The Law School Authority

Griswold v. Connecticut Case Brief

Summary of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

Relevant Facts: Griswold was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Both she and the Medical Director for the League gave information, instruction, and other medical advice to married couples concerning birth control. Griswold and her colleague were convicted under a Connecticut law which criminalized the provision of counseling, and other medical treatment, to married persons for purposes of preventing conception.

(it was not a crime to sell birth control devices, but it was a crime to use any drug or medicinal instrument for the purpose of preventing contraception)

Issue: Under constitutional law, does the Constitution protect the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on a couple’s ability to be counseled in the use of contraceptives?

Holding: Yes.  The Connecticut statute conflicts with the exercise of this right and is therefore null and void.

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: Though the Constitution does not explicitly protect a general right to privacy, the various guarantees within the Bill of Rights create penumbras, or zones, that establish a right to privacy. Together, the First, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments, create a new constitutional right, the right to privacy in marital relations.

Under the rulings of Meyer and Pierce, and other 1st Amendment cases, the implicit right to do things associated with those Amendments has been granted.  The same rule should apply here: the 3rd Amendment stops soldiers (read: police power or executive branch) from quartering soldiers in one’s home, the 5th Amendment enables persons to a zone of privacy which the gov’t may not force someone to surrender to their detriment, and the 9th Amendment explicitly says “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” (read: the explicit and heretofore decided implicit guarantees in the Bill of Rights cannot be used against people)

Rule: Under the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 9th Amendments, the right to family was created and thus protects the right of marital privacy.

Important Dicta:  N/A.

Dissenting:  (Justice Black with Stewart): There is no constitutional right to privacy, as the majority says there is.  There are some constitutional guarantees, like the 4th Amendment, but not the 14th, which Black generally calls a stretch.  As for the 9th Amendment, there is no need for this analysis, as the Framers created this Amendment to “assure the people that the Constitution in all its provisions was intended to limit Federal Government to the powers granted expressly or by necessary implication.

(Justice Stewart with Black): The law does not violate the Constitution, although the law itself is silly, outdated, and unenforceable.

Concurring: (Justices Goldberg, Warren, Brennan): Doesn’t think that the ninth amendment, as introduced by Madison to Congress, was to protect the people from the other eight amendments’ specificity.  This concurrence feels that the original eight were fine enough to stand on their own as protective of the penumbra the majority brings to light in this decision.

(Harlan): The use of the constitutional amendments are not necessary to justify this ruling, when the court takes a look at the doctrines of federalism and separation of powers.

(White): Feels this is a due process violation of the 14th Amendment.  This is the state acting to limit a right to family, and there is no justification by Connecticut’s argument it reinforces a ban on illicit sexual relationships.

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