Supreme court

Key Supreme Court Cases

  • Marbury v. Madison

    Marbury v. Madison
    Secretary of State Madison hadn't delivered President Adam's commission to Marbury (one of Adam's midnight appointment). Marbury sued to have the commission delivered. While Marbury had the right to the commission, the Court ruled that it didn't have the power to force Madison to hand it over. In invalidating one of its minor powers, Marshall's Court achieved a victory in that it established its power of judicial review, and set the precedent for invalidating laws as "unconstitutional."
  • Fletcher v. Peck

    Fletcher v. Peck
    This was the first time the Supreme Court ruled a state law unconstitutional. Georgia had sold land to speculators and when it was revealed that the sale involved bribing public officials, they voided the sales. The repeal of the law was unconstitutional b/c it violated the Contract Clause of the Constitution, so this ruling helped establish the sanctity of the contract. It also hinted that Indians didn't truly own their land b/c the land Georgia had sold was "uninhabited" land they'd claimed.
  • McCulloch v. Maryland

    McCulloch v. Maryland
    Maryland tried to tax the Second Bank of the United States. By ruling that the federal gov. could charter a bank, they gace credence to the concept that the "necessary and propper clause" lent the federal gov. "implied powers." They further ruled that the "power to tax involves the power to destroy" and that therefore the tax was unconstitutional for a state law cannot attempt to impede a federal law.
  • Dartmouth College v. Woodward

    Dartmouth College v. Woodward
    Dartmouth College had been granted a Charter by the King back before The Revolution. When the state of New Hampshire tried to change the law the College sued (employing Daniel Webster as Counsel). The Court ruled New Hampshires meddling unconstitutional as it violated the sanctity of contract extablished by the constitution.
  • Dartmouth v. Woodward

    Dartmouth v. Woodward
    The Government wanted to make Dartmouth a public institution rather than a private one. The Supreme court ruled that the State cannot change the charter of a private institution, or the Government cannot force a privately operated institution to become public.
  • McCulloch v. Maryland

    McCulloch v. Maryland
    In this case, Maryland tried to impose a tax on the Second Bank of the United States. The Court ruled that the Government was allowed to interpret the constitution loosely and create things such as the National Bank.
  • Cohens v. Virginia

    Cohens v. Virginia
    The Cohens had been found guilty of illegally selling lottery tickets. They appealed their case from Virginia to the Supreme Court, where the Court upheld the conviction. The real issue here was whether this criminal case could be appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that since a federal law was involved the court was justified in being appealed to. The precedent established thus strengthened the influence of the federal court at the state court's expenses.
  • Gibbons v. Ogden

    Gibbons v. Ogden
    New York tried to grant a monopoly on waterborne commerce between NY and NJ. The Court declared this monopoly unconstitutional b/c the Constitution stated that Congress alone had the authority to regulate interstate commerce.
  • Cherokee Nation v. Georgia

    Cherokee Nation v. Georgia
    In this case, the Cherokee Indians sought a federal injunction against the Georgia laws that deprived them of rights within the states boundaries. The court ended up not even hearing the case because they felt the indians were not fully part of the country, they were just residing there
  • Worcester v. Georgia

    Worcester v. Georgia
    This case involved Samuel Worcester. He was convicted for being on indian lands without a liscense. The court ruled that this was unconstitutional and his sentence was let go.
  • Prigg v Pennsylvania

    Prigg v Pennsylvania
    In this case, the court decided that states did not have to enforce the return of fugitive slaves. It stated that government law was stronger than state law.
  • Dred Scott v. Sandford

    Dred Scott v. Sandford
    Dred Scott, a former slave who had lived free in Illinois came back into MIssouri and petitioned for freedom there. The Court ruled here that the descendents of slaves imported into the Americas could never become citizens (basically nobody black). They also invalidated the Missouri compromise, thus permitting slavery in all US territories. This controversial decision helped to bring the slavery issue further into the spotlight (an issue capitalized on by Lincoln and the Republicans).
  • Munn v. Illinois

    Munn v. Illinois
    The decision in this case, which focused on whether legislation proposed by the Grange movement to regulate grain elevator rates, set the precedent that private property could indeed be regulated by the government if it was in the interest of the public good.
  • Civil Rights Cases

    Civil Rights Cases
    A collection of cases in which Congress ruled that the Cvil Rights Act of 1875, which guaranteed complete equality in all public places, was unconstitutional. It also ruled that the 14th amendment only gave the federal government the power to combat segregation by state and local governments, not private companies or individuals. This case marked the end of any serious attempts to gain social equality for blacks in the Reconstruction era.
  • Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railway Company v. Illinois

    Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railway Company v. Illinois
    Declared that states didn't have the right to control interstate commcerce, which meant that any regulateion of industry would have to be done by the federal government. The federal government made a show of doing this by passing the interstate commerce act of 1887, which created the ICC. This ruling weakened the precedent set by Munn v. Illinois.
  • Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co.

    Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co.
    This Supreme Court Case declared the income tax included in the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894, which was pretty much that act's only redeeming quality, unconstitutionsl. The income tax included in the Act was seen as a direct tax, which was forbidden by the constitution.
  • United States v. E. C. Knight Co.

    United States v. E. C. Knight Co.
    This case was brought to court when the US attempted to enforce the Sherman Antitrust act by halting a transaction that would create sugar monopoly. The Supreme Court ruled that the creation of the monopoly couldn't be prevented by the sherman antitrust act because manufacturing was considered a local activity, so the Antitrust act had no power. Thus, in the future, it was left to states to regulate any maufacturing monopolies, a difficult task when the monopoly extended into multiple states.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson

    Plessy v. Ferguson
    In this case the Supreme Court ruled that public segregation was legal so long as the facilities were seperate but equal. The opinion that legislation is powerless to change public bias, and therefore should not attempt to do so, was often cited in later years.
  • Lochner Vs. New York

    Lochner Vs. New York
    Invalidated a standard ten hour workday for bakers. Began what was later known as the "Lochner Era" in which the Supreme Court invalidated many laws which imposed restrictions on the interactions between employers and labor.
  • Muller v. Oregon

    Muller v. Oregon
    An oregon laundrey owner worked his women more than the 10 hour day that he was lawfully allowed to. When he appealed his fine Louise Brandeis argued that restrictions on laboring women were necessary for women's health. It was a victory for both labor and sexism.
  • Buchanan v Warley

    Buchanan v Warley
    The Supreme Court declared that laws restricting property sales between blacks and whites in Louisville Kentucky were unconstitutional citing the fact that they were solely based on race. This was a major victory for the black civil rights movement though it was later overshadowed by Brown v Board of Education.
  • Debs V. US

    Debs V. US
    The Infamous Eugene V. Debs made an anti-war speech during the midst of World War 1. He was then arrested and tried in front of the US Supreme Court. There he was found to be guilty under the Espionage Act. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison as punishment for his crime.
  • Schenck V. United States

    Schenck V. United States
    This case involved Schenck sending around anti-draft flyers and widly distributing them. This was taken to the Supreme Court due to Schenck saying he had freedom of speech. However he was found guilty of being a "clear and present danger to the country." Which was upheld by the Espionage Act.
  • Sacco and Vanzetti trial

    Sacco and Vanzetti trial
    Note: Technically not a Supreme Court case. Sacco and Vanzetti were charged with armed robbery and murder during 1920. Due to lack of physical evidence many felt that they were charged in large part because of the fact that they were Italian anarchists. As the case was appealed multiple times, the international community took notice and Sacco and Vanzetti became symbols oof American racial and ethnic prejudice. That aside, they were executed in 1927, to many's dissapointment.
  • Adkins v. Children's Hospital

    Adkins v. Children's Hospital
    In this case the Supreme court overturned its ruling in Muller v. Oregon (1908), invalidating a minimum wage law for women. Whereas the Muller case had argued that women were inferior and therefore deserving of protection, this case argued that now that women had the right to vote (because of the 19th amendment) that it was now unconstitutional to discriminate. Together, Adkins and Muller would set contradicting precedents concerning gender discrimination for the rest of the century.
  • The State of Tennessee v. Scopes

    The State of Tennessee v. Scopes
    Note: Technically not a supreme court case. Scopes was a high school teacher who'd violated Tennessee's Butler Law by teaching evolution to his class. The case garnered national attention, with William Jennings Bryan serving as prosecutor and famed lawyer Clarence Darrow representing Scopes. Bryan takes the stand as a bible expert and is humiliate (and dies 5 days later). Scopes loses but the case highlights religion vs. science battle as well as the north vs. south tensions during this time.
  • Schecter v US

    Schecter v US
    Invalidated regulations of poultry imposed by the federal government and in doing so declared the New Deal's NIRA (National Industrial Recovery Act), unconstitutional. It held that the President's being able to establish "codes of fair competition" violated separation of powers because that was a power that would belong to the legislature (although they believed that this amount of power would be beyond the scope of Congress's power too). Largely symbolic, as NIRA had already been dying.
  • Korematsu v US

    Korematsu v US
    In an effort to promote national unity and in anticipation of espionage by Japanese Americans, the US took 110,000 Japanese from the Pacific coast and placed them in spartan internment camps. Korematsu, a man who'd been caught avoiding internment, appealed the constitutionality of the process. The Supreme Court upheld internment because national security needs trumped Korematsu's individual rights. In 1988 the US appoligized for its actions and paid $20,000 in reparations to each camp survivor.
  • Brown v. Board of Education

    Brown v. Board of Education
    In this landmark case the supreme court ruled that segregation in public schools was "inherently unequal," reversing its 1896 decision made in Plessy v. Ferguson. In 1955's "Brown II" Supreme Court case, the court heard arguements from school districts requesting relief from the task of desgregation. Justice Warren's court here mandated that desegration must go ahead with "all deliberate speed," a vague phrasing which was seized upon by many southern schools to delay integration.
  • Gideon v. Wainwright

    Gideon v. Wainwright
    Courts must provide attorneys for those who are unable to afford one for themselves. The was a part of the movement within the US court system towards becoming more standardized across the nation, with defendents becoming able to rely on "procedural guarantees" to ensure a fair trial.
  • Griswald v. Connecticut

    Griswald v. Connecticut
    The state of Connecticut had arrested members of a Planned Parenthood League for giving information and instructions concerning birth control to married couples (while it was not a crime to sell birth control, it was a crime to use any sort of medical device to prevent concetption). The court ruled that states can't outlaw contraceptives. In doing so, the court also established that Americans have a fundemental right to privacy.
  • Miranda v Arizona

    Miranda v Arizona
    Established that police must inform poeple of rights such as the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Was a major part of the legal rights movement that took place in the sixties (one of the sixties' many movements).
  • Epperson v. Arkansas

    Epperson v. Arkansas
    The Supreme Court struck down an Arkansas law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools. They ruled that the teaching of solely creationism was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the first amendment, because it protected the interests of one religious group
  • Roe v. Wade

    Roe v. Wade
    Held that a woman can have an abortion at any time during her first trimester without interference from the state. In doing so, the court set the set the parameters in which the abortion debate would rage for decades to come. Jane Roe (a.k.a. Norma McCorvey) wanted to have an abortion but Texas wouldn't let her. The Supreme Court ruled that such
    interference violates a woman's right to privacy and is thus unconstitutional.
  • US v. Nixon

    US v. Nixon
    During the Watergate scandal Nixon attempted to avoid handing over incriminating tapes by hiding behind executive privilage. After the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon must hand over the tapes (rejecting his executive privilige argument and thus limiting presidential power), he gave over heavilly edited versions. They were enough to tie him to the cover up of the Watergate scandal, however, and they forced Nixon to resign before Congress impeached him.