H2H

The Lochner Era & "Substantive Due Process" (Part Two)

Lochner Era Court“School choice” wouldn’t emerge onto the national scene until after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the various forays into moral corruption and social decay wouldn’t become staples of the nation’s highest court until a decade after that. The rest of the Lochner Era was largely about how freedom meant letting corporations do whatever they wanted to workers because those being exploited had just as much theoretical control over the outcome as their gilded overlords did. (They didn’t put it in those exact terms.) Between 1897 – 1937, the Supreme Court struck down nearly 200 different statues, most as violations of “freedom of contract” or other violation of “economic substantive due process.”

The Lochner Era & "Substantive Due Process" (Part One)

City Bakeries

The Lochner Era (1897 – 1937), however, is named for a case representing a judicial philosophy which dominated the nation’s highest court for nearly forty years. For over a generation, the Court pushed back against the reform efforts of the Progressive Era and gave FDR fits by overturning many of his best efforts to regulate industry during the Great Depression. They laid the foundation for the modern “school choice” movement by uncovering new rights related to parenting and families. In the process, they brought to life an understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment that would end up securing the rights of American citizens to contraception, gay sex, and abortions.

Property Rights vs. The Communal Good - Two Early Supreme Court Cases

Supreme Court GenericThe dilemma of any effort to compile “must know” Supreme Court cases is deciding where to draw the line. If you narrow it to a list of 12, there are at least 3 or 4 others that really MUST be added in the name of consistency. If you expand the list to, say... 24, you're sacrificing another half-dozen that should simply NOT be neglected if you're to retain ANY credibility.

Hammurabi, King of Babylon (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

1. Responsible for the best-known and arguably most influential set of legal codes in the ancient world. Key issue: they were written down and publicly posted.

2. Brought Mesopotamia together as a more-or-less united empire (this time with Babylon as the seat of central authority) for the first time since Sargon six centuries prior.

3. Seriously, the written law thing. It’s just huge. “An eye for an eye”? That was his. Innocent until proven guilty? Also his, although not phrased quite so smoothly. A chance for the accused to defend themselves? Punishment fitting the crime? Throwing people in rivers to see if they float? That’s Hammurabi, baby.

The Swahili Coast ("Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

Blue Dhow1. The Swahili Coast was an important part of the Indian Ocean Trade Network in the 12th – 15th centuries. It’s a useful historical example of trade networks, cultural diffusion, and interaction between man and environment.

2. Over time, the people of the Swahili Coast evolved into a series of independent city-states sharing a common language (Swahili), a common faith (Islam), and a coherent economic system (er… “Trade”) – all of which were adapted and substantially modified to fit their local needs and collective culture.

3. The Swahili Coast declined after the Portuguese tried to take over Indian Ocean trade and mandate adherance to their superior Euopean whims. It didn’t work, but it did enough damage that the glory days were no more.

"Have To" History: United States vs. Nixon (1974)

Serious NixonThree Big Things:

1. In 1972, five men working for the Nixon Administration were caught breaking into Democratic National Headquarters. Investigations revealed much wider-spread wrongdoing by the White House – and efforts by the President himself to cover it all up.

2. When it was revealed that the President recorded his conversations, the tapes were subpoenaed by Congress; Nixon refused, claiming “executive privilege.”

3. The Supreme Court ruled against the President, who resigned to avoid impeachment. “Watergate” became shorthand for all things corrupt, especially in reference to major political scandals.

"Have To" History: A Wall of Separation

H2H: Supreme CourtThe First Amendment contains six specific protections, somewhat related, and presumably so very important that they all tied for first when the Framers were debating what to guarantee the mostiest mostest. These are the biggies that squeezed in ahead of militias and quartering of soldiers, and even beat out due process in order of presentation. The right to protest. The right to associate with whomever you wish, including but certainly not limited to political organizations of any and all stripes. Freedom of the press and of speech – absolute linchpins to any nation hoping to maintain the slightest credibility as a true democracy.

But coming ahead of all of them – earning the first two slots in all of Amendment-dom – are the twin ‘freedom of religion’ clauses.

Roe v. Wade (1973) - Written Opinions {Excerpts}

I’ve recently been working on something I’m hoping other teachers might find useful for their own reference or for use in the classroom. It’s a compilation of a dozen or so of the most “Have To” Supreme Court cases in U.S. History – case summaries, excerpts from the majority opinions and periodically from dissents as well, and a few guiding questions over both the summaries and the opinion excerpts.

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