Landmark United States Supreme Court Cases !



Marbury v. Madison (1803)
For the first time the United States Supreme Court decided that a law passed by Congress, and signed by the President, was unconstitutional. This case established the Court’s power to determine what laws in the United States were (or were not) constitutional.
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
This case involved a slave, Dred Scott. He filed suit arguing—he had lived in a free state before returning to a slave state, so he was entitled to his freedom. The Court held otherwise. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney stated no blacks in the United States were United States citizens so they had no standing to sue in federal court for their freedom.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
The Court found in favor of racial segregation. They held that “equal but separate accommodations” for Blacks on railroad cars did not violate the equal protection clause.
Schenck v. United States (1919)
Charles Schenck was arrested for distributing literature that tried to persuade young men from enlisting during WW1. He appealed his conviction and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. [The] question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger….” The Court found that distributing the literature during wartime created that “clear and present danger” to the security of the United States.
Near v. Minnesota (1931)
Minnesota shut down J.M. Near’s newspaper, The Saturday Press, for allegedly violating a state statute that placed restraints on publishing malicious, scandalous, or defamatory content. Near appealed. The Court sided with Near and found the Minnesota statute unconstitutional since it infringed on freedom of the press.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
A unanimous Court found that in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ had no place in our Constitution. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Segregation in the public schools was outlawed.
Engel v. Vitale (1962)
The Court held New York State officials could not compose a state prayer and require school-aged children to recite it every morning in their public schools. Even if the prayer is denomination neutral-- it still violates the First Amendment of our Constitution.
Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)
Three students wore black armbands to school protesting the Vietnam War. When they refused to remove their bands they were suspended. The students sued and the Court stated that, “[i]t can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The Court held, “our Constitution does not permit officials of the State to deny their form of expression.”
Texas v. Johnson (1989)
Johnson was arrested after he burned an American flag in front of Dallas City Hall during the Republican National Convention. He was convicted of violating a Texas law that made it a crime to desecrate a state or national flag. The Court held that, “Johnson was convicted for engaging in expressive conduct. The State’s interest in preventing breaches of the peace does not support his conviction, because Johnson’s conduct did not threaten to disturb the peace.”

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