In Sherman ex rel. Sherman v. Koch, the Seventh Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act, a statute that mandates a daily "brief period of silence" for reflection and prayer in Illinois public schools. Though the statute fails to define the meaning of a "brief period" and provides no mechanism for enforcement, the court found that the statute possessed sufficient certainty to pass constitutional muster. The void for vagueness doctrine states that a statute with vague language is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. While it is generally accepted that a vague statute fails to provide notice and can lead to arbitrary enforcement, the courts have not settled on a uniform definition for the doctrine. As a result, a danger exists that courts will use the void for vagueness doctrine as a tool of reaching judicially predetermined outcomes by selecting their own interpretation of it. In its analysis, the Seventh Circuit used an interpretation of the doctrine that favored a finding of constitutionality and gave little explanation behind its rationale. This Note argues that the Seventh Circuit misapplied the void for vagueness doctrine in finding that the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act was constitutional.
Mary E. Vales,
Stuck in a Moment (of Silence): The Seventh Circuit's Misapplication of the Void for Vagueness Doctrine to the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act,
Seventh Circuit Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/seventhcircuitreview/vol6/iss2/4