Reynolds v. Sims

In Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama’s legislative apportionment scheme. By a vote of 8-1, the justices held that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause requires that both houses of a state legislature be apportioned on a population basis. The Facts of Reynolds v. Sims Voters in several Alabama counties filed [...]

Selective Service Act of 1917

selective service act

Enacted in the early days of World War I, the Selective Service Act of 1917 authorized the country’s first military draft. By the conclusion of the war, 24 million men had registered for military service. At the end of the Civil War, the United States ended mandatory military service. So when President Woodrow reluctantly entered [...]

Williams v. Pennsylvania

In Williams v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court held that judges must recuse themselves in cases that they once prosecuted 579 U.S. ___ (2016). By a vote of 5-3, the justices held that a Pennsylvania judge’s participation in a death penalty case violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Terrance Williams was convicted [...]

Puerto Rico v. Valle

In Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle 579 U.S ___ (2016), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the federal government are not separate sovereigns for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution. The 6-2 decision means that Puerto Rico can’t prosecute a defendant who [...]

The Pendleton Civil Service Act

The Pendleton civil service act

The Pendleton Civil Service Act, which was enacted in 1883, established a merit-based system for federal employment. The landmark legislation effectively ended the controversial “spoils system,” which was largely based on political party affiliation. While the statute initially only applied to 10 percent of government positions, subsequent amendments expanded its scope to cover more than [...]

railroad regulation

In the late 1880s and early 1900s, the railroads were essential to the U.S. economy. However, they were also susceptible to monopolies. As President, Theodore Roosevelt sought to strengthen oversight over the railroads with the enactment of the Elkins Act of 1903 and the Hepburn Act of 1906. Railroads were the primary means of transporting [...]

Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court in Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. 578 U.S._____(2016) addressed whether a “jurisdictional determination” (JD) that wetlands are subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act was a final agency action within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act. By a vote of 8-0, the justices voted [...]

Foster v. Chapman: Excluding Jurors Based on Race


linkIn Foster v. Chapman (2016), the U.S. Supreme Court held that prosecutors purposely discriminated against a Georgia man facing the death penalty when they dismissed two black jurors during jury selection. The Court’s narrow decision was largely based on the egregious nature of the Batson violations and, therefore, may do little to deter the discriminatory [...]

Antiquities Act of 1906

By Bureau of Land Management [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act was the first federal regulation to protect the cultural and natural resources of the United States. It resulted from concern over decades of looting and destruction of Native American sites in the West. Deterring Pot Hunters During the late 1800s, calls began for [...]

Federal Reserve Act of 1913

Federal Reserve Act of 1913

On December 23, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law. The landmark legislation created the Federal Reserve, which was intended to reform the country’s banking system and help secure economic stability.   The Need for Banking Reform In the early 20th Century, the United States was the only world power without a [...]