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CTLawGuy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 01:56 AM
Original message
Any constitutional law buffs out there? Want to rule on some cases?
I am fascinated with constitutional law. I have come up with three fictional constitutional cases that might be interesting to talk about.

Tell me what you think about each case.

#1: A muslim student, Mohammed, a senior at a public New England high school is participating in a chorus as part of his school's requirement that a student take a credit of "fine arts" before graudating. As part of the class, a student is required to perform in concerts open to the public. For one concert, the instructor, Mr. Jones, selects certain musical pieces, including "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," and "Let Us Break Bread Together." These are pieces with overt Christian themes. Mohammed refuses to sing them on religious grounds. Mr. Jones thinks he is overreacting and, when the student walks out of the concert, the teacher gives him an F. Since it is the last semester before graduation, if the "F" stands, Mohammed will not graduate.

Mohammed sues the school district. he claims:
1. Forcing him to sing Christian songs violates the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment (and to a lesser extent, his freedom of speech). By being forced to sing these songs, he will have to profess religous beliefs he does not hold.

2. For a teacher to have students sing religious songs violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The performance of the songs gives credence to the ideas within them. The children singing them and the audience hearing them will believe that the government favors those ideas. therefore, it will have the effect of indoctrinating children in the christian religion.

Mr. Jones responds as follows:
1. No one in the audience expects that children singing these songs actually hold these beliefs. People sing songs about other people's experiences, ideas all the time. We all know Mohammed is a muslim, and he would still be a muslim, even if he sang the song. We are not forcing him to give up Islam.

2. We sing these songs because they represent a certain style of music, one that happened to be predominately christian. We have done this before (before mohammed joined the class) with other religious music, including Hindu hymns. The school may, according to the first amendment, teach about religious matters in their historical context, without making a judgement about their validity. We are simply presenting a style of music, nowhere do we say the content of the songs present CORRECT ideas. the government is not favoring chrstianity.

Should Mohammed have to take his "F"?
#2 Mary is an 18 year old freshman at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. (in the state of NH, a legal adult is 18, the drinking age is 21) She is an honor student, and a champion ice hockey player. At a local restaurant, her 22 year old friend brings her a drink that he purchased at the bar. A policeman working undercover, notices her receiving the drink. after he sees her take a sip, he walks up to them at the table, identifies himself as police, and asks for her ID. She tells him she "forgot it at home". he asks for her name and address, which she provides. He finds out from the college database that she is only 18 and therefore underage. He then serves her with a citation for "minor in posession" or MIP. It is a fine for $200. (What the police does with her friend is irrelevant) She refuses to pay it. Instead she files a motion in court to throw out the fine.

Mary argues as follows:
1. To deny an 18 year old the freedom to possess alcohol is a violation of the 14th amendments guarantee of equal protection. the government has denied ONLY the class of adults age 18-20 the freedom to drink. The government lacks ANY rational basis for this discrimination. If an 18 year old is responsible enough, according to the state of NH, to buy cigarettes, watch porn, get married, fight in the army, it's illogical to say that they can't possess alcohol.

the state of New Hampshire responds as follows:
1. The government has a rational basis for having the age at 21. the government has a responsibility to keep the roadways safe, statistics have shown that 18-20 year olds are less responsible and less experienced behind the wheel than adults. Also, the inconvenience is not that bad, because Mary will only have to wait three years, till she turns 21, and the so-called injsutice will be remedied. Allowing mary access to alcohol will infringe on a government purogative to protect minor children. high school kids will have a much greater access to alcohol if the age is 18, becuase more of their older friends will be able to buy it. Also, the state will lose federal highway funds if it lowers the drinking age, pursuant to the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, signed by Ronald "states rights" Reagan in 1984.

Should Mary have to pay the fine?
#3 Joe is a mechanic. He makes barely enough to support himself. One night after work, he goes to a club, where he meets Kathy, an insurance adjustor. Both are in their 30s. After dancing at the club and drinking, Joe takes Kathy to his appartment and they have protected sex using a condom. During sex, the condom breaks. this freaks both of them out. A few weeks later, Kathy discovers she is pregnant. This upsets joe, because Joe CANNOT afford to support a child. He counsels Kathy to get an abortion. Kathy responds that she doesn't believe abortion is right, and it is her sacrosant choice to have this child and care for it. It will be her atonement for her carelessness the night she went to the club, she reasons. She tells Joe that he must atone for his carelessness as well. He must find a way to pay child support. the next day, joe contacts a "men's rights" group. They offer to pay for a legal counsel if he would be willing to sue to divest himself of paternal responsiblity (which means he won't be responsible for the chlid, or have to pay child support). He agrees. When the court hears his suit, the judge laughs at him and denies his motion. Joe appeals.

Joe argues as follows:
1. Forcing Joe to support a child he does not wish to have violates his right to privacy under the 14th amendment, as explained by Griswold v. Connecticut, and Roe v. Wade. the right to abortion translates to a right to refuse to become a parent. Kathy, by having an abortion, can refuse parenthood. Joe has no way to force Kathy to abort (and he DOES NOT ask for that power) and therefore, must become a parent against his will, having no other recourse. By denying joes motion, the court is essentially "preventing him from having an 'abortion'."

2. To force men to have a child, and allow women the option of not having a child violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. A right is given to women that is denied to men. It does not serve an important government interest to force men to support children they cannot or do not want to. this is the same thing as forcing a woman to bear a child against her will.

Kathy responds:
1. Women have abortion rights because we have the unique joy/burden of bearing children phsyically. It has nothing to do with simply refusing parenthood. It has to do with women retaining control over her own body. Since men's bodies do not enter into the equation, he has no privacy rights in this matter. If Joe didn't want to become a parent, he should have thought of that before agreeing to sex.

2. The Court recognizes that the genders are inherently different in some ways, that is why the Constitution allows more sex discrimination than it does racial or religious discrimination. Becuase women have the unique ability to bear children, of course the govenrment needs to treat men and women differently. Since Joe's body is not involved, but Kathy's is, the government can treat joe and Kathy differently.

Should Joe be forced to support the child?

I hope this isn't too dense. I think they'll raise some great issues!
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Dookus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:04 AM
Response to Original message
1. well it's a lot for one thread....
But in the first case, the student would win. He cannot be forced by a public school to sing Christian songs.

In the second case, the girl has no case. The 14th amendment has NEVER been interpreted to read that all rights must accrue to all people at the same age.

The third case is the hardest, and I don't know that any similar cases have been decided. My personal feeling would be that since Joe made his desire NOT to impregnate her very clear (by wearing a condom), and he made clear his desire for her not to have a child after discovering she was pregnant, I sympathize with his position. I don't think he should be forced to support a child he didn't want and had no intention of having, AND took reasonable precautions to prevent. I know I'll get flamed for that one, though.
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chrisesq Donating Member (238 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:09 AM
Response to Original message
2. Why do I have the feeling that we may be answering
questions from some 1L's take-home con law exam?
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CTLawGuy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 11:20 AM
Response to Reply #2
14. in not QUITE in law school...
but Ill take your respsonse as a compliment
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rabid_nerd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:21 AM
Response to Original message
3. No scholar but...
#1 - Mohammed SHOULD get an F.

As someone who strongly believes in seperation of church v. state, there is one and only one section of this scenario which leads me to this conclusion:

"when the student walks out of the concert"

If this implies that Mohammed participated in practice and did not make these objections known until a concert, this is a case of waiting too long to complain.

If the songs were unknown until the concert (I don't know of many cases where a performer would not know what they sing in a concert until the concert itself) then he should not get an F.


#2 - Mary should not have too pay the fine.

An adult is an adult is an adult. I do believe that there should be a permanent link between draft eligibility and full adulthood.

Whether 18 year olds with alcohol would better enable 15 year olds to drink is irrelevant. don't 21 year olds better enable 18 year olds?

The would require that this Federal law be held as unconstitutional to enable states to change the same.

Until we enact a federal mandatory eye test for driver's licenses for people over 60 (I'd prefer mandatory for everyone) and renewal of written and driving skills test at least every 10 years, I don't think the federal government should be using the safety issue.


#3 - Touchy touchy subject! Joe should be forced to support the child.

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Feanorcurufinwe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:39 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. Good point about Mohammed participating in practice
I missed that.
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Dookus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:41 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. Regarding point 2:
Nothing in the constitution, nor in our culture, nor in common sense, dictates that all rights should accrue to all people at the same exact age.

The constitution itself sets different age limits for certain "rights".

How old do you have to be have a paper route?
How old do you have to be have a real job?
How old do you have to be to get a learner's permit?
How old do you have to be to get a provisional driver's license?
How old do you have to be to get a full license?
How old do you have to be to get married?
How old do you have to be to sign a legal contract?
How old do you have to be to drink?
How old do you have to be to run for congress?
How old do you have to be to run for President?

In most states, each of those questions has a different answer. Since the constitution itself defines some of those ages, and does so differently, it would be hard to argue a constitutional argument that ALL rights accrue on the day one turns 18.
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rabid_nerd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 03:26 AM
Response to Reply #7
10. "I do believe"
IMHO.. As I said I'm not a scholar.

I don't see driving and jobs as signs of adulthood.

Signing a legal contract = adult
Die for country = adult

I am against the 35 year-old age minimum for President AND the 25 year-old age minimum for Congress.

I am against Nevada's minimum of 21 for gambling.

I am against Colorado's minimum of 21 for a full drivers license and age of majority (adulthood).

I consider all of these minimum ages - in fact all age minimums above 18 - perhaps even above 17 - to be intrinsically immoral and discriminatory and a violation of equal protection and therefore unconstitutional.
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Dookus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 03:32 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. Then why 18?
If you're going to construe the 14th Amendment to mean that all rights should accrue to all people with no accounting for age, why not let 10 year olds vote, or 13 year olds gamble? Constitutionally, as you see it, what's the rationale?

The fact is, the equal protection clause has NEVER been used to mean that legitimate age restrictions are unconstitutional, ESPECIALLY since the constitution itself provides at least three different age limits for rights (18 to vote, 25 to run for congress, 35 to be President). Arguing that the 14th amendment overrules all those restrictions would never work
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rabid_nerd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 04:19 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. well the constitution is wrong
Edited on Wed Apr-07-04 04:24 AM by rabid_nerd
and needs to be changed

why 18? well like I said, maybe even 17.

Why maybe 17? Because you can get into the military at 17 in some circumstances.

Why not 10 or 13? Because they are no longer drafted into service nor have the right to vote.

They WERE allowed to drink and serve in the Civil War on both sides. Just not vote.

I do believe the minimum age for all rights should not be permitted to exceed the minimum age for being conscripted into the military.

And I believe that the Constitution should spell this out as such.
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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:31 AM
Response to Original message
4. My verdict (ahem)
Edited on Wed Apr-07-04 02:32 AM by BareKnuckledLiberal
Mohammed v School District (Case #1)

Slam-dunk: Mohammed wins based on improper compulsion of worship.

Mary v Dartmouth Police (Case #2)

There are a large number of problems with the case. Nearly all such cases depend on the violators' lack of resources relative to the DA's office, and the existence of many state industries dependent on fining status violators.

The first such problem is that Mary was fined as a "Minor In Posession". The law itself may be flawed if the lack of attention given to its title was given to the bill.

Mary (her lawyer) raises several good points of law, as well.

Probable outcome: Mary loses. You don't f**k with the cops' ability to shake down people for the mayor's pleasure.

IMO, status laws are nearly all unconstitutional, but it will take a couple of hard-fought cases -- and several SCOTUS justices who take the Constitution seriously -- to overturn them.

Kathy v Joe (Case #3)

Again, the crux of the argument is money, not law.

Joe will lose, but there is no good reason that he should.

The current legal and cultural background dictates that men must also be punished for sex. Sexual indenture now applies to men as it has for women.

Joe will probably have to leave his job and "go underground" as a "fugitive from justice" since he is in no position to pay most courts' financial decisions.

A pro-liberty pipedream: Establish a Reproductive and Infant Care Tax as a portion of the Income Tax. The tax may be rebated if the taxpayer can medically document sterility (low sperm count will not apply) or infertility. All such tax monies will be dedicated to a fund paying for the health and welfare of pregnant women and children born without sufficient support to ensure a determined level of care.

Until then, Joe is on the lam. Poor people must be made to realize that sex is a luxury for the rich alone, whom God has favo(u)red.

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Feanorcurufinwe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:37 AM
Response to Original message
5. Makes me glad I'm not a judge.
1. Mohammed wins. This one is pretty simple, to me anyway. It's not necessary to force Muslims to sing Christian songs in order to teach them music. The government can't force people to repeat religous propaganda (in this case music) that they don't agree with.

2. The state wins. As has been previously pointed out, the state can discriminate based on age, there is plenty of precedent for this. And the state does have a compelling state interest in regulating the use of alcohol. (According to precedent, anyway.)

3. This is not a really constitutional question, the constitution does not involve itself in the question of child support. No one is 'forcing Joe to have a child he doesn't want', Joe is simply being held accountable for the result of his action. As far as the 14th amendment, he isn't being deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor is he being denied equal protection of the laws.
I don't think this case would be accepted by the federal court system. At the state level, it is a different matter. It would depend on the constitution and laws of the particular state.
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chrisesq Donating Member (238 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:42 AM
Response to Original message
8. Now for a better answer--than my previous one--which wasnt an answer
Edited on Wed Apr-07-04 02:52 AM by chrisesq
On one:

Looks like a free exercise violation. Also, requiring this person to sing this song in order to pass a required fine arts class would probably violate the Lemon test. Question: is this the only class one can get their credit. Probably is irrelevant anyway.

(1) The government's action must not promote a particular religion or religious view;
(2) The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; and
(3) The government's action must not result in an "excessive entanglement" of the government and religion.

Of course this is a judgment call. If I was ruling I would say this promotes religion. Advancement? Depends on what is meant by advancement. Seems that it is a public school promoting a Christian Theme. But is it the primary effect. Doubt it, but that's a judgment call. Excessive entanglement? I don't know. Probably. Public school, required credit, religious song. I would say yes.

Thus, no F for the class

On two: Mary pays the fine. Several Reasons

Reason one. Age (outside of employment) is not a suspect class where one can argue that they are being denied equal protection. That's really the only answer there. All you need is a rational basis when not dealing with a suspect or quasi-suspect class. The state has one, thus she's a loser in this scenario.

You could go this route too. 22nd amendment allows states to enact their own liquor laws. Not the Federal Government's ability to make states pass laws. States can make the age limit, essentially, any age they want.

On three: Gender is not a suspect class, it is a quasi-suspect class. Therefore, if the government can show a substantial government interest in treating the reproductive rights of a female differently than they can a male, then it is constitutional.

It is my opinion that Joe will have to pay child support.
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hummingbird Donating Member (22 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:53 AM
Response to Original message
9. WOW
These are some of the greatest questions I've seen yet. Forgive me if it will take me, a pro-choice woman, a few days to answer, if I ever can, honestly, and fairly...

This is a huge issue...

I'm always gonna be pro choice, but I think I"ve just decided that there is NO GOD.

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7th_Sephiroth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 03:43 AM
Response to Original message
12. # 1 & 2 have been answered
#3 on the other hand is a toss-up, he has shown no want for the child and this woman demands money, not marrage, pending a blood test to prove that the child is actually his and not one she and someone else conceived, than tricked a guy into thinking was his, i cannot comment, but, children are a disease in todays world, no one should be forced to have or pay for a disease
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youngred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 01:54 PM
Response to Original message
15. Case one has already been ruled on
He needn't sing the songs if they violate his beliefs. My HS choir had several Jehovah's Witnesses in it and for all the religious songs they would leave the choir.

The Second, Alcohol is not a protected right under the 14th. The government has a legitimate purpose to impose the law (the courts have ruled and as part of the test for constitutionality there must be a legitimate govermnet purpose that is least restrictive on liberty to infringe on freedom
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