Law & Courts Federal File

Miers on Meyer

By Andrew Trotter — October 25, 2005 1 min read

White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers has been on an uncomfortable path toward the Nov. 7 start of her confirmation hearings to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reportedly was dissatisfied after his 45-minute conversation with Ms. Miers on Oct. 17, in which she was reluctant or unable to discuss a historic education case, Meyer v. Nebraska.

Meyer, which the Supreme Court decided in 1923, is often cited as an important part of the foundation for the “personal liberty interest” the high court has found in the 14th Amendment’s due-process clause, which in turn was central to the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade upholding abortion rights.

Robert T. Meyer, a teacher at a parochial school, was found guilty of teaching a Bible story in German to a 10-year-old child, in violation of a World War I-era Nebraska law that mandated English-only instruction in public and private schools and allowed foreign-language instruction only after 8th grade.

In overturning the conviction, the Supreme Court ruled that “the statute as applied is arbitrary and without reasonable relation to any end within the competency of the state.”

Liberty, the majority said in Meyer, “denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual … to acquire knowledge.”

The court’s Roe decision cited Meyer as one of a line of cases supporting a constitutional right to privacy.

Sen. Schumer told reporters that he asked Ms. Miers about Meyer and other cases that were important to the right to privacy.

“On many, she wouldn’t give answers. On many others, she deferred, saying, ‘I need to sort of bone up on this a little more, I need to come to conclusions,’ ” the senator said, according to Newsday.

It is unclear whether Ms. Miers was unfamiliar with the 1923 case or whether she was simply wary of dropping any clues about how she might rule on an abortion case.

“I don’t think you hold it against her, that she had little to say about Meyer,” said Perry A. Zirkel, a professor of law and education at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. “Although it’s a fairly historic education case, and [in] some sense a political case, it’s not one of the top Supreme Court decisions.”

He added, “I wouldn’t hold it against a law professor who didn’t know about [Meyer].”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2005 edition of Education Week

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts 'I Just Want to Play.' Judge Halts W. Va. Law Barring Transgender Girls From Girls' Sports
Ruling for an 11-year-old transgender girl, the judge holds that the law likely violates the equal-protection clause and Title IX.
3 min read
Image of a gavel.
Marilyn Nieves/E+
Law & Courts Praying Coach v. District That Suspended Him: What's Next in Fight Over Religious Expression
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit declined to reconsider an earlier panel ruling that sided with the school district.
4 min read
Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy, center in blue, kneels and prays after his team lost to Centralia in Bremerton, Wash., on Oct. 16, 2015. Kennedy, who was suspended for praying at midfield after games, has filed a discrimination complaint on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission according to The Liberty Institute, a Texas-based law firm representing the coach.
Joe Kennedy, center in blue, kneels and prays after a game in October 2015 when he was the assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash. In a long-running legal fight, Kennedy contends he has First Amendment free-speech and free-exercise-of-religion rights to express his Christian faith while on the job. The case is likely headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lindsey Wasso/The Seattle Times via AP
Law & Courts Appeals Court Again Backs Transgender Student, But on Narrower Grounds Amid Signs of Rift
A federal appeals panel removed a holding for student Drew Adams based on Title IX, perhaps to ward off a rehearing by the full court.
4 min read
Image of a gavel.
Marilyn Nieves/E+
Law & Courts Schools Will Get At Least $25 Million From Opioid Lawsuit
Lawyers are aiming to place significantly more money into the grant program as school districts' lawsuits against opioid companies continue.
3 min read
This June 17, 2019, photo shows 5-mg pills of Oxycodone.
This June 17, 2019, photo shows 5-mg pills of Oxycodone.
Keith Srakocic/AP