Civil Liberties in the Supreme Court

Every nation that positions itself as a democratic one should provide its citizens with appropriate rights and civil liberties. These phenomena ensure that individuals will not experience unlawful actions against their freedoms on behalf of the government without due process. However, it is sad to say that violations of civil liberties are often in the modern world, and numerous citizens suffer from this notion. Many factors can lead to these violations, but once they occur, individuals have a useful legal opportunity to restore justice. It relates to the fact that people can reach the Supreme Court to make it hear a case if they believe that their civil liberties are violated. That is why the given essay will focus on Bucklew v. Precythe case. Bucklew stated that the lower court decision was against his civil liberty, but he failed to prove it before the Supreme Court.

To begin with, one should present the details of the case under consideration. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (2019), it involved Russel Bucklew, who was sentenced to capital punishment by lethal injection. The Petitioner insisted on the fact that he had a medical condition that would make him suffocate for a few minutes before dying. If Bucklew had been executed in this manner, the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights would have been violated. It is so because this amendment stipulates that no one should be subject to “cruel and unusual punishment” (American Civil Liberties Union, 2019, para. 1). In other words, every individual has civil liberty not to endure bail, punishment, or fines that are harmful to their health or life. Since the preliminary decision was not to draw attention to Bucklew’s health conditions, the only choice for him to escape suffering was to file his case to the Supreme Court.

The highest court of the US has decided that the execution of Bucklew by lethal injection did not violate the Eighth Amendment. Consequently, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision against Bucklew because of two reasons. On the one hand, he failed to present “a feasible and readily implemented alternative method that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain” (Oyez, n.d., para. 4). He offered to use nitrogen hypoxia, but he did not show that it could be easily implemented. On the other hand, Bucklew also failed to prove that the state did not have a legitimate reason to reject his proposal (Oyez, n.d.).

Two phenomena make this case significant for the whole legislative system of the United States. Firstly, the given case demonstrates that the nation draws attention to civil liberties because individuals have an opportunity to reach the Supreme Court if they believe that their freedoms are violated. Secondly, the case shows that not every demand will be satisfied by the highest court of the nation. It means that the US judiciary system works as a whole, and an individual should present valid evidence to make the Supreme Court change the ruling in their favor.

As has been mentioned, Bucklew’s case reached the Supreme Court as an establishment of last resort. At first, the case was considered in the lower courts, including the district court of Missouri and the Eighth Circuit. These establishments did not draw any attention to the potential threats of the execution and decided to go forward. Even the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its claim about Bucklew’s health issue did not influence the decision (American Civil Liberties Union, 2019). At this point, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Missouri start taking action, and they urge the Supreme Court to initiate certiorari in this case.

Furthermore, it is necessary to comment on the powers that are granted to the Supreme Court by the constitution and that allowed this establishment to rule on the case. In addition to original jurisdiction, the highest court in the land has appellate jurisdiction that can involve issues of federal and state laws (United States Courts, n.d.). In these situations, the Supreme Court acts as an establishment of last resort that can help citizens seek justice. At the same time, the power of judicial review is also of significance because it allows the Supreme Court to declare that some legislative acts violate the constitution (United States Courts, n.d.). Consequently, the appellate jurisdiction resulted in the fact the Supreme Court heard Bucklew’s case. The highest court of the US also had the authority to cancel Bucklew’s execution by lethal injection, but the ruling was against the Petitioner.

In conclusion, one can say that civil liberties are an essential component for every nation. As for the United States, the country does its best to protect individual rights and freedoms. Many cases prove the idea above, and the one between Bucklew and Precythe is peculiar in this context. According to this example, even though the individual is sure that his civil liberties are violated, it does not mean that the Supreme Court will satisfy his demand. The court decided that the ruling did not violate the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights because the given method of execution was not designed to cause pain. In addition to that, Bucklew had an opportunity to prove the necessity to cancel the death penalty by lethal injection, but the absence of evidence did not allow him to achieve success.


American Civil Liberties Union. (2019). Bucklew v. Precythe, 17-8151. Web.

Oyez. (n.d.). Bucklew v. Precythe. Web.

United States Courts. (n.d.). About the Supreme Court. Web.

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DemoEssays. "Civil Liberties in the Supreme Court." February 9, 2022.