Resources for searching US Supreme Court Cases by which law was being challanged?
August 11, 2004 9:44 PM   Subscribe

Are there any good resources for searching United States Supreme Court Cases by which law was being challanged? Has the SC ever said a law banning interracial marriage is unconstitutional and on what grounds? (Hopefully an answers to the first question would allow me to answer the second on my own.)
posted by Apoch to Law & Government (8 answers total)
I don't have much to offer on the first question.

In answer to #2, however:
Loving v. Virginia
posted by mragreeable at 10:21 PM on August 11, 2004

Well, lawyers use Lexis or Westlaw for things like this. I'm not aware of a "search by law challenged" feature; both Lexis and Westlaw provide a natural language and a terms-and-connectors search, and you generally just think of words that are likely to be in an opinion and search for them. The more uncommon the word is, or the more unlikely it is to appear in a context outside the area you're interested in, the better.
Fortunately for you, there's a very specific, unusual word for the kind of law you want to research. It's miscegenation.
Unfortunately, I don't have all-you-can-use access to Lexis or Westlaw, but there's another resource, FindLaw, that offers some of the same features. I ran the search there and turned up a dozen cases that use the word. The next step is to pick a case that happened about when you think the law might have been challenged. I'd guess sometime between the 40's and 60's, so... Actually, looking at these case names, Loving v. Virginia stands out as one I read or heard about or something. Let's see...
1967...synopsis says:
Virginia's statutory scheme to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications held to violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
There ya go.
On preview: what mragreeable said.
posted by spacewrench at 10:23 PM on August 11, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you both. Now I just wonder, if using the same logic and the supremacy clause, the Supreme Court could overturn portions of State Constitutions banning gay marriages. (Politically, the court would probably have to be more liberal than it is today, but from a legal stand point it is an interesting idea.)
posted by Apoch at 10:37 PM on August 11, 2004

Apoch, addressing your first question, what you're seeking will be found to some extent in the US Code Annotated, which is a product of Westlaw (there are other less comprehensive sources). These aren't oriented to being a thorough account of the activities of a specific court, of course, so keep that in mind. What they do cover is relevant case law at all levels that has modified key provisions of the law or its implementation. Check local libraries, especially if you have access to a university library.
posted by dhartung at 12:43 AM on August 12, 2004

yes, you can search legal databases by any term you want. (so, a search for "virginia w/s marriage w/s statu! law" should get you a hit on Loving, as would a search for the actual VA code citation). as mentioned, you can also look at the annotated code--the annotations list important cases concerning the section of the code you're looking at. (i haven't found a USCA on-line for free, on the USC without the annotations). there are some free legal databases available: findlaw has SCOTUS cases. as does the oyez project. the SCOTUS site itself has only recent term opinions available electronically, but directs you to other sources [pdf] for them.

your local law school's library will also have a policy in place by which nonstudents, and nonlawyers, can use their library. the supreme court reporters will be there, but using the print index takes some getting used to. they will have an USCA, however.

(apoch--short answer--no. race is a protected class; as it stands now, sexual orientation is not. sex itself is only marginally a protected class and laws that disproportionately impact the sexes are permissible at a lower threshhold than discriminations that disproportionately impact the races. that being the short answer, there's a great deal more to the argument than that--if you know anyone currently in a Con Law II class, they'd probably be happy to explain at length the notion of protected class and the impact and the various burdens the government must meet to show the constitutionality of a given law. . . . but basically, no.)
posted by crush-onastick at 6:23 AM on August 12, 2004

laws that disproportionately impact the sexes are permissible at a lower threshhold than discriminations that disproportionately impact the races.

oops. that second "discriminations" should also have read "laws"--need more coffee.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:25 AM on August 12, 2004

crush, leave out the protected class aspect for a moment. I am more interested in the other aspect of apoch's question: Can SCOTUS throw out an amendment/part of a state constitution?
posted by billsaysthis at 2:13 PM on August 12, 2004

The important aspect of Loving v. Virginia in the current marriage debate comes at the end of Chief Justice Berger's opinion:
...These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.
To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
posted by obloquy at 3:55 PM on August 12, 2004

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