The Amendments


Ashley Singer, Julianna Burns, Peyton Dutka & Kate Chang

The Ranking of the Amendments

1. Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, & Petition

2. Non-Enumerated Rights Retained by the People

3. Jury Trial in Civil Lawsuits

4. Excessive Fines, Cruel and Unusual Punishment

5. Search and Seizure

Amendment I

Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly & Petition

The First Amendment protects the civil liberties of individuals in the United States. It grants, as said in the name, several freedoms to citizens. Americans can practice any religion, speak their minds (verbally and written), peaceably meet and protest, as well as petition the government for a redress of grievances under this amendment.
This is the most crucial amendment since the First Amendment grants the American citizens’ demands for a guarantee of their basic freedoms. Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be prosecuted, the government could establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not publish certain opinions, and citizens could not congregate for social change. Along with being denied their freedoms, citizens may be denied their basic rights.

Feiner v. New York

Irving Feiner, a white student at Syracuse University, made an inflammatory speech on a street corner in Syracuse, New York. During the speech, which was intended to encourage listeners to attend a rally, Feiner made several disparaging remarks about local politicians. Crowds began to form, and Feiner was threatened, and eventually asked by officers to end his speech twice. After he refused, the officers arrested Feiner for a breach of the peace. He was found guilty, inciting a breach of the peace did not violate his right to free speech under the First Amendment. With Feiner v. New York, the Supreme Court helped balance "clear and present danger" against free speech rights.

Depth & Complexity

Patterns and change over time is apparent through this amendment since we have gained more and more freedoms. To be able to say our citizens have freedoms, we had to expand the constraints. By granting more freedoms, America, as a country, differs from others. It all started with wanting to be different from Britain. Colonists did not want to make the same mistakes as Britain, so eventually changed themselves to assure they would be treated equally. Today, we continue to expand the limits, as we pride being the “land of the free.” Rules are also apparent since the freedoms in the First Amendment are not absolute, and are limited by the rights of other individuals. Though we do take pride in being free, there are guidelines to follow within them. Through court cases, many restraints were set up for our freedoms.

Amendment IX

Non-Enumerated Rights Retained by the People

The Ninth Amendment states that the people’s rights are not limited to those mentioned in the Constitution. This means that even though some rights may not be listed in the Constitution, they usually aren’t excluded from individual rights.
This amendment because it is very important that people are able to live as freely as possible. One of the ways that we can do that is make sure that people know that even though the Constitution doesn’t state certain things, it doesn’t mean that people cannot do them.

McCulloch v. Maryland

In 1818, the Maryland legislature passed a law that placed substantial tax on the operations of the Baltimore branch of bank. James McCulloch, the bank’s cashier, issued banknotes without paying the tax, breaking the law. He appeared in the United States Supreme Court after the Maryland state courts ruled against him. McCulloch was sued for disobeying the law, even though he questioned the law. In the end, they decided that the federal government is more powerful than the state government, therefore, it is illegal to charge a tax on the federal bank.


People believe that Obamacare violates the Constitution, specifically the 9th amendment. It violates it because it forces you to buy items and also breaks the rules that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. It also breaks the Commerce Clause, Takings Clause and Presentment Clause.

Depth & Complexity

Although this is an essential amendment to our Constitution, there are some different points of view about the way it can affect our government and society. Like mentioned before, the majority of people like this rule because it ensures that people cannot take advantage of the law. On the other hand, some people believe that putting this in the Constitution could give people power to commit certain crimes and get away with them. People could use this to help the government in the same ways that they can use it to hurt the government. People have changed their minds about this amendment over time. Even though some people back then thought that it gave people too much power, most people now believe that it has benefitted our country more than people would have imagined. And after seeing the positive effects that this amendment has had on the country to this day, people have a good reason to change their opinions about it. A pattern in the future, the government could possibly change this amendment by stating all the specific laws that people cannot commit. This way, people will have a harder time getting away with crimes they are not supposed to.

Amendment VII

Jury Trial in Civil Lawsuits

The 7th amendment states that in any case where one sues another for more than $20 a jury trial is provided. Civil claims must be tried by a judge and jury. Every citizen has a right to trial by jury if the civil penalty exceeds $20.
This is crucial since citizens should have a say in court cases, not just officials. Citizens deserve the right to jury trial.

Colgrove v. Battin

In Alabama during 1973, Judge Battin provided a six member jury for Colgrove’s civil case. Colgrove argued that he should have a twelve member jury, stating that it violated the Seventh Amendment. It was affirmed that the Montana rule did not the right to a jury trial by common law.

Depth & Complexity

The big idea of the Seventh Amendment is that based on past occurrences, civil claims must be tried by not only a judge but a jury also. The Seventh Amendment’s standards have changed over time. At the time of which the Bill of Rights were written, $20 was a lot of money. When the 7th amendment was created, $20 could buy you 20 acres of land. The Seventh Amendment does not consider inflation over time and therefore guarantees almost anyone a trial by jury. Current day lawsuits normally do not fall under $20. As time passes, maybe the Seventh Amendment will change to fit more suitable standards. The Seventh Amendment also wants to consider other points of view during civil cases. To be specific, civil points of view. Instead of having the judge decide alone the Seventh Amendment allows a civil jury to assist in making the decision as well.

Amendment VIII

Excessive Fines, Cruel & Unusual Punishment

This amendment ensures that neither bail nor punishment for a crime shall be unreasonably severe.
Cruel and unusual punishment such as the death penalty is something that has been thoroughly debated over the years, it’s something many view as unfair. Also, sometimes bail is held at a large asking price, and sometimes those being prosecuted can’t afford it.

United States v. Bajakajian

Hosep Bajakajian was charged after customs officers discovered $357,144 on him while he was on a departing flight. The officers charged him with attempting to leave the U.S. with an unreported sum of over $10,000, and the government also sought forfeiture of his money. In the end, the supreme court decided that this was a violation of the Eighth Amendment Excessive Fines clause. The court stated that all punishments should be proportional to the crime, and also reminded that currency transportation, for the most part, is permissible. Bajakajian’s failure was neither related to illegal activity, nor did it result in the loss to the government. Therefore, Hosep’s entire sum would be greatly unproportional to his offense.

Depth & Complexity

When looking at these multiple court cases regarding the eighth amendment, it is easy to see a pattern within all of them. Most cruel and unusual punishments follow a homicide of a sort. I think that this is a recurring pattern because many may see things as “an eye for an eye” this is also something that pertains to someone's point of view. Some people believe that if you murder some, it can be seen as an obligation that you will be given a death sentence. The same is considered with excessive fines, there are many people that believe that you must pay the price. Rules are undoubtedly something to consider when reflecting on someone's charge and fate. On a smaller scale, excessive fines like bail do not necessarily have to be paid if you can not afford it. Also, there is little to no chance of ever getting out of a death sentence, it is not that easy. In order to even be punished by execution, if the state has not yet abolished death penalty, it usually calls for murder to a certain degree as well as a multiple aggravating circumstances.

Amendment IV

Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. This included the search of homes, vehicles, and the personal privacy of citizens.
We chose this amendment because we feel that it is extremely important that people have the right to their own privacy. People don’t need to keep everything private, but for the things that should stay private, search warrants are necessary.

Katz v. United States

While gathering evidence for the prosecution of Charles Katz, the FBI “bugged” a telephone booth without a warrant. Based on evidence collected, Katz was convicted under an eight-count indictment for using telephone lines to transmit betting information to other states. Katz appealed the conviction by stating that a public telephone is a constitutionally protected area. He argued that evidence obtained from the device to the phone booth is in violation to the right of privacy to the person using the booth. The Court ruled in favor of Katz, declaring that “a person in a phone booth may rely upon the protection of the Fourth Amendment [and] is surely entitled to assume that the words he utters into the mouthpiece will not be broadcast to the world.” This case further establishes the protection of people and their personal privacy.

Depth & Complexity

Point of view is a relevant issue. People think that they deserve privacy because everyone’s entitled to have their personal things kept hidden from others when they feel it is necessary. On the other hand, some others think that people can become too secretive and hide things that are illegal. This is why they think that some people do not deserve all the privacy that they want to have. The Fourth Amendment was written since the Framers were concerned with the abuse of general warrants and writs of assistance by British customs officials, but through change over time twenty-first century controversies involving government power and individual liberty now apply. The trend of advancement of technology, especially intangible forms of communication, like the telephone or the Internet, made it much more difficult for judges to determine when certain surveillance practices intruded upon Fourth Amendment rights.