Griswold v. Connecticut

Following is the case brief for Griswold v. Connecticut, Supreme Court of the United States, (1965)

Case Summary of Griswold v. Connecticut:

  • Buxton and Griswold were the Director and Executive Director for Connecticut’s Planned Parenthood league.
  • Both were arrested and convicted as “accessories” for providing information, advice and instruction to married couples on how to prevent conception in violation of a state statute.
  • Both challenged the state law claiming it violated the 14th Amendment.
  • The Supreme Court held that the state law was unconstitutional because the Bill of Rights includes an implied right to privacy, which extends to the marital relationship.

Griswold v. Connecticut Case Brief

Statement of the Facts:

Buxton, a licensed doctor and Yale professor, served as Director for the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Griswold served as Executive Director. Both Buxton and Griswold were arrested and convicted as “accessories” under a state statute for giving out information medical advice and instruction to married couples on how to prevent conception. The Connecticut state statute prevented the use of or assistance in preventing contraception.

Both challenged the convictions claiming the statute violated the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy.

Procedural History:

The Appellate Division of the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of Errors affirmed the lower court’s convictions. Buxton and Griswold then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Issue and Holding:

Is there an implied right in the Bill of Rights that allows the use of contraceptives by a married person? Yes.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

In the Bill of Rights, an implied right to privacy exists which prohibits the state from preventing married couples from using a form of contraception.


The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision.


The right to privacy implied in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights prevents government intrusion into the marital relationship.

The Court lists the implied rights protected under each amendment of the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment includes the right to associate, the Third Amendment prohibits quartering soldiers in a person’s house without their consent, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination. In addition, the Ninth Amendment provides that the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution “shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The Court refers to these protected rights as “penumbras” that although they are not specifically enumerated, they represent varying “zones of privacy” where the government may not intrude.

The marital relationship is at issue in this case. The Court held that the marital relationship falls within the zone of privacy impliedly created by the constitutional guarantees in the Bill of Rights. The state law attempting to prohibit the use of contraceptives in the marital relationship violates the relationships protected freedoms. The concept of privacy in a marriage has existed prior to the Bill of Rights. It is necessary to keep this right sacred and free from states intrusion. The State law in Connecticut is unconstitutional.

Concurring and Dissenting opinion:

Concurring (Harlan):

The right to use contraception within a marriage is supported by the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Inferring a right to privacy under the Constitution equates to inappropriate judicial activism by the majority.

Concurring (White):

The state law deprives married couples of a liberty interest without due process of law and is unconstitutional. The ban is overly broad and over-inclusive because banning the use of contraception by marital couples does not reinforce the ban on illicit sexual relations.

Concurring (Goldberg):

The state law is unconstitutional and it intrudes into the marital right to privacy. Though the right to privacy within a marriage is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, it is supported by numerous decisions and the specific language in the Ninth Amendment. In addition, the right of privacy in marriages is a fundamental right as it is firmly rooted in the “traditions and collective conscience” of people. Though the state offers the prevention of adulterous relationships as the legitimate purpose for the statute, it fails to consider less intrusive methods.

Dissent (Black)

The law is based unsound policy. The Constitution offers no basis for the right of privacy as defined by the majority. The Court may not use the Ninth Amendment as authority to strike down the state law they believe is contrary to the “traditions of the collective conscience” or violates “fundamental principles of liberty and Justice”. The closest right applicable to this case would be the Fourth Amendment, however, the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy is not general.

Dissent (Stewart):

Although silly and unwise, the state law is not unconstitutional. The Court does not have the duty to strike down legislation is disagrees with. The best recourse of the people in the state of Connecticut would be to exercise their Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights, convincing their officials to change the disagreed upon law.


Griswold v. Connecticut was the first case to establish the right to privacy within a marriage. Although the right is not expressly stated in the Bill of Rights, the Court acknowledged that many implied rights exist.

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