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Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) Case #9 of 10

David A.W. Hittle                                          Case #9                                   3/28/2011



Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

381 U.S. 479; 85 S. Ct. 1678; 14 L.Ed. 2d 510 (1965)

Vote: 7-2


The Facts of the Case are these: Griswold and Buxton Executive Director and Licensed Physician, gave information, instruction and medical advice to married persons as to the means of preventing conception. The law in question in this case states: “Any person who uses any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned. Any person who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires, or commands another to commit any offense may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principal offender.” The appellants were found guilty as accessories and fined $100 each, against the claim that the accessory statue as so applied violated the Fourteenth Amendment.


The Issues in this case are these: Was the accessory statue so applied in this case in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States?


The Holding in this case by a vote of 7 to 2 is as follows: The Court finds that the right of the people to associate cannot be infringed upon and therefore the accessory statue in this case violated the Constitution.


Mr. Justice Douglas penned the opinion of the Majority in this case: In his beginning explanation he explains: “The association of people is not mentioned in the Constitution nor in the Bill of Rights. The right to educate a child in a school of the parents’ choice—whether public or private or parochial—is also not mentioned. Nor is the right to study any particular subject or foreign language. Yet the First Amendment has been construed to include certain of those rights. He continues: “By Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the right to educate one’s children as one chooses is made applicable to the States by the force of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. By Meyer v. Nebraska, the same dignity is given the right to study the German language in a private school. In other words, the State may not, consistently with the spirit of the First Amendment, contract the spectrum of available knowledge. The right of freedom of speech and press included not only the right to utter or to print, but the right to distribute, the right to receive, the right to read… and freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought, and freedom to teach…” He concludes by citing a number of cases: “The Ninth Amendment provides: ‘The enumeration of the this Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.’ The Fourth and Fifth Amendments were described in Boyd v. United States… as protection against all governmental invasions ‘of the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacy of life.’ We recently referred in Mapp v. Ohio… to the Fourth Amendment as creating a ‘right to privacy, no less important than any other right carefully and particularly reserved to the people.”… He concludes finally by stating: “Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts or marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship….


Mr. Justice Goldberg, whom the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Brennan join, concurring. “I agree with the Court that Connecticut’s birth-control law unconstitutionally intrudes upon the right of marital privacy, and I join in its opinion and judgment. Although I have not accepted the view that “due process” as used in the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates all of the first eight Amendments,…” He states in his opinion that: “I do not take the position of my brother Black in his dissent in Adamson v. California… that the entire Bill of Rights is incorporated in the Fourteenth Amendment, and I do not mean to imply that that the Ninth Amendment is applied against the states by the Fourteenth.”


Mr. Justice Harlan, concurring in the judgment. “I fully agree with the judgment of reversal, but find myself unable to join the Court’s opinion. The reason is that it seems to me to evince an approach to this case very much like that taken by my Brothers Black and Steward in dissent, namely: The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not touch this Connecticut statute unless the enactment is found to violate some right assured by the letter or penumbra of the Bill of Rights.”


Mr. Justice White, concurring in the judgement. “In my view this Connecticut law as applied to married couples deprives them of “liberty” without due process of law, as that concept is used in the Fourteenth Amendment. I therefore concur in the judgment of the Court reversing these convictions under the Connecticut aiding and abetting statute….”


Mr. Justice Black, with whom Mr. Justice Stewart joins, dissenting. “…I get nowhere in this case by talk about a constitution “right to privacy” as an emanation from one or more constitution provisions. I like my privacy as well as the next one, but I am nevertheless compelled to admit that government has a right to invade it unless prohibited by some specific constitutional provision.”


Mr. Justice Steward, with whom Mr. Justice Black joins, dissenting. “In the course of its opinion the Court refers to no less than six Amendments to the Constitution: the First, the Third, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Ninth, and the Fourteenth. But the Court does not say which of these Amendments, if any, it thinks is infringed by the Connecticut law. We are told that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not, as such the “guide” in this case. With that much I agree. There is no claim that this law, duly enacted by the Connecticut Legislature, is unconstitutionally vague.”


The Significance of this case, is that it cemented the “right to privacy” which would later be used inRoe v. Wade to legalize abortion. The dissenters in this case: Justice Steward and Black join in dissenting due to the fact that the Court never specified what Amendment the law violated. This case of course cemented privacy in one’s possessions or home, but it also cemented privacy inside one’s body, by the use of contraceptives and later on in 1973 abortion.