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Key Supreme Court Cases

  • Marbury v. Madison

    Marbury v. Madison
    This case was in response to WIlliam Marbury's appointment as Justice of Peace during President John Adam's term, but the appointment was not vaild since he never got it approved at the end of his term.
    Marbury petitioned to force James Madison, Secretary of State, to deliver the commission.
    Under writ of mandamus, the petition was denied.
  • Fletcher v. Peck

    Fletcher v. Peck
    First time a state law is declared unconstitutional; contract clause of the Constitution overrode state law.
  • McCulloch v. Maryland

    McCulloch v. Maryland
    Upheld constitutionality of the Bank of the United States; example of loose construction of the Constitution (favored by the Federalists).
  • Dartmouth College v. Woodward

    Dartmouth College v. Woodward
    The charter of a private corporation is protected under the Constitution.
  • Gibbons v. Ogden

    Gibbons v. Ogden
    This case reinforced the fact that the Supreme Court has control over interstate commerce. It came from when the state of New York gave Robert Livingston and Robert Fuller navigation priviledges of the water.
  • Worcester v. Georgia

    Worcester v. Georgia
    Supreme Court rules prior treaties between US and Cherokee Nation clearly establish tribal sovereignty over land sought by Goergia. Georgia law cannot have force on Cherokee land. Unfortunately, President Jackson didn't want to enforce this decision.
  • Cherokee Nation v. Georgia

    Cherokee Nation v. Georgia
    John Marshall said that Cherokee don't belong in court b/c Cherokee Nation wasn't a foreign nation, just a dependent one in the US
  • Prigg v. PA

    Prigg v. PA
    supreme court held that states could not be forced to comply with federal fugitive slave acts. Needed federal enforcement, not state enforcement.
  • Dred Scott v. Sandford (Missouri Compromise = unconstitutional)

    Dred Scott v. Sandford (Missouri Compromise = unconstitutional)
    Dred Scott's owner took him into a free-soil territory and allowed him to marry (usually a free-man's privelage) then brought him back to Missouri, a slave state. Abolitionists aruged that he became free when he was brought into a free-soil state. Filed lawsuit in Missouri, court said Scott was still a slave and changed the law to support that decision. Dred Scott case said Congress can't bar slavery and deny people the right of property, so most likely no free soil states could be made again.
  • Abelman v. Booth

    Abelman v. Booth
    Wisconsin Supreme Court granted habeas corpus relief to Booth, who was held in a federal jail for violating the Fugitive Slave Law. Nullifies the Fugitive Slave Law. The Supreme Court held that federal law was supreme and that Wisconsin must enforce the law. Chief Justice Taney's opinion for the court effectively rejects the theory of nullification.
  • US v Cruikshank

    US v Cruikshank
    overturns convictions under the Enforcement Act for Colfax Massacre. Federal government may not protect against violations of what the Court saw as State rights (the right to be alive)
  • Munn v. Illinois

    Munn v. Illinois
    The Populist Party brought the case to court in that grain storage rates were too high for farmers to store their grain. It led to an eventually victory and the government lowering the grain storage rates.
  • Civil Rights Cases of 1883

    Civil Rights Cases of 1883
    decides Federal government had no power to legislate directly against private discrimination.
  • Wabash v. Illinois

    Wabash v. Illinois
    Second court case of the Populist Party that was overturned by Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the government could not control interstate commerce. This ruling overturned the ruling of Munn v. Illinois.
  • United States v. E. C. Knight Co.

    United States v. E. C. Knight Co.
    Court case against company that controlled 90% of the sugar trade, in response to the Sherman Anti-Trust Act which tried to control monopolies.
    Final result was that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act did not apply to manufacturing companies. The case was eventually tossed out.
  • Plessey v Ferguson

    Plessey v Ferguson
    places a constitutional blessing on "Jim Crow" by approving racial segregation.
  • Lochner v. New York

    Lochner v. New York
    The case involved bakers who argued for a ten hour workday and a total of 60 hours a week. The Supreme Court rejected it saying that it violated the "due process" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Muller v. Oregon

    Muller v. Oregon
    Women wanted lower working hours, and it was eventually decided that they needed special protection and therefore should have lower hours. Through the Brandeis brief, lawyer Brandeis convinced the court that by making women work longer hours they were impairing their ability to have children and to take care of their families.
  • Schenck v. US

    Schenck v. US
    During the draft, Schenck mailed articles to everyone he knew telling them about how awful the draft was and how it was an issue with capitalism. He was charged with violating the Espionage Act and was found in a violation of free speech.
  • Adkins v. Children's Hospital

    Adkins v. Children's Hospital
    This court case showed that women and children were not allowed to have a set minimum wage. It was found that by Congress passing a law setting a minimum wage, it was increasing the power of the government too much. This reversed Muller v. Oregon.
  • Buck v. Bell (1927)

    Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. upheld a Virginia law that authorized the surgical sterilization of "mental defectives" without their consent. The surgical sterilization was an early form of eugenics that prevented the "mental defectives" from having children so that they could not breed a new generation of "imbeciles". American eugenic practices actually inspired the Nazi's. The girl in this case was raped and was considered an imbecile for getting pregnant before marriage.
  • Schechter v. US

    Schechter v. US
    This case was regarding issues with Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act, by the Schechter Poultry. The NIRA was also ruled as violating the 10th Amendment.
  • Butler v. US

    Butler v. US
    The case was argued that the 1933 Agricultural Adjusment Act was unconstitutional because it violated the 10th Amendment. Specifically, the tax. The case was found unconstitutional.
  • Korematsu v. US

    Korematsu v. US
    This case dealt with the Japanese internment camps, brought to the Court by Fred Korematsu. Korematsu felt that the Executive Order 9066 was a violation of their constitutional rights. The court ruled that the government was within their constitutional rights.
  • Dennis v. US

    Dennis v. US
    The Smith Act made it illegal to conspire to overthrow the US government. In 1948, leaders of the Communist Party of America were arrested for violating the Smith Act. This decision was upheld in Dennis v. US since the court determined that the Smith Act was not violating the First Amendment. Supreme Court basically upheld the idea that being a communist leader was a crime.
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

    Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
    Decided that segregated public schools were illegal. Overturned the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Segregated public schools violated the "equal protection clause" of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Earl Warren issued the decision.
  • Roe v. Wade

    Roe v. Wade
    This court case ruled the decision to have an abortion legal. The court supported this decision with th 14th Amendment, stating that by telling someone they can't have an abortion due process is being violated.
  • United States v. Nixon

    United States v. Nixon
    In reaction to the Watergate Scanadal, the Supreme Court struggled to reach a decision that they could charge Nixon with. They eventually decided on executive priviledge, which means that Nixon's "nothing is illegal for the President" is not true. This led to his resignation.