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Political Ideology and the Constitution

Background

In the United States of America before 1890s, there used to be an unfair manner of handling suspect’s cases whereby suspects were unlawfully convicted despite the constitution of the country guaranteeing protection of their rights. The juries used to arm-twist the law and make vague interpretations of the same in a manner meant to rationalize their biased verdicts.

Plessy v. Ferguson 1896 that was a verdict delivered by the Supreme Court of the United States upholding segregation based on race under the ideology of “separate but equal” is a good example. The case involved Homer Plessy against the Louisiana state that had passed a law in 1890 (“the separate car act”) that called for separation of blacks and whites in the transport as well as other public service sectors. This meant that each race was to have separate railway cars and tracks, as well as schools and hospitals among other facilities. This law prompted a group of blacks and the residents of New Orleans to legally challenge the Act. The committee stage managed a scene in 1892 whereby Homer Plessy a guy of European and African descent (categorized as black by the law) purchased a class 1 ticket in a “white train”. Plessy was consequently arrested and arraigned in court whereby his attorney argued that the Louisiana State law violated the defendant’s rights as per the 13th Amendment that prohibited slavery and the 14th Amendment that stipulated equality of all people plus the right to liberty. The presiding judge John Howard Ferguson ruled in favor of the segregation law stating that the State had the right to control her railroads, and convicted Plessy fining him $25. The committee of citizens appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court that upheld the same verdict and this prompted the former to appeal in the Supreme Court of the United States of America where the attorney built his argument on the 13th and 14th Amendments. The verdict was arrived at by a 7-1 vote with Justice Billings Brown representing the majority side while the dissenting side (minority) was led by Justice John Marshal. The verdict upheld the legality of racial, and therefore, the committee of citizens and Homer Plessy lost the case.

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Miranda v. Arizona 1966 was a ruling in the United States Supreme Court which stated that the utterances by the defendant during interrogation (whether self-incriminating or denying committing a crime) can only be applied in the court ruling if the prosecutor proves to have notified the suspect of the right to consult an attorney, the right against self-incrimination as well as comprehending the same rights. The case was between the Arizona state and Ernest Miranda, who was arrested in 1963 for allegedly kidnapping and raping a girl of youthful age. After arrest, Miranda made a self-confession of the crime but this was without information about the right to remain silent as well as consulting an attorney. During the trial, Alvin Moore the attorney appointed by the court to represent the defendant argued that the confession was involuntary, and thus it should never be featured in the case. The court, however, convicted Miranda prompting his attorney to appeal in the Supreme Court of Arizona. The court upheld the conviction arguing that Miranda never requested for and attorney during the interrogation. A further appeal in at the United States Supreme Court led to a verdict by Chief Justice Earl Warren that due to acts of coercion by the police during investigations, no confession is applicable in court rulings under the 5th Amendment (right against self-incrimination) and the 6th Amendment (right to legal counsel). Miranda’s conviction was thrown out, and a verdict made that if a suspect choose to remain silent during the interrogation, no questioning should proceed unless a lawyer is availed. Consequently, Miranda was tried once more but this time witnesses were used to incriminate him leading to his conviction in 1967. Both cases had issues surrounding them and there were attempts to arm twist the constitution as well as bipartisan approach by some judges in order to suit their personal interests as opposed to the interests of the country and its citizens.

Factors that Led to Each of the Decision

Factors that Influenced Plessy v. Fergusson Verdict

In the Plessy v. Ferguson, the decision of upholding the law racial segregation was influenced by the fact that the juries in the majority side were biased against the blacks and that’s the reason they ruled against the Plessy despite him basing his argument on the 13th and 14th Amendments that were against racial segregation. During the case, Attorney Milton Joseph Cunningham personally wrote the legal brief and given that he had a record of supporting white supremacy, it is evident that he was not fair in that writing. Justice Edwin Douglas White who was also on the majority side was a member of the White League that was pro-white supremacy and used violence against the blacks in order to deprive them of property as well as voting rights. The court further downplayed the Plessy’s argument that separation implied racial inferiority of the whites and justified the act as an issue of public policy. The judges further claimed that the blacks are the ones who labeled separation as racism. This was clear escapism and it reveals that the judges were in favour of the white supremacy as exposed by Justice John Marshal Harlan in his dissenting speech argued that the constitution classified “man as man” and therefore all people had equal rights and liberties as well as privileges.

Factors that Influenced Miranda v. Arizona Verdict

In Miranda v. Arizona, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the verdict based on his professionalism and the correct interpretation of the constitution. Earl was not influenced by anything in his ruling other than the Constitution that is the supreme law of the United States. He considered the fact that police coerce suspects to confess to crimes hence incriminating themselves and that is why he dismissed the essence of self-confessions while referring to the 5th that protects suspects from self-incrimination and 6th Amendments that protect suspect’s right to have a legal representation. However the dissenting judges were biased against suspects and in their statement, they accused Earl and his majority side of being too sympathetic to suspects and therefore informing them of the right to consult lawyers in order to prevent the police from obtaining confessions.

Comparison of Professionalism of Judges in the Two Cases

In Plessy v. Ferguson, the majority side was biased because they disregarded the constitution and ruled in favor of the whites while the dissenting side was rational and non-partisan due to their consideration of the constitution. On the other hand, in Miranda v Arizona, majority judges handled the case in a professional manner in reference to the 5th and 6th Amendment of the U.S constitution while the minorities were biased against suspects.

Influence of Political Ideology on the Law

Influence of Politics in Plessy v. Ferguson Law

In Plessy v. Ferguson, the law was applied selectively by the judges in accordance with the white supremacy that was a political ideology of the whites. Justice Edward Douglas a jury in the majority side was pro-white supremacy that aimed at using violence against the blacks in order to deprive them property as well as voting rights. Attorney Milton Joseph who prepared the legal brief in this case was also a follower of the political ideology of white supremacy. These two judges expose how the judges twisted the law politically so as to deliver rulings in favor of their political beliefs. The court termed Plessy’s complaint as a representation of misconceptions of the law of separation by blacks and termed the discriminatory law as a public policy. This shows how the judges brought politics in the court room so as to deliver a politically motivated ruling in favor of the whites.

Influence of Politics in Miranda v. Arizona

In this case, the majority judges delivered a verdict free of political influence because they invoked the 5th and 6th Amendment that guaranteed the rights of suspects against self-incrimination and the right to legal counsel respectively. However, the bias by the minority side against the suspects has no direct link to a political ideology but can be seen as an indirect tool of denying people democracy because in democratic governance, people are not denied their rights.

Philosophical Underpinnings that Influenced the Thinking of Courts

Philosophical Underpinnings in Plessy v. Ferguson

In this case the thinking of the majority judges was not philosophical in any way because they undermined the constitution and in their ruling, they tried to change the meaning of the discriminatory law by saying that it never symbolized inferiority of the blacks and that it was a matter of public policy. In their verdict, they never gave concrete reasons as to why the “separate car act” was necessary and they just used the strength of numbers to deliver their ruling as opposed to the truth of the matter in accordance with what the law states. On the other hand, the minority judges led by Justice John Marshal Harlan were philosophically right on their stance because they argued that the constitution categorizes “man as man” and in real sense man whether black or white remains a man. This therefore shows a philosophical base on the minority’s argument and therefore they were rational thinkers.

Philosophical Underpinnings in the Miranda v. Arizona

The majority juries led by Chief Justice Earl Warren were rational in thinking and they delivered their verdict based on the truth. The judges in reference to the 5th and 6th Amendments of the U.S. constitution that guarantees right to freedom from self-incrimination and the right to legal counsel respectively, they nullified the use of self-confessions in cases considering that such confessions are made due to suspect’s ignorance of their rights as well as coercion by the police. However on the other hand, the minority side was irrational as they seemed to ignore the constitution and therefore they were in objection of the decision by the majority side despite the latter quoting the amendments of the constitution on which the verdict was based on.

How the Courts in Each Era Read the Constitution Differently

How the Supreme Court Read the U.S Constitution in 1890s in Reference to Plessy v. Ferguson

The Supreme Court in the 1890s was very unprofessional as it delivered verdicts contrary to what the law states. Despite the 13th and 14th Amendments providing for equal rights and liberties as well as prohibiting slavery, the majority judges went ahead to uphold the “separate car act” despite Justice John Marshal reiterating that the constitution guarantee equal rights for all people. The court therefore implemented the law in a double standard way as it tended to deliver rulings that were contrary to what the law states.

How the Supreme Court Read the Constitution in 1960s in Reference to Miranda v. Arizona

During this case the court seems to have undergone transformation because under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the court cited the Amendment 13 and 14 respectively before delivering the verdict that suspects must be sensitized their rights after arrest and that if they chose to remain silent, an attorney must be provided before the interrogation continues. The Chief Justice delivered the verdict as per the provisions of the law and therefore he depicted full knowledge and respect for the same law. This shows a remarkable difference between the courts of the two eras.

Conclusion

The judicial system of the United States of America was immoral and corrupted in the 1890s as exposed by the verdicts that the judges used to deliver on various cases. In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson the federal courts as well as the national Supreme Court made judgments that were unprofessional concerning the issue of racial segregation. Despite the constitution being opposed to the vice as stipulated in Amendments 13 and 14 respectively, the judges upheld the law of segregation that was passed by the Louisiana state hence exposing highhandedness of the court and the disrespect for the constitution which is the foundation for courts of law. Some of the judges led by Edward Douglas and Milton Joseph are seen as biased towards blacks as far as the administration of justice is concerned. The court at the day of verdict avoided quoting sections of the law because the verdict the judges were passing was illegal and contrary to the law. However, Chief Justice Earl Warren shows some positive change in the American judicial system because he and his majority team handled Miranda’s case in a considerate manner and this became the turning point for the American wheels of justice as the court ordered that the rights of the accused be respected in accordance with the Amendments 5 and 6 of the U.S. constitution. Warren explained the reasons he gave his verdict citing afore mentioned amendments hence depicting his respect for law as opposed to interests of individuals.

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