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30 Most Influential Supreme Court Cases

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    Jay, Rutledge, and Ellsworth Courts

  • Talbot v. Janson

    Talbot v. Janson
    -Case dealing with Court's jursidiction at sea and with dual citizenship
    -Came at time when the nation was expanding its sea influence and still defining what citizenship entailed
    -Held that the Court's powers did apply to US waters and that dual citizenship was legal
  • New York v. Connecticut

    New York v. Connecticut
    -Case over disputed land claims between New York and Connecticut
    -First court case between indivudual states
    -Came at time when the Court was still establishing what its role was including interstate disputes
    -New York presented documents if an agreement between the states giving the land to New York
    -Court ruled New York lacked standing or enough evidence and ruled in favor of Conneticut land owners
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    Marshall Court

  • Talbot v. Seeman

    Talbot v. Seeman
    -Resulted from American French naval conflict at the turn of the century
    -USS Constitution captured German vessel from French possesion and wanted compensation in salvage rights
    -Owners and crew of German vessle argued that they were a neutral party and thus not subject to being a war prize. Also argued that no declaration of war with France prevented war prizes from being legal
    -Court Ruledprize was legal and forced German oweners to pay 1/6 value to crew of USS Constitution
  • American Insurance Company v. 356 Bales of Cotton

    American Insurance Company v. 356 Bales of Cotton
    -Extention of original case in Florida Territory
    -Case claimed local courts established by Congress were unconstitutional
    -During thos time the US was aquiring new territories and determining how to control these
    -Court ruled in favor of Congress claiming it has power to enact laws in territories, however this descion was reversed in Dread Scott's case that claimed Congress lacked powers in territories
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    Taney Court

  • Prigg v. Pennsylvania

    Prigg v. Pennsylvania
    -Reulted form Prigg a slave catcher being arrested in Pennsylvania for abducting a runaway slave
    -Ocurred at time of great tensions between north and south
    -Appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that Federal fugitive Slave Act voided State Laws preventing slaves from being recaptured
    Court ruled in favor of Prigg but did state that States were allowed to prohibit local offcials from assisting slave catchers
  • Cooley v. Board of Wardens

    Cooley v. Board of Wardens
    -Case arguimg that Pennsylvania voilated the Commerce Clause by requring ships entering and leaving local harbors to hire a local pilot for entering and leaving
    -Ocurred during time of increaing sea trade
    -Law was designed both to improve employment of locals and also to increase port efficency since locals would have better knowlege of area
    -Court ruled that Pennsylvania was not in violation since Congress was slient on issue
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    Chase Court

  • Crandall v. Nevada

    Crandall v. Nevada
    -Case resulting from Nevada law taxing on persons leaving the state
    -During this time interstate travel was increasing due to the railroad
    -Nevada law issued $1 tax on all leaving the state by stage coach railroad or any form of the transportation buisness
    -Court ruled that the right to travel was a basic right and that Nevada law was unconsituional
  • Bradwell v. Illinois

    Bradwell v. Illinois
    -Resulted from Bradwell suing because she was denied admission to the IIIinois bar on the grounds of her gender but Bradwell claimed that she was protected by the Privileges clause of the 14th Amendment
    -During this time more women were trying to join the workforce
    -Court ruled that the 14th did not apply as it did dont apply to practicing profession ruling infavor of IIIinois while not making any consideration to Bradwell's gender
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    Waite Court

  • Kilbourn v. Thompson

    Kilbourn v. Thompson
    -Case in which the House held a member of an investigation commitee in jail for refusing to testify to his findings
    -Investigation was aimed at a recently bankrupted coporation due to recent economic slumps
    -Court ruled that the House could not force Kilbourn to testify but the House members were also protected form being counter sued as investigation powers had not previously been defined. Also resulted in limits if House investigations known as the Kilbourn Test
  • Ker v. Illinois

    Ker v. Illinois
    -Case resulting from Ker a US fugitive hiding in Peru being kidnapped by a Pinkerton sent by the Feds to extradite Ker after extradation failed due to lack of forgien assistance
    -Ocurred during Pinkerton hayday of the late 19th century
    -Court ruled that Ker's Consititutional rights had not been violated as he was outside the US and therefore outside the Court's jurisdiction
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    Fuller Court

  • United States v. Wong Kim Ark

    United States v. Wong Kim Ark
    • Children born in the United States are natural born citizens, regardless of their parents' origin.
    • This ruling was based on the 14th Amendment.
    • Dissenters argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 stated that citizens are not subject to foreign powers.
    • During this time, soon after the Civil War, immigration was increasing once again and it was becoming an issue, like illegal immigration is today.
    • This case eventually helped all minority citizens to obtain suffrage rights in American.
  • Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education

    Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education
    • The Richmond County, GA, tax only supported public schools for white children.
    • Permitted de jure segregation in the American education system, but was overturned by the decision of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education
    • Ruled in favor of the Board of Education because the city was allowed to determine how it would allocate its funds.
    • The Civil Rights movement really began to gain steam with the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments and the Union influence of the Restoration period.
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    White Court

  • Gompers v. Buck's Stove and Range Company

    Gompers v. Buck's Stove and Range Company
    • This case was dismissed because it eventually became a non-issue.
    • Labor leaders, among them AFL founder Samuel Gompers, wanted to participate in a boycott, but they were not allowed due to their position in the unions. -Labor unions were influential in the early twentieth century because blue-collar workers were fighting for better working conditions, hours, and wages.
    • As a result, these leaders, Gompers, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison, were sentenced in 1911 and again in 1912.
  • Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio

    Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio
    • This ruled that the free speech clause in the Constitution of the state of Ohio did not extend to movies and censorship must remain within the domain of the government's power.
    • Film production was becoming a longer and more complex ordeal with higher quality animations and film techniques.
    • With the beginning of World War I, Americans wanted a way to escape the chaos and often used media.
    • The displaying of films had to be approved by the board of censors.
    • Overturned in 1952.
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    Taft Court

  • United States v. Ninety-Five Barrels (More or Less) Alleged Apple Cider Vinegar

    United States v. Ninety-Five Barrels (More or Less) Alleged Apple Cider Vinegar
    • The label of the vinegar product stated that it was made from "selected apples". This implied that the producers used fresh, not dried, apples.
    • Although taste and chemical tests yielded similar results, the product was deemed "misbranded" due to the Pure Food and Drug Act.
    • Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was published in 1906 and it drastically increased awareness about impurity of food.
    • Agencies like the FDA were formed to be particular about what food was permissible.
  • Gong Lum v. Rice

    Gong Lum v. Rice
    • Martha Lum was not allowed to attend a white school in Mississippi, but as a Chinese student, she was classified as "colored".
    • The Court ruled that she be given equal protection as long as she attended a separate but equal colored school.
    • With the increased birth rates after the end of World War I, a higher importance was placed on education; only encouraged for whites.
    • Effectively overturned by Brown v. Board of Education.
    • Officially overturned by Guey Heung Lee v. Johnson in 1971.
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    Hughes Court

  • Blockburger v. United States

    Blockburger v. United States
    • Blockburger was indicted on five accounts of selling morphine to the same client.
    • The Supreme Court ruled that there can only be a charge of separate accounts if they require additional or different facts to prove guilt.
    • He violated the Harrisson Narcotics Act which prohibited the sale of opiates after 1914.
    • This case set the standard for double jeopardy and when it comes into effect.
  • Brown v. Mississippi

    Brown v. Mississippi
    • Three black tenant farmers were charged with the murder of a white planter, Raymond Stuart.
    • The men admitted to the murder, but it was only after being tortured by police officers.
    • The Court ruled that by the 14th amendment, information obtained through brutal means could not be viewed as legitimate.
    • This trial took place at the same time as the setting of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960.
    • The country was still recovering from the Great Depression at this time.
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    Stone Court

  • Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire

    Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire
    • Chaplinsky, a Jehovah's Witness, was taken to police headquarters for being obnoxious in his methods for preaching in public.
    • On his way, he verbally attacked an officer using profanities.
    • The court ruled that these types of "free speech" were not protected by the 1st Amendment.
    • At this time, World War II was causing panic throughout the world.
    • The government was worried that some citizens would betray the nation, so it restricted dissenting opinions.
  • Korematsu v. United States

    Korematsu v. United States
    • Fred Korematsu refused the executive order for all Japanese-Americans to relocate to internment camps.
    • This order was issued because of the recent attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese bombers.
    • Although he was a loyal citizen, he was convicted because the court ruled that the safety of the country was more important than his individual rights.
    • This decision has not been officially overturned, but the people that attended the camps have been compensated for and apologized to.
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    Vinson Court

  • Takahashi v. Fish and Game Commission

    Takahashi v. Fish and Game Commission
    -Torao Takahashi was a Japanese immigrant to California who ran a commercial fishing business
    -After 1943, California declared any issuing of fish or game licenses to Japanese aliens illegal, which as a result, denied Takahashi of a license
    -Takahashi challenged in the courts, where eventually the Supreme Court decided the law was unconstitutional as even non citizens were subject to the protection by law and was in violation of the 14th amendment
  • Johnson v. Eisentrager

    Johnson v. Eisentrager
    -The United States arrested and tried several war criminals who had refused to observe the unconditional surrender of Germany in May, 1945. They were then transported to the US occupied portion of Germany and put in jail
    -The prisoners appealed saying their imprisonment violated the US Constitution and Geneva Convention laws
    -The Supreme Court ruled that the US justice system had no authority over the war criminals or their trials since they had never been on US sovereign territory
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    Warren Court

  • Quantity of Books v. Kansas

    Quantity of Books v. Kansas
    -Police in Junction City, Kansas raided an adult bookstore and seized books they deemed to be obscene
    -After Kansas Supreme Court upheld the decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in a 7-2 decision, the seizure a violation of the First Amendment as the books had not been previously declared obscene
  • Leary v. United States

    Leary v. United States
    -Political activist Timothy Leary was arrested for possession of marijuana, which violated the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
    -Leary argued that the act required self incriminating evidence and won, overturning his conviction and forcing the court to declare the act unconstitutional
    -The court replaced the act with the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970
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    Burger Court

  • Bob Jones University v. United States

    Bob Jones University v. United States
    -Bob Jones University banned blacks until 1971 and banned interracial dating until 2000
    -In 1970, the IRS revoked the university's tax exemptions based on its discriminatory tendencies
    -After several appeals, the case reached the Supreme Court, who ruled that the IRS was right in denying the university tax exemptions based on ineligibility as the US legal system had the obligation to fight racial discrimination
  • City of Akron vs. Akron Center for Reproductive Health

    City of Akron vs. Akron Center for Reproductive Health
    -The Supreme Court case ruled that several Ohio abortion laws were unconstitutional, including;
    -Abortions after the First Trimester had to be performed in a hospital
    -A physician may not perform an abortion on a minor under 15 w/o parental consent
    -Physician must ensure remains of fetus are disposed in sanitary and humane manner
    -A 24-hour waiting period is required once a patient consents for an abortion
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    Rehnquist Court

  • Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District

    Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District
    -The Lamb's Chapel Evangelical Church wanted to use a public school in a New York school district to show a series religious films, which the school district refused
    -The supreme court ruled that this was a violation of the First Amendment and declared that public schools may not refuse to have religious films shown on school grounds
  • Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston

    Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston
    -The Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston requested to march in the 1992 Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade, but the Parade Council refused to permit them, declaring the group was not part of the message they wished to convey
    -In 1995 the Supreme Court agreed with local and state courts, declaring the Parade Council had every right to deny a group entry into the parade and did not violate the First Amendment
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    Roberts Court

  • Gonzalez v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal

    Gonzalez v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal
    -A Brazilian church, Uniao do Vegetal, uses hallucinogenic ayahuasca tea regularly in its religious ceremonies
    -The Federal Government seized the tea from a New Mexico branch of the church as ayahuasca is a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act
    -When the church challenged the seizure, the Supreme Court ruled that they were to be granted religious injunction because the government didn't have compelling interest to deny the church the use of ayahuasca
  • Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council

    Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council
    -In 2007, the US Navy began testing sonar technology in the Pacific Ocean that would help identify enemy submarines
    -Environmental activists began protesting, stating the sonar posed significant hazard to the whale population
    -The Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs could not prove the sonar would likely cause damage, and even if they did, the issue of national security outweighed environmental protection