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The Top 10 APD (Citizenship) Cases
Political Studies

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Bradwell v. Illinois (1873)
Background: Refused a women to right to practice law in a state. She agreed in Lockean terms that she had such inalienable rights, but the Supreme court opined with civic republicanism and communitarian ideas. Myra Bradwell asserted her right to a license to practice law in Illinois by virtue of her status as a United States citizen. The judges of the Illinois Supreme Court denied her application with only one judge dissenting.

Question: Is the right to obtain a license to practice law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to all citizens of the United States?

Holding: No. While the Court agreed that all citizens enjoy certain privileges and immunities which individual states cannot take away, it did not agree that the right to practice law in a state's courts is one of them. There was no agreement, argued Justice Miller, that this right depended on citizenship.
In his concurrence, Justice Bradley went above and beyond the constitutional explanations of the case to describe the reasons why it was natural and proper for women to be excluded from the legal profession. He cited the importance of maintaining the "respective spheres of man and woman," with women performing the duties of motherhood and wife in accordance with the "law of the Creator." Citizenship was predicated on first being a Man. The scope of ‘certain privileges and immunities’ protected under the 14th amendment while not enumerated, was decided that it did NOT include practicing law. Which is in direct contradiction to the Declaration of Independence.
Minor v. Happersett (1875)
Background: Mrs. Virginia Minor, a native born, free, white citizen of the United States, and of the State of Missouri, over the age of twenty-one years, wishing to vote for electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, and for a representative in Congress, and for other officers, at the general election held in November, 1872, applied to one Happersett, the registrar of voters, to register her as a lawful voter, which he refused to do, assigning for cause that she was not a "male citizen of the United States," but a woman. She thereupon sued him in one of the inferior State courts of Missouri, for wilfully refusing to place her name upon the list of registered voters, by which refusal she was deprived of her right to vote.

Question: Is the right to vote one of the privileges and immunities guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment?

Holding: No, the right to vote is not one of those privileges and immunities. The word "citizen" is often used to convey the idea of membership in a nation. In that sense, women, of born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction of the United States, have always been considered citizens of the United States, as much so before the adoption of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution as since. The right of suffrage was not necessarily one of the privileges or immunities of citizenship before the adoption of the fourteenth amendment, and that amendment does not add to these privileges and immunities. It simply furnishes additional guaranty for the protection of such as the citizen already had. At the time of the adoption of that amendment, suffrage was not coextensive with the citizenship of the States; nor was it at the time of the adoption of the Constitution. Woman denied participation in full citizenship by use a narrow interpretation of Privileges and immunities clause. Since the right of suffrage to Women was not necessarily one of the privileges or immunities of citizenship before the adoption of the 14th amendment, and that amendment does not add to these privileges and immunities. It simply furnishes additional guaranty for the protection of such as the citizen already had. Which is applied to (in theory) to newly freed Black men. Also, The Court upheld Missouri’s State constitution which confines the right of voting to "male citizens of the United States”. This effectively defined citizenship as tied to the nation not the state.
Elk v. Wilkins (1884)
Background: John Elk, a Winnebago Indian, was born on an Indian reservation and later resided with whites on the non-reservation US territory in Omaha, Nebraska, where he renounced his former tribal allegiance and claimed citizenship by virtue of the Citizenship Clause.

Question: The question then was whether an Indian born a member of one of the Indian tribes within the United States is, merely by reason of his or her birth within the United States and of his afterward voluntarily separating him or herself from the tribe and taking up residence among white citizens, a citizen of the United States within the meaning of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

Holding: The members of Indian Tribes owe immediate allegiance to their several tribes, and were not part of the people of the United States. Thus, born a member of an Indian tribe, even on American soil, Elk could not meet the allegiance test of the jurisdictional phrase because he “owed immediate allegiance to” his tribe, a vassal or quasi-nation, not to the United States. The Court held Elk was not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States at birth. An Indian cannot make himself a citizen of the United States without the consent and the co-operation of the government.
The exclusion of Native Americans from citizenship was eventually eliminated by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. At the time, two thirds of Native Americans had already achieved citizenship.

Significance: The definition of Citizenship acquired via naturalization was the only method of applying for citizenship. Native Americans having been born here, did not qualify for naturalization. This left Native Americans in political limbo for multiple decades. After the Elk v. Wilkins decision, the Dawes Act of 1887 gave American citizenship to all Native Americans who accepted individual land grants under the provisions of statutes and treaties. The issue of American Indian birthright citizenship wouldn’t fully be settled until 1924, when Congress conferred citizenship on all American Indians under the Indian Citizenship Act.
Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1892)
Background: Lone Wolf was a Kiowa Indian chief, living in the Indian Territory created by the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867. A provision in the treaty required that three-fourths of the adult males in each of the Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche tribes agree to subsequent changes to the terms of the treaty. In 1892, Congress attempted to alter the reservation lands granted to the tribes. In enacting the relevant legislation, Congress substantively changed the terms of the treaty and opened 2 million acres of reservation lands to settlement by non-Indians. Lone Wolf filed a complaint on behalf of the three tribes in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, alleging that Congress' change violated the 1867 treaty. That court dismissed the case. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the decision. Lone Wolf and the tribes appealed to the Supreme Court.

Question: Did Congress have the authority to substantively change the terms of the 1867 treaty and open the two million acres to settlement?

Holding: Yes. In a unanimous decision, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and upheld the Congressional action. The Court rejected the Indians' argument that Congress' action was a taking under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Justice Edward D. White described the Indians as "the wards of the nation," and matters involving Indian lands were the sole jurisdiction of Congress. Congress therefore had the power to "abrogate the provisions of an Indian treaty," including the two million acre change. Justice John M. Harlan concurred in the judgment. The Courts used the “Plenary Power” Doctrine to violate treaties and essentially turn Members of a sovereign nation (under treaties) into Wards of the Nation whose citizenship is dependent upon arbitrary naturalization laws. Justice White’s opinion stated that Congress had the right to alter the terms of treaties with Native American tribes, because “authority over the tribal relations of the Indians has been exercised by Congress from the beginning, and the power has always been deemed a political one.” The judiciary could not interfere in Congress’s “plenary power.” This decision was based on the idea that Indians held dependent status to the United States government. The “plenary power” doctrine first affirmed in Lone Wolf v Hitchcock is still valid Indian policy today.
Muller v. Oregon (1908)
Background: Oregon enacted a law that limited women to ten hours of work in factories and laundries.

Question: Does the Oregon law violate a woman's freedom of contract implicit in the liberty protected by due process of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Holding: There was no constitutional violation. The factory and laundry owners claimed that there was no reasonable connection between the law and public health, safety, or welfare. In a famous brief in defense of the Oregon law, attorney Louis Brandeis elaborately detailed expert reports on the harmful physical, economic and social effects of long working hours on women. Brewer's opinion was based on the proposition that physical and social differences between the sexes warranted a different rule respecting labor contracts. Theretofore, gender was not a basis for such distinctions. Brewer's opinion conveyed the accepted wisdom of the day: that women were unequal and inferior to men. In this case, State regulations were used to deprive women of their national citizenship rights.

Significance: The Brandeis Brief named after Justice L. Brandeis, (part of Muller v. Oregon) was a pioneering legal brief that was the first in United States legal history to rely more on a compilation of scientific information and social science than on legal citations. The Brandeis Brief consisted 2 out of the 100-page legal argument. The rest of the document contained testimony by medics, social scientists, and male workers arguing that long working hours had a negative effect on the "health, safety, morals, and general welfare of women. It became the model for future Supreme Court presentations in cases affecting the health or welfare of classes of individuals. This strategy of combining legal argument with scientific evidence was later successfully used in Brown v. Board of Education to demonstrate the harmful psychological effects of segregated education on African-American children.
West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937)
Background: In 1932, Washington state passed a law entitled "Minimum Wages for Women." It called for minimum wages for women and children as a means to combat "pernicious effects on their health and morals" and provided for a special commission, with input from industry and the public, to determine appropriate minimum wage levels. Elsie Parrish, a chambermaid at the West Coast Hotel, later sued the hotel in a state court claiming that it had not paid her the law's minimum wages. Parrish sought the balance of her income between what she was actually paid and the minimum wage (set at $14.50 per week of 48 hours). West Coast Hotel defended by arguing that the law was unconstitutional. The state court agreed and ruled for the hotel. Parrish appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court's ruling and directed that damages be paid to Parrish. West Coast Hotel appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reviewed the case in 1936 and issued its opinion in 1937.

Question: Did the minimum wage law violate the liberty of contract as construed under the Fifth Amendment as applied by the Fourteenth Amendment?

Holding: The Court held that the establishment of minimum wages for women was constitutionally legitimate. The Court noted that the Constitution did not speak of the freedom of contract and that liberty was subject to the restraints of due process. The Court also noted that employers and employees were not equally "free" in negotiating contracts, since employees often were constrained by practical and economic realities. This was found to be especially true in the case of women.

Significance: Regulation is used to deny contractual rights under the privileges and immunity clause. West Coast Hotel alleged that because the minimum wage law prevented employers and employees from freely negotiating wages (a la Lochner), it restrained "liberty" of contract without due process of the law. In response, the Court flatly declared that the "Constitution does not speak of freedom of contract" and that such a freedom is thus "a qualified, and not an absolute, right" under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court argued that while the Fourteenth Amendment bans arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty, and property by the state (or protects "procedural" due process, e.g., a right to a fair trial), it does not prohibit the states' ability to "reasonably" regulate the terms of certain activities for the public good (does not protect "substantive" due process, e.g., the basic right to freely contract).
Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire (2007)
Background: Over her nineteen-year career at Goodyear Tire, Lilly Ledbetter was consistently given low rankings in annual performance-and-salary reviews and low raises relative to other employees. Ledbetter sued Goodyear for gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that the company had given her a low salary because of her gender. A jury found for Ledbetter and awarded her over $3.5 million, which the district judge later reduced to $360,000. Goodyear appealed, citing a Title VII provision that requires discrimination complaints to made within 180 days of the employer's discriminatory conduct. Goodyear argued that the jury should only have considered the one annual salary review that had occurred within the 180-day limitations period before Ledbetter's complaint.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the lower court, ruled that the jury could only examine Ledbetter's career for evidence of discrimination as far back as the last annual salary review before the start of the 180-day limitations period. The Circuit Court ruled that the fact that Ledbetter was getting a low salary during the 180 days did not justify the evaluation of Goodyear's decisions over Ledbetter's entire career. Instead, only those annual reviews that could have affected Ledbetter's payment during the 180 days could be evaluated. The Circuit Court found no evidence of discrimination in those reviews, so it reversed the District Court and dismissed Ledbetter's complaint.

Question: Can a plaintiff bring a salary discrimination suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when the disparate pay is received during the 180-day statutory limitations period, but is the result of discriminatory pay decisions that occurred outside the limitations period?

Holding: For a timely claim, Ledbetter would have needed to file within 180 days of a discriminatory salary decision; the Court did not consider it significant that paychecks she received during the 180 days prior to her claim were affected by the past discrimination. Discriminatory intent is a crucial element of a Title VII disparate-treatment claim, the Court held, but each instance of Goodyear's discriminatory intent fell outside the limitations period.

Dissent: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the majority's ruling out of tune with the realities of wage discrimination and "a cramped interpretation of Title VII, incompatible with the statute's broad remedial purpose." She suggested that "the Legislature may act to correct this Court's parsimonious reading of Title VII."
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
Background: Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri. From 1833 to 1843, he resided in Illinois (a free state) and in an area of the Louisiana Territory, where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After returning to Missouri, Scott sued unsuccessfully in the Missouri courts for his freedom, claiming that his residence in free territory made him a free man. Scott then brought a new suit in federal court. Scott's master maintained that no pure-blooded Negro of African descent and the descendant of slaves could be a citizen in the sense of Article III of the Constitution.

Question: Was Dred Scott free or a slave?

Holding: Dred Scott was a slave. Under Articles III and IV, argued Taney, no one but a citizen of the United States could be a citizen of a state, and that only Congress could confer national citizenship. Taney reached the conclusion that no person descended from an American slave had ever been a citizen for Article III purposes. The Court then held the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, hoping to end the slavery question once and for all.
The Insular Cases (1901)
Background: In 1898, the United States signed the Treaty of Paris (entered into force April 11, 1899), which ended the Spanish–American War and granted the United States the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Additionally, Cuba remained under the jurisdiction of the United States Military Government until its independence on May 20, 1902. At the time, there was a debate on how to govern these new territories since nothing was said about it in the U.S. Constitution.

Question: What is the citizenship status of those living in unincorporated territory (i.e. Puerto Rico)?

Holding: Full constitutional protection does not extend to all places under American control -- even U.S. citizens may lack constitutional rights. Argued on the basis that democracy and colonialism are compatible.

Significance: The cases were the Court's response to a major issue of the 1900 presidential election and the American Anti-Imperialist League, summarized by the phrase "Does the Constitution follow the flag?" Established the Doctrine of Incorporation -- full rights only extends to territories that are completely incorporated as states (AK and HI).
United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898)
Background: The Chinese Exclusion Acts denied citizenship to Chinese immigrants. Moreover, by treaty no Chinese subject in the United States could become a naturalized citizen. Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco. At age 21, he returned to China to visit his parents who had previously resided in the United States for 20 years. When he returned to the United States, Wong was denied entry on the ground that he was not a citizen.

Question: Could the government deny citizenship to persons born in the United States in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Holding: No. The government could not deny citizenship to anyone born in the United States. To reach this conclusion, Justice Gray's tedious majority opinion managed to traverse much of western civilization.

Significance: Interpretation of "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" phrasing in the 14th Amendment still used today as it pertains to children of immigrants.
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