource: britannica.com

Freedom of Information Act 


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Below is the full text of the Freedom of Information Act in a form showing all amendments to the statute made by the “FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.” All newly enacted provisions in boldface type replace the strikethrough text.

Full Text of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (Public Law No. 114-185)

§ 552. Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings

(a) Each agency shall make available to the public information as follows:

  • (1) Each agency shall separately state and currently publish in the Federal Register for the guidance of the public—
    • (A) descriptions of its central and field organization and the established places at which, the employees (and in the case of a uniformed service, the members) from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information, make submittals or requests, or obtain decisions;
    • (B) statements of the general course and method by which its functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available;
    • (C) rules of procedure, descriptions of forms available or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the scope and contents of all papers, reports, or examinations;
    • (D) substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law, and statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted by the agency; and
    • (E) each amendment, revision, or repeal of the foregoing.
  • Except to the extent that a person has actual and timely notice of the terms thereof, a person may not in any manner be required to resort to, or be adversely affected by, a matter required to be published in the Federal Register and not so published. For the purpose of this paragraph, matter reasonably available to the class of persons affected thereby is deemed published in the Federal Register when incorporated by reference therein with the approval of the Director of the Federal Register.
  • (2) Each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying for public inspection in an electronic format