Assembled here for your information are descriptions of 21 of the most important Supreme Court decisions in history. The topics they cover range from affirmative action to voting to abortion, and they're listed in chronological order here for easier selection. Enjoy!
Marbury v. Madison (1803) -- The Supreme Court's keystone power of Judicial Review was established by this case.
McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) -- A conflict arose between a state government and the Federal government, with the state government being declared subordinate to the Federal government where laws conflict.
Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) -- In this case the Supreme Court gave a wide definition to Congress' power to "regulate commerce... among the several states."
Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) -- Slaves were classified as property. This case fueled the flames that began the Civil War.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) -- This famous case laid the groundwork for the "separate but equal doctrine" that limited the rights of minorities for decades.
Schenck v. United States (1919) -- "Clear and Present Danger" was established in this case as an acceptable reason for the limiting of free expression.
Gitlow v. New York (1925) -- The Supreme court began in this case to identify the rights that were protected by the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Powell v. Alabama (1932) -- The Supreme Court ruled here that the right to counsel was required by law in death penalty trials.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) -- A tremendous step in the direction of equal rights for all citizens.
NAACP v. Alabama (1958) -- Freedom of association (the right to assemble in groups) was protected here.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961) -- The exclusionary rule was applied to state and local criminal prosecutions.
Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) -- Prayer in classrooms was determined to be in violation of the First Amendment.
Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) -- Free legal counsel was established in this case to be necessary in case the defendent in any criminal case cannot afford it.
Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) -- The Supreme Court declared here that each person's vote carries equal measure.
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) -- Marital privacy (specifically, the use of contraceptives) was protected by this case.
Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966) -- Poll taxes were made illegal for state elections, as they violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966) -- The rights of the accused were upheld by this ruling.
In Re Gault (1967) -- Children were granted some of the rights in criminal cases protected by the Bill of Rights.
Roe v. Wade (1973) -- In this highly controversial case the Supreme Court laid down what states can and cannot control in regards to abortions.
United States v. Nixon (1974) -- The President's "Executive Priviledge" was limited by this case.
Regents of the University of California at Davis v. Bakke (1978) -- Affirmative action was dealt a blow by this case.
Copyright © 1997 Jonathan Chin & Alan Stern