Katzenbach v. Morgan 384 U.S. 641 (1966)

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KATZENBACH v. MORGAN 384 U.S. 641 (1966)

This decision upheld the constitutionality of section 4(e) of the voting rights act of 1965. Section 4(e) provided that no person who had successfully completed sixth grade in a school in which the language of instruction was other than English should be denied the right to vote in any election because of his inability to read or write English. In Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections (1959) a unanimous Supreme Court had rejected a black citizen's attack on North Carolina's literacy test for voting. In Morgan the Court, in an opinion by Justice william j. brennan and over the dissents of Justices john marshall harlan and potter stewart, rejected New York State's argument that in enforcing section 5 of the fourteenth amendment Congress may prohibit enforcement of state law only if courts determine that the state law violates the fourteenth amendment. In light of Lassiter, it seemed unlikely that New York's literacy requirement would be judicially found to violate the Constitution. Instead, the Court found Section 4(e) appropriate legislation to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment by assuring the franchise to those who migrated to New York from puerto rico after completing sixth grade, whether or not that right to vote had been unconstitutionally infringed. The Morgan view that the Fourteenth Amendment confers diescretion upon Congress to act both remedially and prophylactically to protect Fourteenth Amendment rights makes the case a centerpeice for analysis of how far Congress may go to protect or restrict Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Theodore Eisenberg
(1986)

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Katzenbach v. Morgan 384 U.S. 641 (1966)

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