The Supremes’ Greatest Hits

you've heard of Roe v. Wade, but just how well do you know your country’s constitutional highs and lows? We’re looking for the name of each major Supreme Court decision described below. In addition to Trojans with “Esq.” after their names, we expect American history buffs and “Jeopardy”-addicts to approach the bench.


1. When an Army surgeon moved to Missouri in 1834, he brought with him a family of slaves. Although slavery was illegal in the Show-Me State, the doctor put the family up for sale. The slaves sued for their freedom, claiming Missouri citizenship and the right to protec-tion under its laws. In this infamous decision, the Supreme Court denied their petition because the family’s “ancestors were of pure African blood.”

2. In this landmark case, a U.S. president refused to turn over audio evidence under subpoena, citing “executive privilege.” Though the court recognized a constitutionally-based doctrine of executive privilege, it erased the benefit of the privilege as far as this executive was concerned — deciding it was overridden by the exigencies of a pending criminal investigation.

3. Before 1963, if a defendant couldn’t afford a lawyer, he faced prosecutor, judge and jury alone. That changed after a penniless Florida man, convicted of breaking into a pool hall, challenged the constitutionality of such proceedings. The court overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial with a court-appointed defense attorney. On retrial, the man was acquitted.

4. Further extending defendants’ rights, in 1966 the court ruled that when police take a suspect into custody, he “must be warned prior to questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney...”

5. In 1892, a man purchased a first-class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway and took a seat in the whites-only compartment. Though he was only one-eighth African American and “the mixture of colored blood was not discernible in him,” the conductor ordered him removed. He refused to budge, so police arrested him. The court rebuffed the man’s subsequent constitutional challenge, finding that “separate but equal” rail cars didn’t violate the 14th Amendment.

6. Sixty years later, several black families from Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware brought class action suits seeking admission for their kids to public schools on a non-segregated basis. This time the court sided with the plaintiffs, banning “separate but equal” once and for all.

7. During World War I, anti-war activists sent draftees a letter calling conscription “despotism” and urging the recruits not to “submit to intimidation.” Though the letter didn’t explicitly advocate violent draft resistance, its writers were charged with conspiracy to incite insubordination. When the accused sought First Amendment protection, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes refused, likening the inflammatory letter to “crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”

After the Pearl Harbor invasion, the Pentagon issued an order excluding people of Japanese ancestry from parts of the West Coast. Citizens and aliens alike were subject to curfews, relocation, detention and even imprisonment. In this notorious 1944 case, the court endorsed the policy, citing a compelling need to prevent espionage and sabotage.

9. Poll taxes were once a back-door way for officials to block the poor from exercising their constitutional right to elected representation. In 1966, a group of Virginians sued, claiming the tax was uncon-stitutional. The court agreed, outlawing even a nominal $1.50 fee.




Contest Rules
1. We are looking for the name of the case — for example, Roe v. Wade
corresponding to each of the nine clues.

2. Send your answers by no later than June 15 to:

The Last Word
c/o USC Trojan Family Magazine
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2537

Fax (213-821-1100) and email
<> submissions
are also welcome. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

We will award up to five $30 gift
certificates from Borders Books and Music to those legal eagles who correctly identify each Supremes hit. If more than five correct entries are received, we will draw winners by lot.

Visit your neighborhood Borders Books and Music store for over 200,000 book, music and video titles in stock, plus special orders on most merchandise. Serving you throughout Southern California and across the nation.

Last Word Solutions - Spring 1999

Illustration by Matthew Martin

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