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THE JAILHOUSE LAWYER'S
FAVORITE LEGAL QUOTATIONS
FROM THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

 

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"Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberate forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of American government...they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones." - Justice Louis Brandeis, Whitney v. California, 274 US at 375

 

"An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation, as inoperative as though it had never been passed." Norton v. Shelby County, 118 US 425 (1885)

 

"Where rights secured by the Federal Constitution are involved, there can be no rule-making or legislation which would abrogate them." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966)

 

"The idea prevails with some -- indeed, it found expression in arguments at the bar -- that we have in this country substantially and practically two national governments; one, to be maintained under the Constitution, with all of its restrictions; the other to be maintained by Congress outside and independently of that instrument, by exercising such powers as other nations of the earth are accustomed to exercise.

"I take leave to say that if the principles thus announced should ever receive the sanction of a majority of this court, a radical and mischievous change in our system of government will be the result. We will, in that event, pass from the era of constitutional liberty guarded and protected by a written constitution into an era of legislative absolutism.

"It will be an evil day for American liberty if the theory of a government outside of the supreme law of the land finds lodgment in our constitutional jurisprudence. No higher duty rests upon this court than to exert its full authority to prevent all violation of the principles of the Constitution." See Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901), Harlan dissenting.

 

"Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law: it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administation of the criminal law the end justifies the means - to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal - would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face." Justice Louis Brandeis in Olmstead v. U.S., 277 US at 485. (1928)

 

"Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,-'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;' and to 'secure, ' not grant or create, these rights, governments are instituted. That property which a man has honestly acquired he retains full control of, subject to these limitations: First, that he shall not use it to his neighbor's injury, and that does not mean that he must use it for his neighbor's benefit; second, that if the devotes it to a public use, he gives to the public a right to control that use; and third, that whenever the public needs require, the public may take it upon payment of due compensation." BUDD v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF NEW YORK, 143 U.S. 517 (1892)

 

"Among these unalienable rights, as proclaimed in that great document, is the right of men to pursue their happiness, by which is meant the right to pursue any lawful business or vocation, in any manner not inconsistent with the equal rights of others, which may increase their prosperity or develop their faculties, so as to give to them their highest enjoyment. The common business and callings of life, the ordinary trades and pursuits, which are innocuous in themselves, and have been followed in all communities from time immemorial, must therefore be free in this country to all alike upon the same conditions. The right to pursue them, without let or hinderance, except that which is applied to all persons of the same age, sex, and condition, is a distinguishing privilege of citizens of the United States, and an essential element of that freedom which they claim as their birthright. It has been well said that 'THE PROPERTY WHICH EVERY MAN HAS IN HIS OWN LABOR, AS IT IS THE ORIGINAL FOUNDATION OF ALL OTHER PROPERTY, SO IT IS THE MOST SACRED AND INVIOLABLE. The patrimony of the poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his own hands, and to hinder his employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper, without injury to his neighbor, is a plain violation of this most sacred property. It is a manifest encroachment upon the just liberty both of the workman and of those who might be disposed to employ him. . . The right to follow any of the common occupations of life is an inalienable right, it was formulated as such under the phrase 'pursuit of happiness' in the declaration of independence, which commenced with the fundamental proposition that 'all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' This right is a large ingredient in the civil liberty of the citizen. To deny it to all but a few favored individuals, by investing the latter with a monopoly, is to invade one of the fundamental privileges of the citizen, contrary not only to common right, but, as I think, to the express words of the constitution. It is what no legislature has a right to do; and no contract to that end can be binding on subsequent legislatures. . ." BUTCHERS' UNION CO. v. CRESCENT CITY CO., 111 U.S. 746 (1884)

 

"I had thought it self-evident that all men were endowed by their Creator with liberty as one of the cardinal unalienable rights. It is that basic freedom which the Due Process Clause protects, rather than the particular rights or privileges conferred by specific laws or regulations. . . It demeans the holding in Morrissey - more importantly it demeans the concept of liberty itself - to ascribe to that holding nothing more than a protection of an interest that the State has created through its own prison regulations. For if the inmate's protected liberty interests are no greater than the State chooses to allow, he is really little more than the slave described in the 19th century cases. I think it clear that even the inmate retains an unalienable interest in liberty - at the very minimum the right to be treated with dignity - which the Constitution may never ignore." MEACHUM v. FANO, 427 U.S. 215 (1976)

 

"Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that governmental officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously." - Ibid.

 

"It is monstrous that courts should aid or abet the lawbreaking police officer. It is abiding truth that '[n]othing can destroy a government more quickly than its own failure to observe its own laws or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.'" Justice Brennan quoting Mapp v. Ohio, 367 US 643, 659 (1961) in Harris v. New York, 401 US 222, 232. (1971)

 

"We find it intolerable that one constitutional right should have to be surrendered in order to assert another." - Simmons v. U.S. 390 US 389 (1968)

 

"Many citizens because of their respect for what only appears to be a law are cunningly coerced into waiving their rights due to ignorance." - U.S. v. Minker

 

 

INDIVIDUAL SOVEREIGNTY

 

"When we consider the nature and the theory of our institutions of government, the principles on which they are supposed to rest, and review the history of their development, we are constrained to conclude that they do not mean to leave room for the play and action of purely personal and arbitrary power. Sovereignty itself is, of course, not subject to law, for it is the author and source of law; but in our system, while sovereign powers are delegated to the agencies of government, sovereignty itself remains with the people, by whom and for whom all government exists and acts. And the law is the definition and limitation of power."Yik Wo v. Hopkins, 118 US 356 (1885)

 

"There is a clear distinction in this particular case between an individual and a corporation, and that the latter has no right to refuse to submit its books and papers for an examination at the suit of the State. The individual may stand upon his constitutional rights as a citizen. He is entitled to carry on his private business in his own way. His power to contract is unlimited. He owes no such duty to the State, since he receives nothing therefrom, beyond the protection of his life and property. His rights are such as existed by the law of the land long antecedent to the organization of the State, and can only be taken from him by due process of law, and in accordance with the constitution. Among his rights are a refusal to incriminate himself, and the immunity of himself and his property from arrest or seizure except under a warrant of the law. He owes nothing to the public so long as he does not trespass upon their rights." Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43 at 47 (1905).

 

Here is the often expressed understanding from the United States Supreme Court, that "in common usage, the term "person" does not include the Sovereign, statutes employing the person are ordinarily construed to exclude the Sovereign." Wilson v. Omaha Tribe, 442 U.S. 653, 667 (1979) (quoting United States v. Cooper Corp., 312 U.S. 600, 604 (1941)). See also United States v. Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258, 275 (1947).

 

"A Sovereign is exempt from suit, not because of any formal conception or obsolete theory, but on the logical and practical ground that there can be no legal Right as against the authority that makes the law on which the Right depends." Kawananakoa v. Polyblank, 205 U.S. 349, 353, 27 S. Ct. 526, 527, 51 L. Ed. 834 (1907).

 

No such ideas obtain here(speaking of America);"at the revolution, the Sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the Sovereigns of the country, but they are Sovereigns without subjects (unless the African slaves among us may be so called) and have none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the Sovereignty. Chisholm v. Georgia (February Term, 1793) 2 U.S. 419, 2 Dall. 419, 1 L.Ed 440, pp. 471-472.

 

 

INDIVIDUAL'S RIGHT TO RESIST AN UNLAWFUL ARREST

 

"An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right, and only the same right, to use force in defending himself as he would have in repelling any other assault and battery." State v. Robinson 145 Me. 77,72 Atl. 2d 260, 262 (1950).

 

"The offense of resisting arrest, both at common law and under statute, presupposes a lawful arrest. It is axiomatic (self-evident) that every person has the right to resist an unlawful arrest. In such case the person attempting the arrest stands in the position of a wrongdoer and may be resisted by the use of force, as in self-defense." State v. Mobley 240 N.C. 476, 83 S.E. 2d 100,102 (1954).

 

 

THE FOURTH AMENDMENT

 

"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."
- United States Constitution

 

"Constitutional provisions for the security of person and property should be liberally construed." Boyd v. U.S., 116 US 616 (1886)

 

"...and it is the duty of the courts to be watchful for the constitutional rights of the citizen, and against any stealthy encroachments thereon." Byars v. U.S., 273 US 28 (1927)

 

"The makers of our Constitution undertook....to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions, and their sensations. They conferred, as against the Government, the right to be let alone - the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the Government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment." Olmstead v. U.S., 277 US 438 (1928)

 

" The permissibility of a particular law enforcement practice is judged by balancing its intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate governmental interests." Delaware v. Prouse, 99 S.Ct. at 1396

 

"The Fourth Amendment is to be construed in the light of what was deemed an unreasonable search and seizure when it was adopted, and in a manner which will conserve public interests as well as the interests and rights of individual citizens." Carroll v. U.S. 267 US 132, 149

 

"The essential purpose of the proscriptions of the Fourth Amendment is to impose a standard of "reasonableness"* upon the exercise of discretion by government officials, including law enforcement agents, in order 'to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions...'"** Delaware v. Prouse, 99 S.Ct. at 1396.

* See Marshall v. Barlows Inc., 436 US 307, 315, 98 S.Ct. 1816, 1822 (1978); U.S. v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 US 873, 878, 95 S.Ct. 2574, 2578, 45 L.Ed.2d 607 (1975); Cady v. Dombrosky, 413 US 433, 439, 93 S.Ct. 2523, 2527, 37 L.Ed.2d 706 (1973); Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1, 20-21, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1879, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968); Wolf v. Colorado, 338 US 25, 27-28 (1948)

 

FourthAmendment.com

 

"The 4th Amendment and the personal rights it secures have a long history. At the very core stands the right of a man to retreat into his home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion."
- Justice Potter Stewart

 

"In enforcing the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Court has insisted upon probable cause as a minimum requirement for a resonable search permitted by the Constitution." Chambers v. Maroney 399 US 42, 51

 

"Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government." Brenninger V. U.S. 338 US 160

 

"The Fourth Amendment proscribes all unreasonable searches and seizures, and it is a cardinal principle that "searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by a judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment-subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions." Katz v. United States, 389 US 347, 357

 

"The point of the Fourth Amendment, which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime." Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1, 34 (1968)

 

 

 

"It must be recognized that whenever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away, he has 'seized' that person." Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1, 16 (1968)

 

"Stopping an automobile and detaining its occupants constitute a "seizure" within meaning of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, even though purpose of stop is limited and resulting detention is quite brief."Delaware v. Prouse, 440 US 648,

 

"Where property or evidence has been obtained through unconstitutional search and seizure, failure to return the same and to suppress the evidence learned thereby constitutes reversible error. - Boyd v. United States, 116 US 616; Weeks v. United States, 232 US 383; Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 US 385; Gouled v. United States, 255 US 298; Amos v. United States, 255 US 313.

 

"When officers detained defendant for the purpose of requiring him to identify himself, they performed a "seizure" of his person subject to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment." Brown v. Texas, 443 US at 47

 

"Application of Texas statute, which makes it a crime to refuse to identify one's self to a police officer who has lawfully stopped one and requested such information, to detain defendant and require him to identify himself violated the Fourth Amendment where officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe that defendant was engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct." Brown v. Texas, supra.

 

"While the police have the right to request citizens to answer voluntary questions concerning unsolved crimes they have no right to compel them to answer." Davis v. Mississippi, 394 US 721, 727 n. 6

 

"In sum then, individuals accosted by police on the basis merely of reasonable suspicion have a right not to be searched, a right to remain silent, and, as a corollary, a right not to be searched if they choose to remain silent. Justices Brennan, Marshall and Stevens dissenting in Michigan v. DeFillipo 443 US at 45

 

"The usual rule is that a police officer may arrest without warrant one believed by the officer upon reasonable cause to have been guilty of a felony , and that he may only arrest without a warrant one guilty of a misdemeanor if committed in his presence. Kurtz v. Moffitt, 115 US 487; Elk v. U.S., 117 US 529. The rule is sometimes expressed as follows:

"In cases of misdemeanor, a peace officer like a private person has at common law no power of arresting without a warrant except when a breach of the peace has been committed in his presence or there is reasonable ground for supposing that a breach of the peace is about to be committed or renewed in his presence." Halsbury's Laws of England, Vol. 9 part III, 612. The reason for arrest for misdemeanors without warrant at common law was promptly to suppress breaches of the peace, 1 Stephen, History of Criminal Law, 193..." Carrol v. U.S., 267 US 132, 157

 

"Though the police are honest and their aims worthy, history shows they are not appropriate guardians of the privacy which the Fourth Amendment protects." Jones v. United States 362 U.S. 257, 273 (1959). "

 

"It is better, so the Fourth Amendment teaches, that the guilty sometimes go free than that citizen's be subject to easy arrest." Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 104 (1959).

 

"The 4th Amendment and the personal rights it secures have a long history. At the very core stands the right of a man to retreat into his home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion."

- Justice Potter Stewart








 

 

THE FIFTH AMENDMENT

 

"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 offense 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."
- United States Constitution

 

 

THE SIXTH AMENDMENT

 

"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 priviously 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 defense."
-United States Constitution

 

"[R]eason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to us to be an obvious truth. Governments, both state and federal, quite properly spend vast sums of money to establish machinery to try defendants accused of crime. Lawyers to prosecute are everywhere deemed essential to protect the public's interest in an orderly society. Similarly, there are few defendants charged with crime, few indeed, who fail to hire the best lawyers they can get to prepare and present their defenses. That government hires lawyers to prosecute and defendants who have the money hire lawyers to defend are the strongest indications of the widespread belief that lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries. The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed [440 U.S. 367, 377] fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him." Gideon v. Wainright 372 U.S., at 344.

 

 

"The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of our Constitution guarantee that a person brought to trial in any state or federal court must be afforded the right to the assistance of counsel before he can be validly convicted and punished by imprisonment." Faretta v. California 422 US 806 (1975)

 

"The Sixth Amendment, when naturally read, thus implies a right of self-representation. This reading is reenforced by the Amendment's roots in English legal history." Faretta v. California

 

"In the long history of British criminal jurisprudence, there was only one tribunal that ever adopted a practice of forcing counsel upon an unwilling defendant in a criminal proceeding. The tribunal was the Star Chamber." Faretta v. California

 

" The Sixth Amendment stands as a constant admonition that if the constitutional safeguards it provides be lost, justice will not 'still be done'" Johnson v. Zerbst 304 US 458 (1937)

 

"The courts indulge every reasonable presumption against waiver of fundamental constitutional rights." Johnson v. Zerbst

 

"We hold, therefore, that absent a knowing and intelligent waiver, no person may be imprisoned for any offense, whether classified as petty, misdemeanor, or felony, unless he was represented by counsel at his trial." Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 US 35 (1972)

"A conviction obtained where the accused was denied counsel is treated as void for all purposes. Burgett v. Texas, 389 US 109 (1967)

 

"The right to counsel exists not only at the trial but also at every stage of a criminal proceeding where substantial rights of a criminal accused might be effected." Mempa v. Ray, 389 US 128, 134 (1967)

 

 

THE JURY

 

"The purpose of a jury is to guard against the exercise of arbitrary power -- to make available the commonsense judgment of the community as a hedge against the over- zealous or mistaken prosecutor and in preference to the professional or perhaps overconditioned or biased response of a judge." -- Justice Byron White, Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 US 522

 

"The guaranty of trial by jury contained in the Constitution was intended for a state of war, as well as a state of peace, and is equally binding upon rulers and people at all times and under all circumstances."
Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866)

 

 

 

 

 

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