President William Howard Taft promotes Associate Justice Edward D. White, a former member of the Confederate Army, to the Chief Justiceship.
In Weems v. United States, the Court holds for the first time that punishment must be appropriate and proportional to the crime. The Court overturns the sentence of a U.S. officer in the Philippines (then a U.S. territory): a 15-year prison term, hard labor, lifetime surveillance, and loss of his civil rights following his conviction for falsifying a document.
The Sixteenth Amendment, granting Congress the power to impose a federal income tax, is enacted.
The Seventeenth Amendment is enacted, establishing the direct election of U.S. Senators. Prior to this, Senators had been elected by state legislatures, with political disagreements often leaving long seat vacancies.
Friends and colleagues Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis D. Brandeis leave the Supreme Court building together.
Reproduction courtesy of the office of the Supreme Court Curator
In Weeks v. United States, the Court establishes the Exclusionary Rule (evidence unconstitutionally obtained must be excluded from trial. The decision states that federal police (or law enforcement) agents violated the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights when they entered his house without a warrant, and that therefore the confiscated private documents later used to convict him of illegally operating a lottery through the mail should have been excluded at his trial. The decision overturns Weeks's conviction.
The Court strikes as unconstitutional an Oklahoma "grandfather clause" limiting the right to vote to only those men whose grandfathers had been eligible to vote in 1867 (and therefore excluding all men of African descent). The decision in Guinn v. United States holds that the Oklahoma law is a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment, which extends the right to vote to U.S. citizens of all races.