And the Verdict is…


In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution revolves around juries and whether or not a case deserves or warrants the need to have a jury present. Everyone has the basic right to a trial by jury, however, this may not hold true in civil court or common law court where there are a few exceptions to the rule. Statistically, juries actually decided less than one percent of civil cases that are brought to trial, however, there are few exceptions where a jury is necessary and thus these are protected by the Seventh Amendment. This amendment requires that only juries be used in civil federal court and not in cases that are at the state level. Surprisingly, the United States is one of the only nations that still requires trials by civil juries, whereas many nations in Europe, Asia, and so on do not require juries. But does the lack of a jury help or hinder one’s case? Does that make the court proceedings more impartial or more biased? The requirement by law that most legal cases have a jury stems from colonial times and how many trials held by English officials failed to provide support or a jury for the defendant and thus they had no chance of winning their case.



A landmark Supreme Court case that dealt with the Seventh Amendment was Feltner v. Columbia Pictures Television Inc. This case, which took place in 1998, referenced an instance from 1991 where Columbia had ended the agreements licensing several TV series, all which were owned by C. Elvin Feltner, after his payments for ownership of these programs failed. Columbia sued Feltner for copyright infringement because he continued to show these series after he stopped paying Columbia for ownership. Feltner requested a trial by jury hoping he would win some sympathy, but the District Court denied his request and awarded Columbia statutory damages following a simple bench trial (trial ruled on only by a judge). The Court of Appeals upheld the decision stating that the Seventh Amendment allows trials to proceed without a jury if they fall under the common law category of case classification.



Surprisingly in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Feltner and said that regardless of a clause in the Copyright Act, the Seventh Amendment provides the right to trial by jury if it is requested and that the jury may decide that amount of statutory damages that must be paid. Here the court upheld the right of every citizen to have a trial by jury when requested.


So, the Seventh Amendment presents somewhat of a conundrum for it guarantees the right to a trial by jury, but also provides instances where juries are deemed unnecessary. But should there be any court case where a jury should not be used, or should they be used in every case regardless of content or severity. Does it say something about our own justice system because we still value and use juries often, while other nations do not? Jury’s still out on that one.


“I Think I’m Gonna Need a Lawyer!”





In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.


The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, much like the Fifth, revolves around the actual proceedings within the judicial system and court room. It guarantees the right to a speedy and public trial in order to avoid being tied up in logistical issues for years, which still does happen, the right to be tried where the crime took place, be confronted by those accusing the defendant of the crime, to defendant to obtain their own witnesses, and to have a lawyer either hired or provided for the defendant. The Sixth Amendment desires to protect the individual against the system of justice, but only so much as they are not crushed by the weight of their situation and can still be properly tried equally under the law. This amendment, much like the Fifth has strong ties to the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically the Due Process Clause.

Is this amendment enough to protect the interests of the accused when standing trial? Are there exceptions to the rules: should witnesses have to present themselves in person to the accused, even if it threatens their safety, should some people be given counsel and others not, is it necessary for every case?


One landmark Supreme Court Case that dealt with the Sixth Amendment was Gideon v. Wainwright. Taken place in 1963 in the state of Florida, Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in Florida with a felony, specifically with entering an establishment with intent to commit a misdemeanor. Gideon appeared in court without his own lawyer and thus asked the court to provide one for him, however, the court did not comply. The reason why the court did not grant Gideon a lawyer was that since he was not classified as an indigent and he did not commit a capital crime the court did not have to supply him with counsel. Gideon ended up representing himself in court and was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Gideon attempted to overturn his conviction and filed a habeas corpus petition in Florida Supreme Court, but the court held true to the previous ruling.

Gideon’s case posed the question of “does the Sixth Amendment’s guaranteed right to counsel in criminal cases extend to felony defendants in state courts?” In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court decided in favor of Gideon. The Supreme Court stated that any and all accused have the rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment because the founding fathers valued the ability of defendants to have proper defense. They also held that every court must appoint a lawyer to a defendant if they cannot provide one themselves. They also discussed the rights of states to develop their own laws and constitutions, but clarified that they cannot pick and choose which federal laws to follow or manipulate, they must follow federal law above all else.


Again here, the Supreme Court overturned a state supreme court decision, and for good reason. Here, Florida state law did violate the Sixth Amendment. Everyone has the right to their own fair and just trial and due process under the law. It is important to maintain a level of impartiality and equality when dealing with or being subject to the law, but have we achieved that goal in our own system?

Today on Jeopardy! The Daily Double!




“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”


“I wish to plead the Fifth!” A mouthful is how I would describe the Fifth Amendment. The main pillars of the Fifth Amendment are the right to a grand jury, the prevention of double jeopardy, prohibiting self-incrimination, the right to due process under the law, and that the government will not seize private property without paying its worth. This amendment, unlike some others, is timeless and applies to each and every citizen. The Fifth Amendment also has strong ties to the 14th Amendment and the Due Process Clause. These attributes are what define our justice system and attempt to make everyone equal under the watchful eye of the law. But is the system really impartial? Does having so many protections and restrictions help or hinder the execution of the law?

One of the most famous cases involving the Fifth Amendment was the Miranda vs. Arizona case, which established the precedent of the common Miranda Rights we hear on our favorite cop shows. The case itself was actually the collection of four cases that were very similar; in each case the defendant had not been informed of their Fifth Amendment rights and had during the investigation confessed to the crime and been found guilty. In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested and interrogated by police, however, Miranda had not been read his rights. The defense learned of this and tried to prevent the confession from being admitted into evidence, especially since the officers involved had admitted that they had not read Miranda his rights. Despite their efforts, Miranda was found guilty and the Supreme Court of Arizona confirmed his guilt. They stated that Miranda’s rights were not violated because he did not ask specifically for his rights to be read nor to be given counsel.


In a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court sided with Miranda and held that the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of protection against self-incrimination must always be applied to citizens. They also expanded their decision to include that evidence, interrogations, and confessions of guilt must be obtained only after proper procedure has been followed and the defendant has been read their rights, and only then can they waive their right to counsel. This decision also protected citizens’ rights to plead the Fifth and refuse to answer questions until a lawyer is present; all of these reaffirmations of the Fifth Amendment were to protect the free will of each and every citizen.


Unlike other posts, I feel as though the decisions made on this case and others that involve the Fifth Amendment are not as circumstantial as others and that there seems to be a clear line between what is allowed and what is not by the Fifth. There is little room for interpretation of the Fifth Amendment, it simply just is, but where there is room for discussion is whether the people that enforce, protect, and who are even subject to it, respect and follow it. The law is a two-way street: there is the written law, but then there is the expectation that we as citizens will carry out the law ethically.



“Police! We have a warrant!”



 “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Fourth Amendment acts as an addition to the core values of the Third Amendment, especially because it continues the discussion on privacy and how citizens must have the right to maintain control over their own lives without government intervention. The Fourth Amendment speaks more to the violation of privacy without just cause or evidence. Its main purpose is to protect citizens from the immense power that the government holds and make sure that the system does not violate the rules it has put in place itself. But then certain questions are posed that challenge this amendment such as, what if a violation of privacy leads to the improvement of or the saving of someone’s life, even the protection of not only one citizen, but many? Can a breech in privacy be ever justified?

A landmark Supreme Court case that debated the core issues of the Fourth Amendment was Muehler vs. Mena from 2005. Mena, the respondent in the case said her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated when police searched her house, with a warrant, and had handcuffed her and others during the search. Mena claimed that the officers had violated her right to be free, not handcuffed, during an unreasonable seizure. The officers also questioned Mena and others about their immigration status and Mena stated that violated her rights as well. Originally, lower courts had ruled in favor of Mena, but a different verdict was reached at the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision the court ruled against Mena and overturned previous court decisions, which had said Mena’s Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. The Supreme Court said that if officers have a search warrant they have the right to arrest and detain suspects, or people of interest surrounding the warrant in order to reduce threats against the officers. They held that the warrant allowed for just seizure of suspects and that the questioning of their immigration status was also valid and a part of the investigation.

So, contrary to other posts, the case presented here shows how the Supreme Court overturned a decision in order to stay in line with the Bill of Rights and more specifically the Fourth Amendment. Here, I do believe that the court was indeed protecting our rights, not hindering them. You cannot express your rights in such a way that they then begin to infringe upon the rights and safety of others—i.e. the cops have a right to detain suspects during a warranted search in order to protect themselves and those involved. The justice system has a duty to the American People to protect the rights of all its citizens, and regardless of whether you personally believe that it achieves that or not, there will always be a gray zone, where all those involved will not be completely happy with how the situation turns out, but under the law it is fair.





Hall & Oates song–“Private Eyes”


Private Eyes
They’re watching you
They see your every move
Private Eyes
They’re watching you
Private Eyes
They’re watching you watching you watching you watching you


“You shall not pass!” @Gandalf


“No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

The basis for the creation of the Third Amendment is clearly outdated, as it revolves around the prevention of British soldiers from staying in the homes of citizens. And this blog post may seem a little far-fetched, but I’ll try to bring relevance to this amendment in modern times. But the core values of its creation have held fast for decades: that the government and its agents cannot impede upon the private property and privacy of its citizens. Here comes into play the hot topic of privacy and where private ownership begins and ends; what is truly yours and what belongs to the public?

Although it may seem to be a stretch, there was a landmark Supreme Court case that debated the issues held within the Third Amendment. The case, Griswold vs. Connecticut, debated multiple amendments, including the third. Griswold the defendant in the case, was accused of violating a law that had criminalized the dissemination of information about contraception. Specifically, Griswold and her group were providing counseling to married couples in the privacy of their own clinic. Now, where this ties into the Third Amendment is that these counseling sessions were held in a private clinic, so by law Griswold would be allowed to give advice to these families. These sessions were not held in public and thus would be considered a private matter and protected from government intervention. Specifically, the question posed by this case was whether private counseling meetings and the status of marriage warranted the ability to be free from certain government laws. Thus in a 7-2 vote in favor of Griswold, the Supreme Court decided that the Bill of Rights creates certain zones that establish the right to privacy.

So, although on the surface the Third Amendment seems quite outdated, its values themselves are timeless. The debate between individual privacy and the rule of the government and law is a debate that is still held today and one that framed one of the questions on our application to PSU. Our democratic system is always in a constant swing between where individual rights begin and where the government can intervene and step in. As the world becomes ever more interconnected, the lack of privacy is growing as we like, favor, and post. But yet many people ask for more privacy, when they themselves are putting their lives out into the world. Now, I am not criticizing these choices, for I myself have many mediums of social media, but if you are willing to put yourself out there, you must also be ready to sacrifice some level of privacy.

There is also the issue of further government intervention and surveillance, such as the recent debate of the increase in the power of the NSA and whether or not they should have such a high level of access to the information of the American public. But, their defense would be privacy comes at the cost of safety, but does it? Here is where my response to our application question comes into play. On a personal level, if it came down to someone’s privacy or their safety, I would choose their safety. But that does not mean I should know everything about them. So, where do you draw the line between privacy, safety, and public knowledge.

I find myself that through writing these blog posts I come to the same conclusion every time—the law and the role of the individual and the role of the government is so circumstantial and specific to every situation.



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“The Right to Bear Arms, and we’re not talking tank top weather.”


“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

You have the right to protect yourself, or do you? The Second Amendment has always been a source of controversy; there has always been a divide on whether people should be able to obtain and carry weapons or whether they should not have them at all. The creation of the Second Amendment took place during a different time under different cultural standards, but does that make it truly out of date? Should we cast aside an amendment that some find too “old fashioned,” “unnecessary,” or “too sensitive,” or should we keep it, or change its form?

There are two landmark Supreme Court Cases that discuss the Second Amendment in its purest form—one from 1939, “United States vs. Miller,” and more recently from 2008 “District of Columbia vs. Heller.”

In 1939 Jack Miller and Frank Layton were brought before the Supreme Court because they were accused in Arkansas of violating the National Firearms Act when they transported a double barrel 12-gauge shotgun across state lines. Miller and Layton said this accusation violated their Second Amendment rights, and within the state of Arkansas the district court agreed and dismissed their case. However, their case was taken to the Supreme Court, where a different verdict was found. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court reversed the Miller/Layton Verdict and said that no, the Second Amendment does not protect the right to bear arms, if the weapon is unregistered. The court held true that Congress can and will require the registration of a sawed—off shotgun if it were to be carried across state lines. The court also reasoned that this modified weapon was not reasonable nor efficient in having a local militia. So, in the end it was not that the court seemed against the right to bear arms, but rather to a modification of the weapon and the failure to register it.

Now in a more recent case, The District of Columbia vs. Heller from 2008, the Second Amendment was also debated in relation to unregistered weapons. The basis of the law in the DOC was that it was illegal to carry an unregistered weapon and that all registered weapons had to be unloaded or disassembled at all times. Heller filed for a one year permit to carry, but was denied, so he sued and claimed that this law violated his Second Amendment rights to have a functional weapon within his home. With some dissenting opinions found in lower courts, Keller’s case traveled down the road to the Supreme Court, where in a 5-4 decision the court found that the DOC law was indeed in violation of the Second Amendment for it restricted the capability to properly defend oneself if needed. They also debated the modern meaning of “militia” and how it should apply to all citizens, for if it does not then the Second Amendment would be creating a force it was meant to inhibit. In the dissent for the group it was stated that the amendment only spoke to the creation of a militia and did not apply on a personal level. Others believed that the DOC would be able to make the best decision for its people and that the Supreme Court should let the DOC decide for itself what is best for its citizens.

So in regards to the Second Amendment there seems to be more debate on how to regulate and control the flow of weapons, rather than the basic question of: can people own them or not? The issue does not seem to be ownership, but who can obtain said ownership. It is unfortunate that in recent years there has been a spike in the amount of mass gun violence and an increase in more small crime violence as well, but is not the answer to lessening these numbers figuring out a way to prevent certain people from obtaining these weapons? Or is it not that simple? Can there ever be a simple, definite line where the rights of ownership of weapons can begin and end? Again, the law presents itself to be purely based on circumstance, but that circumstance, that ability to vary from situation to situation is where the grey areas come into play. And it is through the grey areas that debate and confusion over where individual freedoms begin and end occurs.

Most recent articles on the second amendment:






John Mayer says, “Say what you need to say,” or don’t?


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Land of the free, home of the brave—the concluding statement of our National Anthem is also the core of our First Amendment. Summarized, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, press, religion, expression, petition, assembly, etc. But that is not to say it does not include its limitations. However, where can you draw the line in the sand and say this is where freedom stops, when you are guaranteed ultimate freedom to say and do what you please? Why do people say they can tell you no? But aren’t they inherently violating what people have fought for by trying to limit what you wish to say? Simply, there are certain pleasantries that must be followed when expressing ones First Amendment rights, such as recognizing the threat to public safety or respecting the ability of certain organizations, such as schools, to regulate and discipline what its students can or cannot say.

A landmark Supreme Court case that discussed the First Amendment and the issue of freedom of expression, specifically that of free speech was Schenck vs. United States. This case, which took place in 1919 after WWI focused on the discussion of free speech and if the government has the authority to regulate speech under certain circumstances. Charles Schenck the defendant in this case was charged with conspiracy to violate the espionage act by encouraging military insubordination or desertion during WWI. Schenck was protesting the war and was sending pamphlets and the like through the mail to men eligible for the draft. However, Schenck never encouraged violent action, but rather peaceful protest against the war effort. So why would the government feel threatened by peaceful action?

Schenck’s case was taken all the way to The Supreme Court where a unanimous decision sided with the U.S. over Schenck. Their reasoning was that Schenck’s publications presented a “clear and present danger.” They stated that all things uttered in public are subject to their own circumstances and in time of war the government can regulate what is published so as to not lower morale or generate an added threat.

So, can the government or another organization regulate what is said by its citizens during a time of war, or even at all? Are they not then violating the rights they are trying to protect? For me, I see the logic in restricting what is said on certain topics, such as a draft, during war. In a time of such great anxiety and fear, why add more stress? But how can you or anyone else decide where freedoms stop and start? You can’t. It’s never a clear distinction and I think that is what is most frustrating about law—everything is circumstantial.

Source for Court Case info:


John Mayer “Say what you need to say”