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Key Supreme Court cases

  • Marbury v. Madison

    Marbury v. Madison
    This case came as a result Jefferson refusing to pay some of the workers John Adams' hired at the very end of his term. Marbury, one of those who did not receive his commission, brought it to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in Marbury's favor, saying that Jefferson should pay the commission, however they could not enforce this. This gave the Supreme Court judicial review, or the right to rule laws and actions unconstitutional.
  • McCulloch v. Maryland

    McCulloch v. Maryland
    Maryland passed a statute that said that all banks in Maryland that were not chartered would have to pay a special tax. Also, they could only issue bank notes on paper from the state. James McCulloh violated both parts of this law. Maryland sued McCulloch for this. McCulloch challenged the constitutionality of this law in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in McCulloch's favor because the bank he worked at was a national bank. Maryland could not tax a national bank.
  • Dartmouth v. Woodward

    Dartmouth v. Woodward
    The state of New Hampshire tried to change Dartmouth into a public college. The trustees of the school attempted to regain control of the school by filing a lawsuit against the New Hampshire governor, Woodward to challenge the constitutionality of this action. The Supreme Court voted in Dartmouth's favor, which showed the support for business.
  • Gibbons v. Ogden

    Gibbons v. Ogden
    Aaron Ogden was given the right to navigate in exclusive waters. Thomas Gibbons was not given this right, but was found in the waters anyway. Ogden brought Gibbons to court in an attempt to get Gibbons out of the water. Originally, Ogden won, however Gibbons successfully appealed to the Supreme Court, saying that his ships were licensed under an act of Congress, and this superceded the exclusiveness of the waters. This case gave the Supreme Court the ability to regulate commerce.
  • Scott v. Sandford

    Scott v. Sandford
    Dred Scott was a slave that resided in MO. Him and his owner moved to IL then back to MO. After his owner died, Scott unsuccessfully sued for his freedom due to his residency in a free state. He then brought the case to the Supreme Court. They ruled that, because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and he could not become one. Consequently, he could not sue in a federal court. They also ruled the MO Compromise unconsitutional because it infringed on people's 5 Amend right to property (slaves).
  • Minor v. Happersett

    Minor v. Happersett
    Virginia Minor, a passionate suffragist, tried to register to vote in the Election of 1972, but was rejected by Reese Happersett. Her actions were part of a movement of civil disobedience in which women attempted to register to vote throughout the country. She took her inability to vote to the Supreme Court in a civil suit. She believed that women were included in the Fifteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that, constitutionally, women were not guaranteed the right to vote.
  • Munn v. Illinois

    Munn v. Illinois
    The Supreme Court ruled that an Illinois law that put a ceiling on warehousing rates for grain was a constitutional exercise of the state's power to regulate business. The Supreme Court ruling benefited farmers.
  • Wabash v. Illinois

    Wabash v. Illinois
    Supreme Court ruling reveres the ruling in the Munn v. Illinois case. The judge ruled that it was illegal for the state of Illinois to interefere with the railroad wages. Congress had exclusive jurisdiction over interstate commerce.
  • U.S. v. E.C. Knight Company

    U.S. v. E.C. Knight Company
    A supreme court case against E.C. Knight Co, a company that controlled 90% of sugar trade. E.C. Knight Co was prosectued under the Sherman Anti Trust Act, but the judge ruled that it did not apply, because the E.C. Knight companies monopoly on sugar had no direct effect on the commerece. Therefore, the company couldn't be controlled by the government, it was a state issue. The federal governemnt actively sided with monoplies.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson

    Plessy v. Ferguson
    In 1892, Homer Ferguson was jailed for refusing to sit in a Jim Crow car, which violated Lousisiana state law. Ferguson challenged the constitutionality of the Jim Crow laws, saying that they conflicted with the 13th and 14th Amendments. The court ruled that the laws were not against the 13th Amendment, which outlawed involuntary servitude. The Supreme Court argued that it did not violate the 14th Amendment because the Jim Crow Laws did not imply inferiority of either race. "Separate but equal".
  • Lochner v. New York

    Lochner v. New York
    Joseph Lochner, a baker, was accused of violating the Bakeshop Act. This act stated that a bakery employee could not work more than 60 hours per week. Lochner challenged the constitutionality of the Bakeshop Act to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with Lochner. They said that, according to the 14th Amendment, the state could not restrict the right to contract.
  • Muller v. Oregon

    Muller v. Oregon
    This court case challenged Oregon's law that restricted the number of hours that women who worked in factories and laundries could work. The law was upheld. This case was particularly significant because it marked the first time that scientific evidence was used in a court case. Louis Brandeis, the defense attorney, used science to show the negative effect that long hours had on women's bodies and their ability to produce healthy children.
  • Loewe v. Lawlor

    Loewe v. Lawlor
    Occurred when workers (not in a union) from Danbury Hatters started a nationwide boycott. The company brought a suit against the workers for combining in a way that restricted trade. This was against the Sherman Anti Trust Act. The Supreme Court sided with the the company against the workers
  • Schenck v. US

    Schenck v. US
    This case challenged the constitutionality of the Espionage Act that was passed during WW1. This act restricted speech by punishing those who spoke against the government or the war. Charles Schenck distributed fliers about the draft to soldiers who had just been drafted. He insisted that the draft was against the 13th Amendment, which outlawed involuntary servitude. The supreme court argued in favor of the government.
  • Debs v. US

    Debs v. US
    Eugene Debs, a socialist, was arrested for violating the Espionage Act. This act restricted free speech by disallowing speech that went against the war or the government. Debs was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, so he appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld this ruling by saying that Debs had obstructed the draft.
  • Sacco and Vanzetti

    Sacco and Vanzetti
    Sacco and Vanzetti were accused of killing a paymaster and his guard in the midst of an armed robbery. Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian immigrants and anarchists. During the trial, Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted and put on death row. They were given the chair in 1927. This ruling was highly controversial because it happened during the Red Scare, when people were wary of immigrants and those who had different political views. People believed Sacco and Vanzetti were wrongly convicted.
  • Ozawa v. US

    Ozawa v. US
    After living in America for about 20 years, Ozawa attempted to apply for citizenship. He was denied. When he appealed to the district court, he was deemed fit for citizenship in every way, except that he was neither white nor African American. He appealed to the Supreme court. The Supreme Court ruled the same thing. This truly showed the resistence to accept immigrantes. Ozawa was a model citizen, and would truly represent America in a positive light, however he was still discriminated against.
  • Scopes v. Tennessee (Scopes Trial)

    Scopes v. Tennessee (Scopes Trial)
    This case was a result of the Butler Act, which said that public schools in Tennessee could not teach evolution.The ACLU thought this law violated the freedom of religion. The ACLU agreed to give representation to anyone willing to break this law, so that the constitutionality of the law could be challenged. John Scopes agreed to break the law, and was convicted. Scopes was fined, however the conviction was overturned on a technicality, so the law was never brought to the Supreme Court.
  • Buck v. Bell

    Buck v. Bell
    This case challenged a Virginia law that allowed the sterilization of those deemed "unfit". A woman named Carrie Buck was diagnosed with "feeblemindedness" and considered promiscuous, so she was ordered to be sterilized. The Supreme Court voted against Bell, which paved the way for many more sterilizations. The law was not repealed until 1974.
  • Schechter vs. US

    Schechter vs. US
    The Schechter Poultry Company violated the code for the industry established under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. The U.S. Supreme Court declared the NIRA unconstitutional because it gave excessive legislative powers to the executive branch of government.
  • Korematsu v. U.S.

    Korematsu v. U.S.
    The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Korematsu's,a Nisei (an American-born person whose parents were born in Japan) , conviction by upholding the government's right to relocate citizens in the face of wartime emergency. This verdict declared the "constitutionality" of the Japanese relocation camps. In 1983, the United States government apologized for its actions and offered $20,000 to each of the camp survivors.
  • Alger Hiss Case

    Alger Hiss Case
    Alger Hiss, a former State Department official, was accused by Mr. Wittacher for being a Communist spy (giving classified documents to the Soviets). He was convicted of perjur, prosecuted by Richard Nixon.
  • Dennis v. US

    Dennis v. US
    In 1948, leaders of the Communist party were arrested for violating the Smith Act (an act that made it illegal to speak of overthrowing the federal government). In Dennis v. US, the constitutionality of the Smith Act was in question, for it was accused of violating the right to feedom of speech. The Supreme Court upheld the Smith Act, saying there was a difference between the teaching of Communist ideals and the active advocacy of overthrowing the gov. in the name of these ideals.
  • Rosenberg Trial

    Rosenberg Trial
    Julius and Ethel Rosenberg convicted of treason, spying for the Soviets and sharing American and British nuclear secrets during the Cold War, and were sentenced to death under the Espionage Act of 1917.
  • Brown v. Board of Education

    Brown v. Board of Education
    Brown v. Board of Education was the name of a series of 5 cases that challenged the constitutionality of segregation in schools. Thurgood Marshall, the lawyer in all 5 cases, said that this was against the 14th Amendment because it was clear that the black and white facilities were not of equal quality. The court was totally split, however, after the Chief Justice died and was replaced, a unanimous decision declaring the segregation of schools unconstitutional was reached.
  • Engel v. Vitale

    Engel v. Vitale
    US supreme court case ruled that no state could require school children to pray. One year later the high court also ruled against mandatory Bible reading and recitations of the Lord's Prayer in public schools. This was seen as an attack on Christinanity and morality.
  • Gideon v. Wainwright

    Gideon v. Wainwright
    Defendants are entitled to a lawyer in any trial. Courts are required to provide a lawyer if the defendant cannot. The only way a defendant cannot have a counsel is if they knowingly waive their right.
  • Miranda v. Arizona

    Miranda v. Arizona
    Suspects must be informed of their rights upon their arrest, and if they decide to remain silent or do not waive their rights, the interrogation must stop. This had a significant impact on law enforcement in the United States, by making what became known as the Miranda rights part of routine police procedure to ensure that suspects were informed of their rights.
  • Loving v. Virginia

    Loving v. Virginia
    Invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Supreme Court upheld the convictions and the Lovings appealed to the Supreme Court. Involved Mildred Jeter an African American woman and Richard Lovings a White man.
  • Roe v. Wade

    Roe v. Wade
    Roe v. Wade was based around an unmarried pregnant woman named Roe, from Texas.She wanted to have an abortion, but state law forbid the procedure.Roe filed a suit against the state of Texas, stating that the abortion law violated her privacy and womens' rights.This case legalized abortions saying that during the first trimester, an abortion was a matter that was only concerned with a woman and her doctor, a provision said that after the first trimester, abortions could be regulated by the state.
  • Nixon vs. U.S.

    Nixon vs. U.S.
    The Court said that under the Constitution, the judiciary had the final voice, not the Executive branch. As for "executive privilege," the Court acknowledged that the President had a right to privileged communication where certain areas of national security were concerned. However, the Court stated that this case did not meet those conditions, Court declared that no president is above the law. Nixon handed over tapes. Rather than face the impeachment hearings, Nixon resigned from office.