Breaking New Ground: Top 5 Legal Landbreakers in Recent Years

by RyanD on October 6, 2012

(US law) In the past few years, there have been quite a number of legal cases that have helped shape this nation economically, politically and morally. Here are five of the most noteworthy cases:

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

This is the only piece of social legislation in recent memory that has become less popular since it was passed. In this intriguing decision that affects 300 million Americans, the Supreme Court held that the federal mandate that all individuals buy health insurance is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, but not the Taxing and Spending Clause.

Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause

The government argued that it had the right to make people buy health insurance pursuant to the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.

The High Court disagreed, finding:

1. The government does not have the power pursuant to the Commerce Clause to compel people to do something to engage in commerce.

2. The government does not have the power pursuant to the Necessary and Proper Clause to compel people to do something because the Act is not predicated on a granted power.

Taxing and Spending Clause

However, the Supreme Court held that the government has the power to make people buy health insurance pursuant to the power to “lay and collect taxes,” or the Taxing and Spending Clause. Americans must show proof of health insurance in the fiscal year of 2014 or pay a “tax” to the Internal Revenue Service.


The Court struck down the federal government’s proposed expansion of Medicaid. The Court stated that the federal government cannot withhold Medicaid funds as a penalty to states that choose not to participate in the “Obamacare” program.

Caylee’s Law

In July 2011, a Florida jury acquitted Casey Anthony of killing her two-year old daughter, Caylee. Anthony had failed to report Caylee missing for 31 days. Outraged by the verdict, protesters demanded that lawmakers pass legislation that would make it a felony for a parent or guardian of a child to fail to call the police within 24 hours after the child is discovered missing. So far, 32 states have introduced such legislation that is unofficially named “Caylee’s Law.”

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

In Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007), the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (PBABA). This is a federal law banning a certain form of late-term abortion. The Court found the PBABA constitutional because it did not unduly burden the due process right of women to obtain an abortion.

However, only seven years earlier the Court, in Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000), struck down a similar Nebraska law as unconstitutional because it did not contain a health exception, just like the PBABA. The Gonzales Court did not overrule the Stenberg case, but found a procedural ground to distinguish it.

By upholding the PBABA, the Court effectively overturned 30 years of precedent. An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine described Gonzales v. Carhart as a landmark case, noting that this was the first time the Court held that physicians can be prohibited from performing an abortion that is necessary for the mother’s health.

Physician-Assisted Suicide

In Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (2006), the Supreme Court held that the United States Attorney General could not use the federal Controlled Substances Act to overrule an Oregon law that legalized doctor-assisted suicide of the terminally ill.

In 1997, Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA). This law allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to a patient who will die anyway of an incurable medical condition within six months.

In November 2001, the Attorney General issued an opinion stating that because doctor-assisted suicide was not a legitimate medical practice, any doctor who prescribes federally controlled drugs to assist in patient suicide would be in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The Court disagreed, holding that the Attorney General lacked the power to overrule state laws that determined the appropriate use of drugs that were not prohibited.
Since the DWDA was passed, 935 people have had lethal medications prescribed to them, and 596 patients have died from ingesting such medications.

United States Presidential Election 2000

In Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), the Supreme Court case effectively decided the 2000 presidential election in favor of Republican George W. Bush. The Court held that Florida’s system of re-counting ballots ran afoul of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court also determined that a constitutionally valid method of recounting could not be established within Florida’s statutory deadline for results certification.

Consequently, the Court affirmed Florida’s previous certification of Bush as the winner of Florida’s 25 electoral votes. These votes gave Bush 271 electoral votes, allowing him to win the electoral college by one vote, and defeating Democrat Al Gore by five electoral votes. This was the closest presidential election in history, and only the second time in history the Court had stepped into the fray of a presidential election. This election also had the unusual result of the winning candidate losing the popular vote.

The 2000 election changed the way people voted. Because of the problems with the punch card voting machines and the confusing “butterfly” ballots in Florida, voter access was expanded to allow Americans to vote early or by mail.

In addition, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002. This law required the states to upgrade their old punch card and lever-based voting machines. Consequently, most states have replaced these machines with optical scanning machines that read votes recorded on the paper ballot. This resulted in less voter error and more accurate elections.


This article was written on behalf of Orlando Divorce Help, your top Orlando divorce lawyer of choice in this difficult situation to help you keep what you deserve.




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