Right to Privacy
Right to Privacy Terms
Get down with the lingo.
Eisenstadt V. BairdIn this 1972 case, the United States Supreme Court held that single persons possess the same privacy right earlier extended to married couples under Griswold. The ruling struck down a Massachusetts law that made it a felony to distribute contraceptives to unmarried persons. In the ruling, the Court stated that "if the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted government intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or begat a child."3
Fourteenth AmendmentRatified in 1868, this amendment to the Constitution contained a due process clause that stated that "No State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." During the nineteenth century, the Supreme Court concluded that privacy was among the fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Gonzales V. Carhart And Gonzales V. Planned ParenthoodIn these 2007 cases, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress in 2003. The law prohibited a specific form of abortion in which the fetus was destroyed after being removed from the uterus. The Court held that the law did not impose an undue burden since the more common method of dilation and extraction, in which the fetus was destroyed before removal, was unaffected by the ban and therefore still available to women. The majority on the Court argued that the essential protections of Roe v. Wade were left unaffected. But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that the decisions signaled a new hostility to abortion rights within the Court.
Griswold V. ConnecticutIn this 1965 case, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Connecticut law that forbade counseling for and use of contraceptives. In a 7-2 ruling, the Court held that the Connecticut law violated a "right to marital privacy." In the opinion, Justice William Douglas argued that in addition to the expressed guarantees of the Bill of Rights, other rights were contained within the "penumbras," or shadows, existing along the margins of the Bill of Rights. These penumbras were "formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance. " In other words, the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments, Douglas argued, protected more than the specific rights contained within each of them; they also established "zones of privacy" that the government was equally bound to protect.4
Harris V. McRaeIn this 1980 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Hyde Amendment, which imposed severe limitations on the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, did not violate the privacy rights granted under the Constitution. The Court held that the right to an abortion did not convey to a woman "a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices."5
Katz V. United StatesIn this 1967 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the protections of the Fourth Amendment do apply to wiretaps. A warrant was required, it said, before the police or other government agency could tap a public phone. Emphasizing that the Fourth Amendment protects people, and not just places, one Justice argued that under the Fourth Amendment an individual is guaranteed privacy wherever there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Loving V. VirginiaIn this 1967 case, the United States Supreme Court held that states cannot ban interracial marriage since "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."
In this 1967 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Virginia's ban on interracial marriage violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Meyer V. NebraskaIn this 1923 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a Nebraska law violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court held that the liberties protected under this clause included more than "merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men." This ruling provided the basis for an expanded right to privacy under the Constitution.
New Jersey V. T.L.O.In this 1985 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that while students were protected under the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches by school officials, the standard for conducting a warrantless search was lower. Teachers and administrators need not have "probable cause" that a crime had been committed in order to conduct a search; instead, the search must only meet a standard of "reasonableness, under all of the circumstances." In practice, this meant that school officials only needed a reasonable suspicion that a school rule or law had been broken before conducting a search, and that the search itself must be reasonably conducted.6
PenumbrasJustice William Douglas used this term to describe the rights that can be deduced from the rights more explicitly laid out in the Bill of Rights. In 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut, Douglas argued that in addition to the expressed guarantees regarding privacy in the Constitution, there were many others contained within the "penumbras," or shadows, lying along the edges of the Bill of Rights. These penumbras were "formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance." In other words, in addition to the sort of privacy rights expressly protected under the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, these amendments also established "zones of privacy" that the government was equally bound to protect.7
Pierce V. Society Of SistersIn this 1925 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that an Oregon law requiring that children ages eight to sixteen attend public schools violated the constitutionally protected right of "parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control."8 Selecting a school for one's child was a parental choice that fell into a zone of privacy into which the government could not tread.
Planned Parenthood V. CaseyIn this 1992 case, the United States Supreme Court eliminated the trimester framework established under Roe v. Wade for measuring the constitutionality of state laws on abortion. In reviewing a Pennsylvania law that imposed several requirements regarding abortions on women and doctors, the Court upheld the basis guarantee established in Roe v. Wade. But the Court held that the state possessed an interest in the fetus prior to the third trimester, and therefore states could intervene earlier than the last three months of the pregnancy. A woman still had a privacy right to an abortion, but states could introduce requirements of various sorts so long as they did not pose an "undue burden" or present "substantial obstacles" to this right.
Privacy TortsA tort is a wrong or injury caused by an individual for which the victim can seek compensation. Privacy torts, more specifically, provide individuals with the legal tools they need to seek damages when they feel that someone or something has violated their privacy. They are established by statutory and common law.
Legal scholars generally break privacy torts into one of four types: private facts, intrusion, false light, and appropriation. A private facts tort involves the public disclosure of private facts about an individual that the public has no right or need to know. An intrusion tort involves the highly offensive intrusion upon the privacy or solitude of a person. The intrusion can be physical—for example, an uninvited entry into a person's home—but wiretapping and eavesdropping have also been recognized as forms of intrusion. False light torts involve the publication of false and offensive representations of people. And appropriation torts involve the use of someone's name or image without their approval.
Roe V WadeIn this 1973 case, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that prohibited abortion in all cases except those performed in order to save the mother's life. The Court held that the constitutionally protected right to privacy was "broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy."9 Acknowledging, however, that the state acquired an increasing interest in a woman's pregnancy as it advanced, as both the viability of the fetus and the health risks of an abortion to the mother increased, the Court established a trimester framework to guide permissible forms of state intervention. During the first three months, a woman could obtain an abortion without any government interference. During the second three months, as the risks posed by an abortion to the mother increased, states could intervene in order to protect the mother's health. And during the last three months, as the fetus reached viability, states could regulate and even prohibit abortions.
Stenberg V. CarhartIn this 2000 case, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law that prohibited partial birth abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother. The Court held that the law did not include an allowance for abortions necessary to protect the mother's health. And the Court further held that the law was ambiguous; it failed to adequately differentiate between the method of abortion being prohibited and other legal late-term methods. This ambiguity, the Court held, may discourage doctors from performing abortions, thereby posing an "undue burden" on women seeking an abortion.
TortA tort is a wrong or injury caused by an individual for which the victim can seek compensation. Some torts are also crimes, and the person committing the tort can be prosecuted in a criminal court. But most torts are not crimes; instead they are defined as "a civil wrong, other than contract violation, done by one party to another party."10 Their primary purpose within the legal system is to provide individuals with the legal tools they need to sue others and seek damages when they believe that they have been wronged by others.
Vernonia School District V. ActonIn this 1995 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the district's mandatory drug testing program for all student athletes did not violate students' Fourth Amendment rights. Citing the compelling school drug problem, the failure of other forms of intervention, and the peer influence of student athletes, it held that the drug testing program met the standard of reasonableness established in New Jersey v. T.L.O. The Court also held that the test itself was not unreasonably invasive of the students' privacy. Athletes, it argued, were accustomed to less privacy than other students as they shower and change in a common locker room.
Webster V. Reproductive Health ServicesIn this 1989 case, the United States Supreme Court upheld as constitutional most parts of a Missouri law written from the premise that the "life of each human being begins at conception."11 The law forbade state employees to conduct abortions and prohibited the use of public facilities for abortions. The law also required viability tests for the fetus at twenty weeks before performing abortions, rather than twenty-four weeks, the requirement established by Roe v. Wade's trimester approach. In its ruling, the Court did not overturn the essential guarantee provided in Roe v. Wade but it defended the right of the states to impose these sorts of restrictions, and it criticized the inflexibility of the trimester framework established in the 1973 ruling.
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