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Griswold v. Connecticut

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Brief Fact Summary.

Appellants argued that the Connecticut statutes that make it a crime to use any drug or medicinal instrument for the purpose of preventing conception violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The State may not, consistently with the First Amendment, contract the spectrum of available knowledge.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Subjecting federal and state laws to such an unrestrained and unrestrainable judicial control as to the wisdom of legislative enactments would, I fear, jeopardize the separation of governmental powers that the Framers set up and at the same time threaten to take away much of the power of States to govern themselves which the Constitution plainly intended them to have.

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Facts.

Appellant Griswold is Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Appellant Buxton is a licensed physician and a professor at the Yale Medical School who served as Medical Director for the League in New Haven – a center operating from November 1 to November 10, 1961, when appellants were arrested. They gave information, instruction and medical advice to married persons as to the means of preventing conception. They examined the wife and prescribed the best contraceptive device for her use. The statutes at issue prohibits anyone from using any drug for the purpose of preventing conception and anyone who assists another to commit any offense may be prosecuted and punished. The appellants were found guilty and fined $100 each, against the claim that the statutes violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Issue.

Does the Connecticut statutes that make it a crime to use any drug or medicinal instrument for the purpose of preventing conception violate the Fourteenth Amendment?

Held.

Yes, prior cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance. Various guarantees create zones of privacy. The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. The statutes that seek to deter marriage and  carriage violate the Constitution.

Dissent.

Justice Black

Government has a right to invade privacy unless prohibited by some specific constitutional provision. If properly construed the Due Process Clause is not a proper basis for invalidating the Connecticut law. The Due Process Clause with an arbitrary and capricious formula was liberally used by this Court to strike down economic legislation in the early decades of this century, threatening, many people thought, the tranquility and stability of the Nation. That formula is no less dangerous when used to enforce this Court’s views about personal rights than those about economic rights. Connecticut’s law is not forbidden by any provision of the Constitution.

Concurrence.

Justice Goldberg

In determining which rights are fundamental, judges are not left at large to decide cases in light of their personal and private notions. Rather, they must look to the traditions and collective conscience of our people to determine whether a principle is so rooted there as to be ranked as fundamental. Liberty also gains content from the emanations of specific constitutional guarantees and from experience with the requirements of a free society. Though the Connecticut birth-control law obviously encroaches upon a fundamental personal liberty, the State does not show that the law serves any subordinating state interest which is compelling or that it is necessary to the accomplishment of a persmissble state policy.

Discussion.

The Fourth Amendment protects against all governmental invasions of the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life. The Fourth Amendment creates a right of privacy, no less important than any other right carefully and particularly reserved to the people. The present case concerns a relationship lying within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees. It concerns a law which, in forbidding the use of contraceptives rather than regulating their manufacture or sale, seeks to achieve the goals by means having a maximum destructive impact upon that relationship. Such a law cannot stand in light of the familiar principle that a government purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms.


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