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Mapp v. Ohio case brief?

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Case briefs involve a basic formula, and few if any professors or lawyers tolerate case briefs that go beyond these basic parameters. Below is a brief summation of those parameters that any student can follow. It is taken from LexisNexis, an invaluable research tool used by law students, lawyers, professors, and others tasked with accumulating legal texts and scholarly articles pertaining to whatever issue or specific case is in question.

A Case Brief should be outlined as follows:

 (a) Facts (name of the case and its parties, what happened factually and procedurally, and the judgment)

(b) Issues (what is in dispute)

(c) Holding (the applied rule of law)

(d) Rationale (reasons for the holding)

The June 19, 1961 decision by the United States Supreme Court in the matter of Dollree Mapp v. the State of Ohio was a landmark in its affirmation of the application of the 4th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution. The majority opinion in Mapp v. Ohio was written by Associate Justice Tom Clark. The importance of the case lied in its overturning of the 1949 Wolf v. Colorado case, which had ruled that those constitutional provisions were not necessarily applicable to state courts as opposed to federal courts.

Mapp v. Ohio involved an illegal search and seizure of pornographic material from the home of a Cleveland, Ohio, woman named Dollree Mapp. Cleveland Police officers were drawn to Mapp’s home as part of their search for the suspect in a bombing incident involving a dispute between rival illegal bookmakers. In executing a warrantless search of Mapp’s home, the police, instead of finding bomb-making material, discovered the aforementioned pornographic material, which they seized and justified as the cause for arresting Mapp. The subsequent trial and series of appeals, first at the state level and eventually at the federal Supreme Court level, involved Mapp’s assertions, through her lawyer, who was a witness to the police search of his client’s home, that her constitutional rights against warrantless search and seizure of her property were violated, and that the evidence seized from her home could not be used against her in a trial.

The 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that:

“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.”

Section 1 of the 14th amendment includes the following language:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and...

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of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” [Emphasis added]

In appealing his client’s conviction in state court, Mapp’s attorney argued that the police search of Mapp’s home and the seizure of her property, even if that property constituted “lewd and lascivious” material that by-itself may or may not be legal (keep in mind the notoriously difficult problem of classifying material as “pornographic” for purposes of restricting 1st amendment rights), violated her constitutional rights under the 4th and 14th amendments.

In his deciding opinion on the case of Mapp v. Ohio, Associate Justice Clark wrote the following with regard to the State of Ohio’s decision allowing for the warrantless search and seizure of a citizen’s property in contravention of those amendments to the U.S. Constitution:

“The State says that, even if the search were made without authority, or otherwise unreasonably, it is not prevented from using the unconstitutionally seized evidence at trial, citing Wolf v. Colorado,338 U.S. 25 (1949), in which this Court did indeed hold that, in a prosecution in a State court for a State crime, the Fourteenth Amendment does not forbid the admission of evidence obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure.”

. . .

“Since the Fourth Amendment's right of privacy has been declared enforceable against the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth, it is enforceable against them by the same sanction of exclusion as is used against the Federal Government. Were it otherwise, then, just as without the Weeks rule the assurance against unreasonable federal searches and seizures would be "a form of words," valueless and undeserving of mention in a perpetual charter of inestimable human liberties, so too, without that rule, the freedom from state invasions of privacy would be so ephemeral and so neatly severed from its conceptual nexus with the freedom from all brutish means of coercing evidence as not to merit this Court's high regard as a freedom "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty."

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its decision on Mapp v. Ohio, then, concluded that the provisions of the Constitution did, indeed, apply at the state level and that state laws could not supplant federal laws. The U.S. Constitution, the decision reaffirmed, is the law of the land and is inviolable. No state legal decision could contravene the rights set forth in the Constitution.

It is highly advisable that the student review the text of the decision in Mapp v. Ohio, and a link to an abridged version of that decision is provided below.

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