Landmark Supreme Court Cases

  1. Chisholm v. Georgia
    Article III, Section 2's grant of federal jurisdiction over suits "between a State and Citizens of another State" abrogated the States' sovereign immunity recognized at common law, thus allowing a private individual to hale a State into federal court.
  2. Marbury v. Madison
    Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is unconstitutional to the extent it purports to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond that permitted by the Constitution. Congress cannot pass laws that are contrary to the Constitution, and it is the role of the Judicial system to interpret what the Constitution permits.
  3. Fletcher v. Peck
    The Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibited Georgia from voiding contracts for the transfer of land, even though they were secured through illegal bribery. Circuit Court for the District of Massachusetts affirmed.
  4. Dartmouth v. Woodward
    The charter granted by the British crown to the trustees of Dartmouth College, in New-Hampshire, in the year 1769, is a contract within the meaning of that clause of the constitution of the United States, which declares that no State shall make any law impairing theobligation of contracts. The charter was not dissolved by the revolution.
  5. McCulloch v. Maryland
    Although the Constitution does not specifically give Congress the power to establish a bank, it does delegate the ability to tax and spend, and a bank is a proper and suitable instrument to assist the operations of the government in the collection and disbursement of the revenue. Because federal laws have supremacy over state laws, Maryland had no power to interfere with the bank's operation by taxing it. Maryland Court of Appeals reversed.
  6. Cohens v. Virginia
    State laws in opposition to national laws are void. The U.S. Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction for any U.S. case and final say.
  7. Johnson v. McIntosh
    Johnson's lessees cannot eject M'Intosh because their title, derived from private purchases from Indians, could not be valid
  8. Gibbons v. Ogden
    The New York law was found invalid because the Commerce Clause of the Constitution designated power to Congress to regulate interstate commerce and that the broad definition of commerce included navigation.
  9. Cherokee Nation v. Georgia
    The Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction to hear a suit brought by the Cherokee Nation, which is not a "foreign State" within the meaning of Article III.
  10. Worchester v. Georgia
    Worcester's conviction is void, because states have no criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country
  11. Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge
    That the Massachusetts state legislature's decision to grant a charter to the proprietors of Warren Bridge after granting a similar charter to the Charles River Bridge Company did not constitute a violation of the Contract Clause.
  12. Amistad Case
    Africans destined for slavery in cuba seized a ship and tried to sail itto africa but the US navy seized it and held the africans as pirates; court declared them free because of the international slave trade had been illegal.
  13. Commonwealth v. Hunt
    Ruling of the MA Supreme Court establishing the legality of labor unions and the legality of union workers striking if an employer hired non-union workers.
  14. Prigg v. Pennsylvania
    Federal law is superior to state law.
  15. Dredd Scott v. Sandford
    • Judgment reversed and suit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
    • 1. Persons of African descent cannot be, nor were ever intended to be, citizens under the U.S. Const. Plaintiff is without standing to file a suit.
    • 2. The Property Clause is only applicable to lands possessed at the time of ratification. As such, Congress cannot ban slavery in the territories. Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional.
    • 3. Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the federal government from freeing slaves brought into federal territories.
  16. Ex Parte Merryman
    Chief Justice Taney ruled that Lincoln had exceeded his authority in suspending the writ habeas corpus in Maryland. Lincoln ignored Taney's ruling, arguing that the constitution allowed this suspension in a time of rebellion.
  17. Ex Parte Milligan
    Ruled suspension of Habeas Corpus by President Abraham Lincoln as constitutional.
  18. Slaughterhouse Cases
    Privileges and immunities of citizenship of the United States were to be protected by the Fourteenth Amendment not privileges and immunities of citizenship of a state.
  19. US v. Reese
    15th Amendment did not give everyone the right to vote but listed the grounds for which states could NOT deny the right to vote.
  20. Munn v. Illinois
    The Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent the State of Illinois from regulating charges for use of a business' grain elevators.
  21. Civil Rights Cases
    The Equal Protection Clause applies only to state action, not segregation by privately owned businesses.
  22. Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railroad Company v. Illinois
    The Court held that Illinois had violated the Commerce Clause by placing a direct burden on interstate commerce. Under the Commerce Clause only Congress had the power to do so and states could only place indirect burdens on commerce.
  23. In Re Debs
    The court ruled that the government had a right to regulate interstate commerce and ensure the operations of the Postal Service, along with a responsibility to "ensure the general welfare of the public."
  24. Plessy v. Ferguson
    The "separate but equal" provision of private services mandated by state government is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause.
  25. Insular Cases
    Court cases dealing with islands/countries that had been recently annexed and demanded the rights of a citizen. These Supreme Court cases decided that the Constitution did not always follow the flag, thus denying the rights of a citizen to Puerto Ricans and Filipinos.
  26. Northern Securities Company v. US
    The Supreme Court ruled that the Northern Securities Company, which controlled three railroads and monopolized rail transit for 1/4 of the United States was in violation of the Sherman Anti Trust Act of 1890. This was the first real usage of the law to break down monopolies.
  27. Lochner v. New York
    New York's regulation of the working hours of bakers was not a justifiable restriction of the right to contract freely under the 14th Amendment's guarantee of liberty.
  28. Muller v. Oregon
    Oregon's limit on the working hours of women was constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, because it was justified by the strong state interest in protecting women's health. Supreme Court of Oregon affirmed.
  29. Standard Oil Company of New Jersey v. US
    The Standard Oil Company conspired to restrain the trade and commerce inpetroleum, and to monopolize the commerce in petroleum, in violation of the Sherman Act, and was split into many smaller companies. Several individuals, including John D. Rockefeller, were fined.
  30. Schneck v. US
    Concerning the question of whether the defendant possessed a First Amendment right to free speech against the draft during World War I. Ultimately, the case served as the founding of the "clear and present danger" rule.
  31. Adkins v. Children's Hospital
    Minimum wage law for women violated the due process right to contract freely. D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed.
  32. Schechter Poultry Corporation v. US
    Section 3 of the National Industrial Recovery Act was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the Executive, and was not a valid exercise of congressional Commerce Clause power. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part.
  33. West Coast Hotel v. Parrish
    Washington's minimum wage law for women was a valid regulation of the right to contract freely because of the state's special interest in protecting their health and ability to support themselves. Supreme Court of Washington affirmed.
  34. West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnett
    The Free Speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits public schools from forcing students to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance. District Court affirmed.
  35. Korematsu v. US
    The exclusion order leading to Japanese American Internment was constitutional.
  36. Brown v. Board of Education
    Segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because separate facilities are inherently unequal. District Court of Kansas reversed.
  37. Mapp v. Ohio
    The Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth, excludes unconstitutionally obtained evidence from use in criminal prosecutions. Ohio Supreme Court reversed.
  38. Baker v. Carr
    The redistricting of state legislative districts is not a political question, and thus is justiciable by the federal courts.
  39. Engel v. Vitale
    Government-directed prayer in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, even if the prayer is denominationally neutral and students may remain silent or be excused from the classroom during its recitation.
  40. Gideon v. Wainwright
    The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a fundamental right applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause, and requires that indigent criminal defendants be provided counsel at trial. Supreme Court of Florida reversed.
  41. New York Times v. Sullivan
    The First Amendment, as applied through the Fourteenth, protected a newspaper from being sued for libel in state court for making false defamatory statements about the official conduct of a public official, because the statements were not made with knowing or reckless disregard for the truth. Supreme Court of Alabama reversed and remanded.
  42. Escobedo v. Illinois
    Where a police investigation begins to focus on a particular suspect who has been refused counsel, his statements to police are excluded.
  43. Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US
    Congress did not unconstitutionally exceed its powers under the Commerce Clause by enacting Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations. Northern District of Georgia affirmed.
  44. Griswold v. Connecticut
    A Connecticut law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. Connecticut Supreme Court reversed.
  45. Miranda v. Arizona
    The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination requires law enforcement officials to advise a suspect interrogated in custody of his rights to remain silent and to obtain an attorney. Arizona Supreme Court reversed and remanded.
  46. New York Times v. US
    In order to exercise prior restraint, the Government must show sufficient evidence that the publication would cause a “grave and irreparable” danger.
  47. Griggs v. Duke Power
    Broad aptitude tests used in hiring practices that disparately impact ethnic minorities must be reasonably related to the job.
  48. Roe v. Wade
    Texas law making it a crime to assist a woman to get an abortion violated her due process rights. U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas affirmed in part, reversed in part.
  49. US v. Nixon
    The Supreme Court does have the final voice in determining constitutional questions; no person, not even the President of the United States, is completely above law; and the president cannot use executive privilege as an excuse to withhold evidence that is "demonstrably relevant in a criminal trial."
  50. Bakke v. Board of Regents
    Bakke was denied to University of California Medical School twice to people less qualified based on race. Case determined that affirmative action is legal as long as filling quotas is not used.
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Landmark Supreme Court Cases