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Supreme Court Decisions


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Title: Supreme Court Decisions

Supreme Court Decisions
Marbury v. Madison. 1803
  • Reason William Marbury, a Judicial appointee of
    John Adams was refused his appointment by T.
    Jeffersons Secretary of State James Madison
  • Judgment Marbury, Madisons refusal was illegal,
    the appointment had been made legally by Adams.
  • Significance It also ruled that its own power
    to issue legal writs of mandamus was
    unconstitutional. Established the precedent of
    Judicial review

McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819
  • Reason When the U.S. branch bank in Baltimore
    refused to pay taxes, Maryland brought suit for
    collection from the bank
  • Judgment McCulloch - The chartering of a bank,
    was a power implied from the power over federal
    fiscal operations. The state cannot impede
    federal laws, the tax was voted unconstitutional
  • Significance- It set the precedent for a broad
    interpretation of the powers of the federal

Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1857
  • Reason Dred Scott sued his master for freedom,
    after his family had traveled into a free section
    of Louisiana.
  • Judgment Sanford As an African-American Scott
    could not sue because he was not a citizen.
  • Significance Declared the Missouri Compromise
    unconstitutional- it violated the 5th Amendment
    by depriving slave owners of their property

Bradwell v. Illinois, 1873
  • Reason Myra Bradwell asserted her right to a
    license to practice law in Illinois by virtue of
    her status as a United States citizen. The judges
    of the Illinois Supreme Court denied her
  • Judgment- Illinois
  • Significance- The right to practice law is not a
    constitutionally protected right. Justice
    Bradley went beyond the constitutional
    explanations of the case to describe the reasons
    why it was natural and proper for women to be
    excluded from the legal profession.

Reynolds v. United States, 1879
  • Reason George Reynolds was a member of the
    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
    charged with bigamy after marrying two women at
    the same time in the Utah Territory.
  • Judgment- The United States
  • Significance The Supreme Court recognized that
    under the First Amendment, the Congress cannot
    pass a law that prohibits the free exercise of
    religion. However it argued that the law
    prohibiting bigamy did not fall under this.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
  • Reason Homer Plessy was arrested after he
    refused to move to a colored train car after
    purchasing a first class ticket.
  • Judgment Ferguson,
  • The 14th Amendment did not protect African
    Americans from private citizens.
  • Significance- Established the separate but
    equal clause that allowed segregation in the

Weeks v. United States, 1914
  • Reason- Police entered the home of Fremont Weeks
    and seized papers which were used to convict him
    of transporting lottery tickets through the mail.
    This was done without a search warrant.
  • Judgment- Weeks
  • Significance- The Court held that the seizure of
    items from Weeks' residence directly violated his
    constitutional rights. The Court also held that
    the government's refusal to return Weeks'
    possessions violated the Fourth Amendment.

Schenck v. United States, 1919
  • Reason Charles Schenck was arrested for mailing
    materials urging draftees to avoid military
    service, under the Espionage Act created during
  • Judgment United States
  • Significance Schencks actions were a clear
    and present danger in a time of war. Defined
    the parameters of speech during a time of war.

Gitlow v. New York, 1925
  • Reason Gitlow was arrested for distributing
    Communist pamphlets advocating the overthrow of
    the government.
  • Judgment New York,
  • Gitlow did not have 14th amendment protection,
    because he broke a state law that made invoking
    violence against the government a crime.
  • Significance Set the precedent for the future
    expansion of the freedom of speech

Near v. Minnesota, 1931
  • Reason- Jay Near published a scandal sheet in
    Minneapolis, in which he attacked local
    officials, charging that they were implicated
    with gangsters. Minnesota officials obtained an
    injunction to prevent Near from publishing his
    newspaper under a state law that allowed such
    action against periodicals.
  • Judgment- Near
  • Significance The Court held that the statute
    authorizing the injunction was unconstitutional
    as applied. The Court established the doctrine
    that, with some narrow exceptions, the government
    could not censor or otherwise prohibit a
    publication in advance.

Scottsboro Boys v. Alabama, 1932
  • Reason Nine black teenagers, none older than
    nineteen, were accused of raping two white women
    on a train. The defendants were sentenced to
    death, despite the fact that one of the women
    later denied being raped
  • Judgment Scottsburo Boys
  • Significance- In two separate cases, the Court
    ruled that the defendants were denied the right
    to counsel, which violated their right to due
    process under the Fourteenth Amendment, and that
    the exclusion of blacks from the grand jury which
    issued the indictment violated the Boys'
    Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Hirabayashi v. United States, 1943
  • Reason Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi, a student at
    the University of Washington, was convicted of
    violating a curfew and relocation order.
  • Judgment- For the US. The Court found the
    President's orders and the implementation of the
    curfew to be constitutional.
  • Significance- racial discrimination was justified
    since "in time of war residents having ethnic
    affiliations with an invading enemy may be a
    greater source of danger than those of a
    different ancestry."

Kunz v. New York, 1951
  • Reason Kunz was was convicted for holding a
    religious meeting on the city streets without a
    permit in violation of N.Y city code.
  • Judgment Kunz
  • Significance this Court, interpreted the
    restrictive action of the state authorities as
    violating the Free Exercise Clause of the First
    Amendment in that such action disadvantaged Kunz
    because of his religious beliefs

Brown v. Board of Education, 1954
  • Reason 5 African American families sued the
    Topeka School board for unequal facilities
  • Judgment For Brown, segregated schools were not
    equal, and discriminated against people of color.
  • Significance Overturned Plessy v. Ferguson,
    segregation was declared unconstitutional

Mapp v. Ohio, 1961
  • Reason Mapp was arrested by police for obscene
    photos taken from his house in a search without a
  • Judgment For Mapp, the search was
  • Significance Evidence found in an illegal search
    and seizure cannot be used.

Baker v. Carr, 1962
  • Reason-Charles W. Baker and other Tennessee
    citizens alleged that a 1901 law designed to
    apportion the seats for the state's General
    Assembly was virtually ignored.
  • Judgment- Baker
  • Significance the Court held that the Supreme
    Court did have jurisdiction over questions of
    legislative apportionment

Engel v. Vitale, 1962
  • The Board of Regents for the State of New York
    authorized a short, nondenominational voluntary
    prayer for recitation at the start of each school
  • Judgment Engel
  • Conclusion
  • Neither the prayer's nondenominational character
    nor its voluntary character saves it from
    unconstitutionality. By providing the prayer, New
    York officially approved religion. This was the
    first case in which the Court used the
    establishment clause to eliminate religious
    activities as part of public ceremonies.

Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963
  • Reason Clarence Gideon was arrested for
    burglary, asked for attorney because he was poor,
    the court refused his request.
  • Judgment For Gideon - all defendants must have
    access to counsel.
  • Significance Overturned an earlier decision the
    precedent that only death penalty cases required
    automatic counsel.

Escobedo v. Illinois, 1964
New York Times v. Sullivan, 1964
  • Reason Alabama police commissioner L.B. Sullivan
    sued the N.Y. times for libel for ads placed by
    two civil rights organizations.
  • Judgment Against Sullivan- the major role of the
    press is a watchdog of public officials.
  • Significance- Public officials who were the
    target of false statements could not sue unless
    they could prove that the statement was made with
    knowledge it was false or disregard whether it
    was false or not.

Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965
  • Reason Griswold was the Executive Director of the
    Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut.
    Griswold and her colleague were convicted under a
    Connecticut law which criminalized the provision
    of counseling, and other medical treatment, to
    married persons for purposes of preventing
  • Judgment Griswold
  • Significance Through the Court, the various
    guarantees within the Bill of Rights create
    penumbras (zones) that establish a right to
    privacy. Together, the First, Third, Fourth, and
    Ninth Amendments, create a new constitutional
    right, the right to privacy in marital relations.
    The Connecticut law conflicted with the exercise
    of this right.

Miranda v. Arizona. l966
  • Reason Ernesto Miranda was arrested on rape and
    kidnapping charges, he signed a confession
    without being informed of his right to counsel or
    right to remain silent
  • Judgment- Miranda- Police had failed to follow
    the 5th Amendment
  • Significance- Police officials must inform
    suspects of their constitutional rights when
    arresting them.

Sheppard v. Maxwell, 1966
  • Reason- Convicted of second-degree murder for the
    bludgeoning death of his pregnant wife, Samuel
    Sheppard challenged the verdict as the product of
    an unfair trial. Sheppard, who maintained his
    innocence of the crime, alleged that the trial
    judge failed to protect him from the massive,
    widespread, and prejudicial publicity that
    attended his prosecution.
  • Judgment Shepard
  • Significance- the Court found that Sheppard did
    not receive a fair trial. Although freedom of
    expression should be given great latitude, the
    Court held that it must not be so broad as to
    divert the trial away from adjudicating both
    criminal and civil matters in an objective, calm,
    and solemn courtroom setting.

Loving v. Virginia, 1967
  • Reason Two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter,
    a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man,
    were married in the District of Columbia. The
    couple was then charged with violating the
    state's antimiscegenation statute
  • Judgment Loving
  • Significance the Court held that distinctions
    drawn according to race were generally "odious to
    a free people" and were subject to "the most
    rigid scrutiny" under the Equal Protection Clause

Epperson v. Arkansas, 1968
  • Reason The Arkansas legislature passed a law
    prohibiting teachers in public or state-supported
    schools from teaching, or using textbooks that
    teach, human evolution, because it violated the
    beliefs of Fundamentalist Christians. Epperson, a
    public school teacher, sued, claiming the law
    violated her First Amendment right to free speech
    as well as the Establishment Clause.
  • Judgment Epperson
  • Significance This use of state power to prohibit
    the teaching of material objectionable to a
    particular sect amounted to an unconstitutional
    Establishment of religion.

United States v. OBrien, 1968
  • ReasonDavid O'Brien burned his draft card at a
    Boston courthouse. He said he was expressing his
    opposition to war. He was convicted under a
    federal law that made the destruction or
    mutilation of drafts card a crime.
  • Judgment The United States
  • Significance- The Court established a test to
    determine whether governmental regulation
    involving symbolic speech was justified.

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School
District, 1969
  • Reason Three students decided to protest the
    Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to their
    Des Moines schools during the Christmas holiday
    season.. Fearing that the armbands would provoke
    disturbances, the principals of Des Moines'
    school districts resolved that all students
    wearing armbands be asked to remove them or face
    suspension. When they wore their armbands to
    school, they were asked to remove them. When they
    refused, they were suspended until after New
    Year's Day.
  • Judgment Tinker
  • Significance The wearing of armbands was
    "closely akin to 'pure speech'" and protected by
    the First Amendment. School environments imply
    limitations on free expression, but here the
    principals lacked justification for imposing any
    such limits.

Lemon v. Kurtzman, 1971
  • In Pennsylvania, a statute provided financial
    support for teacher salaries, textbooks, and
    instructional materials for secular subjects to
    non-public schools. The Rhode Island statute
    provided direct supplemental salary payments to
    teachers in non-public elementary schools. Each
    statute made aid available to "church-related
    educational institutions.
  • Judgment Lemon
  • Significance The Court found that the
    subsidization of parochial schools furthered a
    process of religious inculcation, and that the
    "continuing state surveillance" necessary to
    enforce the specific provisions of the laws would
    inevitably entangle the state in religious

New York Times Company v. United States, 1971
  • Reason The Pentagon Papers Case," the Nixon
    Administration attempted to prevent the New York
    Times and Washington Post from publishing
    materials belonging to a classified Defense
    Department study regarding the history of United
    States activities in Vietnam. The President
    argued that prior restraint was necessary to
    protect national security.
  • Judgment New York Times
  • Significance the Court held that the government
    did not overcome the "heavy presumption against"
    prior restraint of the press in this case

Muhammad Ali v. United States, 1971
  • Reason When Cassius Clay refused to report for
    induction, he was tried and convicted of willful
    refusal to submit to induction, even though he
    had previously claimed and been refused
    contentious objector status.
  • Judgment- For Clay- the Court held that since the
    Appeal Board gave no reason for the denial of a
    conscientious objector exemption to Clay, Clay's
    conviction must be reversed
  • Significance- Helped clarify the status of
    contentious objector status under the 1st

Eisenstadt v. Baird, 1972
  • Reason William Baird gave away contraceptives to
    an unmarried woman. Massachusetts charged Baird
    with a felony, to distribute contraceptives to
    unmarried men or women. Under the law, only
    married couples could obtain contraceptives only
    registered doctors or pharmacists could provide
    them. Baird was not an authorized distributor of
  • Judgment Eisenstadt
  • Significance The Court held that the law's
    distinction between single and married
    individuals failed to satisfy the "rational basis
    test" of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal
    Protection Clause.

Wisconsin v. Yoder, 1972
  • Reason Jonas Yoder and Wallace Miller, both
    members of the Old Order Amish religion, were
    prosecuted under a Wisconsin law that required
    all children to attend public schools until age
    16. The parents refused to send their children
    after the eighth grade, arguing that high school
    attendance was contrary to their religious
  • Judgment For Yoder
  • Significance- individual's interests in the free
    exercise of religion under the First Amendment
    outweighed the State's interests in compelling
    school attendance beyond the eighth grade.

Roe et al v. Wade, 1973
  • Reason The arrest of Roe, an unmarried woman
    from Texas, where abortion was illegal
  • Judgment For Roe- The Court ruled that a woman
    has the right to an abortion without interference
    from the government in the first trimester of
    pregnancy, contending that it is part of her
    right to privacy. The Court granted states the
    right to intervene in the second and third
    trimesters of pregnancy
  • Significance- Legalized abortion and is at the
    center of the current controversy between
    pro-life and pro-choice advocates..

Miller v. California, 1973
  • Reason- Miller, after conducting a mass mailing
    campaign to advertise the sale of "adult"
    material, was convicted of violating a California
    statute prohibiting the distribution of obscene
  • Judgment- California
  • Significance the Court held that obscene
    materials did not enjoy First Amendment
    protection. The Court modified the test for
    obscenity. Obscene materials cannot be openly
    mailed without prior agreement.

Nixon v. United States, 1974
  • Reason- The special prosecutor for the Watergate
    Investigation subpoenaed tapes from President
    Nixon. Nixon asserted that he was immune from the
    subpoena claiming "executive privilege,
  • Judgment- For United States The Court held that
    neither the separation of powers, nor the
    generalized need for confidentiality of
    high-level communications, without more, can
    sustain an absolute, unqualified, presidential
  • Significance- The release of the tapes forced
    Nixon to resign from office,

Lau v. Nichols, 1974
Corning v. Brennan, 1974
Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn, 1975
Califano v. Goldfarb, 1977
Regents of the University of California v. Allan
Bakke, 1978
  • Reason The University of Calif., Davis, Medical
    School vs. Allan Bakke, a white applicant who was
    rejected twice even though there were minority
    applicants admitted with significantly lower
    scores than his
  • Judgment- For Bakke- affirmative action was
    unfair if it lead to reverse discrimination..
  • Significance- The Court ruled that while race
    was a legitimate factor in school admissions, the
    use of rigid quotas was not permissible.

Board of Education v. Pico, 1982
  • Reason The Island Trees Union Free School
    District's Board of Education acting contrary to
    the recommendations of a committee of parents and
    school staff, ordered that certain books be
    removed from its district's junior high and high
    school libraries. In support of its actions, the
    Board said such books were "anti-American,
    anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain
    filthy." Steven Pico brought suit in federal
    district court challenging the Board's decision
    to remove the books.
  • Judgment Pico
  • Significance The Court held that as centers for
    inquiry and the spread of information and ideas,
    school libraries enjoy a special affinity with
    the rights of free speech and press. The Board
    could not restrict the availability of books in
    its libraries simply because its members
    disagreed with their idea content.

New Jersey v. T.L.O.1984
  • Reason- T.L.O. was a fourteen-year-old she was
    accused of smoking in the girls' bathroom of her
    high school. A principal at the school questioned
    her and searched her purse, yielding a bag of
    marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.
  • Judgment- New Jersey,
  • Significance- Citing the peculiarities associated
    with searches on school grounds, the Court
    abandoned its requirement that searches be
    conducted only when a "probable cause" exists
    that an individual has violated the law. the
    principal had found rolling paper in the girls
    purse, which gave him reasonable suspicion to
    continue the search.

Johnson v. Santa Clara County, California, 1987
  • Reason The Transportation Agency, Santa Clara,
    California promoted Diane Joyce to road
    dispatcher over Paul Johnson. Both candidates
    were qualified for the job. As an affirmative
    action employer, the Agency took into account the
    sex of the applicants in making the promotion
  • Judgment Santa Clara County
  • Significance The Court affirmed the promotion
    procedures of the Agency. Justice Brennan argued
    that it was not unreasonable to consider sex as
    one factor among many in making promotion
    decisions, and that the Agency's actions did not
    create an absolute barrier to the advancement of

Cipollone v. Liggett Group, 1988
DeShaney v. Winnebago, 1989
Eichman v. United States, 1990
  • Reason- In 1989, Congress passed the Flag
    Protection Act which made it a crime to destroy
    an American flag or any likeness of an American
    flag which may be "commonly displayed." The law
    did, however, allow proper disposal of a worn or
    soiled flag. Eichman set a flag ablaze on the
    steps of the U.S. Capitol while protesting the
    government's domestic and foreign policy
  • Judgment- Eichman
  • Significance- the Court struck down the law
    because "its asserted interest is related to the
    suppression of free expression and concerned with
    the content of such expression.

Cruzan v. Missouri, 1990
  • Reason In 1983, Nancy Beth Cruzan was involved
    in an automobile accident which left her in a
    "persistent vegetative state." When Cruzan's
    parents attempted to terminate the life-support
    system, state hospital officials refused to do so
    without court approval.
  • Judgment- Missouri
  • Significance- the Court held that while
    individuals enjoyed the right to refuse medical
    treatment under the Due Process Clause,
    incompetent persons were not able to exercise
    such rights. The Court found the State of
    Missouri's actions designed to preserve human
    life to be constitutional.

Simon Schuster v. New York Crime Victims Board,
  • To keep criminals from profiting from crimes by
    selling their stories, New York State's 1977 "Son
    of Sam" law ordered that proceeds from such deals
    be turned over to the New York State Crime
    Victims Board. In 1987 the Board ordered Henry
    Hill, a former gangster who sold his story to
    Simon Schuster, to turn over his payments from
    a book deal.
  • Judgment- Simon Schuster
  • Significance- The Court concluded that "New York
    has singled out speech on a particular subject
    for a financial burden that it places on no other
    speech and no other income."

Bush v. Gore, 2000
  • Reason- The Florida Supreme Court ordered that
    that every county in Florida must immediately
    begin manually recounting all "under-votes"
    because there were enough contested ballots to
    place the the election outcome in doubt. Bush and
    Cheney sought an emergency petition for a stay of
    the Florida Supreme Court's decision.
  • Judgment- Bush,
  • Significance- the Equal Protection clause
    guarantees individuals that their ballots cannot
    be devalued by "later arbitrary and disparate
    treatment," the opinion held that the Florida
    Supreme Court's scheme for recounting ballots was
    unconstitutional. The 2000 Presidential race was
    decided in George W. Bushs favor.

United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop
  • Reason- Under a 1996 CA law, the Oakland Cannabis
    Buyers' Cooperative was organized to distribute
    marijuana to qualified patients for medical
    purposes. The government charged them with
    violating the Controlled Substances Act's
    prohibitions on distributing, manufacturing, and
    possessing with the intent to distribute or
    manufacture a controlled substance.
  • Judgment- The United States
  • Significance- the Court held that there is no
    medical necessity exception to the Controlled
    Substances Act's prohibitions on manufacturing
    and distributing marijuana. The distribution,
    manufacturing and possession with the intent to
    distribute is still illegal under Federal law.