The bill of rights can be thought of as the first 10 Amendments to the constitution as a
kind of sacred guarantee citizen protection from excessive interruptions from the government.
As seen in history, that was what the founding fathers intended. However, what happens
when one citizen claims their constitutional rights clash with the interests of other people or
involved parties? There are challenges to this, most of which are legal. Some of the battles
make their way to the Supreme Court, where a middle ground is identified as well as the need
for a common civil society, what is called civil rights and liberties (Smith & Hansen 2008).
Using the freedom of speech, Congress shall not make any laws abridging these rights. That
is how the First Amendment reads. However, rules are all the time made which do that.
American history has seen the constant challenges on restrictions on free speech to its
citizens, of which students raise some. These students feel their First Amendment Rights are
restricted because they are considered students (Zietlow, 2005). There are also what are
considered landmark cases, which are famous court cases that have changed the way the
United States operates. The first landmark Supreme Court case that is important to know is
the Marbury vs. Madison. This case produced the leading power in the Supreme Court and
the Federal Judicial branch, which is known as the Judicial Review.
The Judicial review has the power to declare laws unconstitutional Marbury, who was
a judge appointed by John Adams in 1801 after he had already lost the election to Thomas
Jefferson, the incoming President. Jefferson’s secretary of state, James Madison, refused to
give the appointing letter to Marbury. It caused there to be a fight between John Adams, a
federalist and anti-federalist Thomas Jefferson. Though it was unclear what the job of the
Court was, it was in the ruling of this case that the Court’s roles were defined (Schlanger,
1999). Marshal laid out the responsibility of the judicial branch after he declared the US
constitution was the supreme law of the land. He also made it clear that it was the Judicial job
to interpret laws as they pertain to the US Constitution. Marshal also claimed that if a law
should go against the constitution, then it was the work of the judicial branch to strike down
the law and make it null and void, something known as judicial review. With this having been
established, the three branches of the government were closer to being equal, and the judicial
review provided the check the judicial branch has on the other two. With this, it gives the
other two branches the ability to stop it from doing something wrong.
Another civil rights case that had the most significant impact on American democracy
was the 14th Amendment Cases. It defined citizenship following the Civil war, and it stated,
for the first time, that state laws must be constitutional. With this, the state was could not
violate any of its citizen’s rights, and it states that no one shall be denied equal protection
under the law, by the state. It is these essential; words that provide the basis for the appeal
and using two examples of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. the Board of Education of
Topeka Kansas. In the first case, Plessy vs. Ferguson, it happened during a time of high racial
tension, especially in the South, in 1980, just 30 years after the Civil War (Hersch, 2006). It
was also during the time of the abolition of slavery. Homer Plessy, who was living in
Louisiana, was one-eighth African American. Though he wanted to change things in his
country and being an activist, he intentionally wanted to be arrested while boarding a train,
with his main aim to fight segregation. He took a first-class seat, and on informing the
conductor that he was one-eighth black, he got arrested for refusing to go to the ”all blacks”
train car (Smith & Welch, 1989). When he was found guilty, he sued the judge, Ferguson,
claiming violation of his 14th Amendment Rights to equal protection. His case saw its way
up to the Supreme Court. The Court, however, ruled that public facilities could be segregated
as long as they were equal.
For this reason, the case was referred to as the separate but equal case the precedent,
guiding all future cases, allowed segregation laws to spread throughout the South and are
referred to as Jim Crow laws. They also provide different accommodations between the
blacks and whites when it came to every public facility. Sixty years later, the call for the
extension of civil rights for African Americans took hold of America (Schlanger, 2006).
Brown vs. Board of Education is segregationist laws that existed in many parts of
America. They got challenged by several cases brought by African-American suing schools
over segregationist laws. Linda Brown, who was seven years old from Topeka Kansas, had to
go to an all-black school despite living near an all-white school. The Supreme Court, in a
unanimous decision, voted that segregating schools based on race was very wrong, and a
violation of the 14th amendments promise to provide all with equal protection (Card &
Krueger, 1992). The precedent of separate-but-equal in Plessy vs. Ferguson had no place in
public education systems. By simply separating based on race, these laws created an odd
situation. For this reason, the Board of education overturned Plessy vs. Fergusson and opened
the door to challenge segregation throughout the United States (Neumark & Stock, 2006).
with witnesses for defense as guaranteed by the 6th Amendment Following In Re Gault,
juveniles could not be denied the same due process rights as adults.
Lastly, looking at First Amendment cases concerning free speech, both involve the
rights of students. An example to be used is the tinker vs. Des Moines in Iowa school district.
The case was about three students who were wearing black armbands to school in protest of
the Vietnam War. After they got suspended, they sued the school claiming that their rights to
free speech in the 1st Amendment, had been violated. The Court ruled seven to two, and it
was in favor of the students. In an opinion delivered by Justice Abe, the Court claimed that
the protest did not, in any way, disrupt the learning process or environment and that the
students did not shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gates. The Court also
ruled that free speech is more than just words and can also include clothing or art or any way
that people decide to express themselves (Ringquist, 2005). This precedent continues to be
debated by students who believe that their free speech rights are being violated. It is seen
when schools impose the use of school uniforms and dress codes, given the courts have ruled
in favor of the schools.
Though it can be said that democracy is not good at handling chronic societal
problems, it plays its fair share in handling the issues to some extent. In public goods
provision and handling of environmental issues, democracy is weak at coming to a conclusive
decision (Touche, & Rogers, 2005). The decision should, however, be one that fits all and for
good to all. With the use of bicameralism, separation of power, and use of federal systems,
political innovation can be seen to be hard and is made worse by these factors. The main
reason why democracy then becomes desirable is that there is political competition, and to
avoid such kinds of win-or take politics, there has to be competitive politics.
In conclusion, the present and what history made of democracy and people’s rights was more
of monopoly politics. They are the destructive forces not only in politics but also in
economics. There need to be systems in place that can act without the government having to
come together with an opposition party to make things happen.
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Smith J. P., & Welch, F. R. (1989). Black economic progress after Myrdal. Journal of
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