Landmark Supreme Court Cases

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The cases to know for the American Government CLEP test

Marbury v. Madison

Year: 1803
Constitutional Principle:
- Separation of powers
- The judiciary.
Why Decision is Important:
- Established the Supreme Court's right of JUDICIAL REVIEW.
- Strengthened the judiciary in relation to other branches of government.
The case resulted from a petition to the Supreme Court by William Marbury, who had been appointed by President John Adams as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia but whose commission was not subsequently delivered. Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court to force the new Secretary of State James Madison to deliver the documents. The Court, with John Marshall as Chief Justice, found firstly that Madison's refusal to deliver the commission was both illegal and remediable. Nonetheless, the Court stopped short of compelling Madison (by writ of mandamus) to hand over Marbury's commission, instead holding that the provision of the Judiciary Act of 1789 that enabled Marbury to bring his claim to the Supreme Court was itself unconstitutional, since it purported to extend the Court's original jurisdiction beyond that which Article III established. The petition was therefore denied.

McCulloch v. Maryland

Year: 1819
Constitutional Principle:
- Federalism
- National power
- The judiciary
Why Decision is Important:
- Supported the use of the elastic clause to expand federal power.
- Established the principle of national supremacy- that the Constitution and federal laws overrule state laws when the two conflict.
The U.S. government created the first national bank for the country in 1791, a time during which a national bank was controversial due to competition, corruption, and the perception that the federal government was becoming too powerful. Maryland attempted to close the Baltimore branch of the national bank by passing a law that forced all banks that were created outside of the state to pay a yearly tax. James McCulloch, a branch employee, refused to pay the tax. The State of Maryland sued McCulloch saying that Maryland had the power to tax any business in its state and that the Constitution does not give Congress the power to create a national bank. McCulloch was convicted and fined, but he appealed the decision. The Supreme Court determined that Congress has implied powers that allow it to create a national bank, even though the Constitution does not explicitly state that power, and that Maryland's taxing of its branches was unconstitutional.

Gibbons v. Ogden

Year: 1824
Constitutional Principle:
- Federalism
- Property rights and economic policy.
- The judiciary
Why Decision is Important:
- Established the basis of congressional regulation of interstate commerce.
- Reinforced the supremacy of national law over state law when the two conflict.
In 1808, the government of New York granted a steamboat company a monopoly to operate its boats on the state's waters, which included bodies of water that stretched between states. Aaron Ogden held a license under this monopoly to operate steamboats between New Jersey and New York. Thomas Gibbons, another steamboat operator, competed with Aaron Ogden on this same route but held a federal coasting license issued by an act of Congress. Ogden filed a complaint in New York court to stop Gibbons from operating his boats, claiming that the monopoly granted by New York was legal even though he operated on shared, interstate waters. Gibbons disagreed arguing that the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the sole power over interstate commerce. After losing twice in New York courts, Gibbons appealed the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court determined that the commerce clause of the Constitution grants the federal government the power to determine how interstate commerce is conducted.

Worcester v. Georgia

Year: 1832
Constitutional Principle:
- Federalism
- National power.
- Separation of powers.
- Equality.
Why Decision is Important:
- Stated that treaties between the United States government and Indian nations are the supreme law of the land.
- Declared that the federal government, not the state, had exclusive jurisdiction over
- Cherokee nation's territory; therefore, Georgia laws taking jurisdiction of Cherokee people and land were void.
- President Jackson supported Georgia in defying this ruling, and Native American removal followed.
Georgia passed laws restricting authority of the Cherokee over their lands. Among these was a law requiring all whites living in Cherokee Indian Territory, including missionaries and persons married to Cherokee, to obtain a state license to live there. After seven missionaries refused to obtain licenses, they were arrested, convicted, and sentenced to four years of hard labor. They refused to obey the military when they were asked to leave the state. They appealed their case to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the law under which they had been convicted was unconstitutional because states have no authority to pass laws concerning sovereign Indian Nations.

The missionaries Samuel Worcester and Elizur Butler were arrested by Georgia because of their opposition to Cherokee removal. If they had applied for state licenses, they would have been denied. The Georgia state courts had previously deferred to Worcester because of his federal appointment as postmaster to New Echota, the Cherokee capital. However, George Rockingham Gilmer, the governor of Georgia, persuaded the federal government to withdraw Worcester's appointment as postmaster in order to make him subject to arrest.

Opinion

Chief Justice John Marshall laid out in this opinion the relationship between the Indian Nations and the United States is that of nations. He argued that the United States, in the character of the federal government, inherited the rights of Great Britain as they were held by that nation. Those rights, he stated, are the sole right of dealing with the Indian nations in North America, to the exclusion of any other European power, and not the rights of possession to their land or political dominion over their laws. He acknowledged that the exercise of conquest and purchase can give political dominion, but those are in the hands of the federal government and not the states.

The court ruled that the Cherokee Nation was a "distinct community" with self-government "in which the laws of Georgia can have no force." It established the doctrine that the national government of the United States, and not individual states, had authority in American Indian affairs.

Dred Scott v. Sanford

Year: 1857
Constitutional Principle:
- The judiciary
- Equality
Why Decision is Important:
- Declared that slaves were property and that slaveholders could take them anywhere without risk of the slaves being freed.
- Ruled that African American were not citizens.
- Declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional; this decision was overturned by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment.
Name of Case: Civil Rights Cases
Year: 1883
Constitutional Principle:
- Equality
- National power.
Why decision is Important:
- Judged that racial discrimination by private persons did not place the "badge of slavery" of African Americans nor keep them in servitude.
- Ruled that neither Congress nor the Court has the powers to deal with private acts of acts of discrimination.
In 1834, slave Dred Scott was purchased in Missouri and then brought to Illinois, a free (non-slave) state. His owner and he later moved to present-day Minnesota where slavery had been recently prohibited, and then back to Missouri. When his owner died, Scott sued the widow to whom he was left, claiming he was no longer a slave because he had become free after living in a free state. At a time when the country was in deep conflict over slavery, the Supreme Court decided that Dred Scott was not a "citizen of the state" so they had no jurisdiction in the matter, but the majority opinion also stated that he was not a free man.

Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific RR v. Illinois

Year: 1886
Constitutional Principle:
- National power
- Federalism
Why Decision is Important:
- The supreme Court forbade any state to set rates, even within its own borders, on railroad traffic entering from or bound for another state. This paved the way for the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887.

A statute of Illinois enacts that if any railroad company shall, within that state, charge or receive for transporting passengers or freight of the same class, the same or a greater sum for any distance than it does for a longer distance, it shall be liable to a penalty for unjust discrimination. The defendant in this case made such discrimination in regard to goods transported over the same road or roads from Peoria in Illinois and from Gilman in Illinois to New York, charging more for the same class of goods carried from Gilman than from Peoria, the former being eighty-six miles nearer to New York than the latter, this difference being in the length of the line within the State of Illinois.

United States v. E.C. Knight Co.

Year: 1895
Constitutional Principle:
- National power
Why Decision is Important:
- Ruled that Congress has the right to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies.

In Re Debs

Year: 1895
Constitutional Principles:
- National power
Why Decision is Important:
- Reinforced that the right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce extends to the commerce that is conducted by railroad and highway.
- Ruled that the federal government has the right to intervene forcibly to eliminate monopolies in transportation of people, property, and mail.
was a United States Supreme Court decision handed down concerning Eugene V. Debs and labor unions. Debs, president of the American Railway Union, had been involved in the Pullman Strike earlier in 1894 and challenged the federal injunction ordering the strikers back to work where they would face being fired. The injunction had been issued because of the violent nature of the strike. However, Debs refused to end the strike and was subsequently cited for contempt of court; he appealed the decision to the courts.

The main question being debated was whether the federal government had a right to issue the injunction, which dealt with both interstate and intrastate commerce and shipping on rail cars. With an opinion written by Justice David Josiah Brewer, the court ruled in a unanimous decision in favor of the U.S. government.

Plessy v. Ferguson

Year: 1896
Constitutional Principle:
- Equality
- Rights of minority groups
Why decision is Important:
- Gave legal justification for racial segregation as long as the facilities were equal to one another.
- Overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education.
In 1890, Louisiana passed a statute called the Separate Car Act declaring that all rail companies carrying passengers in Louisiana must provide separate but equal accommodations for white and non-white passengers. The penalty for sitting in the wrong compartment was a fine of $25 or 20 days in jail. A group of black citizens joined forces with the East Louisiana Railroad Company to fight the Act. In 1892, Homer Plessy, who was one-eighth black, purchased a first-class ticket and sat in the white-designated railroad car. Plessy was arrested for violating the Separate Car Act and argued in court that the Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. After losing twice in the lower courts, Plessy took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the previous decisions that racial segregation is constitutional under the separate but equal doctrine.

Northern Securities Co. v. United States

Year: 1904
Constitutional Principle:
- National power
Why Decision is Important:
- Property rights and economic policy.
- Federal suit brought as part of Theodore Roosevelt's trust-busting using Sherman Anti-trust Act.
- Court in 5-4 decision ruled that the Northern securities Company was formed only to eliminate competition and ordered it to be dissolved.
In 1901, James Jerome Hill, president of and the largest stockholder in the Great Northern Railway, won the financial support of J. P. Morgan and attempted to take over the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q). Hill's strategy was for his railroad and Morgan's Northern Pacific Railway to jointly buy the CB&Q. However, Edward Henry Harriman, president of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad, also wanted to buy the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. Harriman demanded a one-third interest in the CB&Q, but Hill refused him. Harriman then began to buy up Northern Pacific's stock, forcing Hill and Morgan to counter by purchasing more stock as well. Northern Pacific's stock price skyrocketed, and the artificially high stock threatened to cause a crash on the New York Stock Exchange. Hill and Morgan were ultimately successful in obtaining more Northern Pacific stock than Harriman, and won control not only of the Northern Pacific but also the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy.

Alarmed by Harriman's actions, Hill created a holding company—the Northern Securities Company—to control all three of the railroads. The public was greatly alarmed by the formation of Northern Securities, which threatened to become the largest company in the world and monopolize railroad traffic in the western United States. President William McKinley, however, was not willing to pursue antitrust litigation against Hill. McKinley was assassinated, however, and his progressive Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, ordered the United States Department of Justice to pursue a case against Northern Securities.

Lochner v. New York

Year: 1905
Constitutional Principle:
- Property rights and economic policy
- Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- Established that the Supreme Court has the power to oversee state regulations.
- Ruled that a New York law limiting baker's hours was unconstitutional because it interfered with workers' Fourteenth Amendment right to sell their labor to their employers.
was a landmark United States Supreme Court case which held that "liberty of contract" was implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case involved a New York law that limited the number of hours that a baker could work each day to ten, and limited the number of hours that a baker could work each week to 60. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the law was necessary to protect the health of bakers, deciding it was a labor law attempting to regulate the terms of employment, and calling it an "unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract."

Lochner is one of the most controversial decisions in the Supreme Court's history, giving its name to what is known as the Lochner era. In the Lochner era, the Supreme Court issued several controversial decisions invalidating federal and state statutes that sought to regulate working conditions during the Progressive Era and the Great Depression.

Muller v. Oregon

Year: 1908
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
- Federalism
- Rights of women
Why Decision is Important:
- Let stand an Oregon law that limited women to a 10-hour work day in laundries or factories in order to protect women's health.
- Stated that the need of the state to protect women's health outweighed the liberty to make a contract (a liberty that was upheld in Lochner).
It justifies both sex discrimination and usage of labor laws during the time period. The case upheld Oregon state restrictions on the working hours of women as justified by the special state interest in protecting women's health. The ruling had important implications for protective labor legislation.

Curt Muller, the owner of a laundry business, was convicted of violating Oregon labor laws by making a female employee work more than ten hours in a single day. Muller was fined $10. Muller appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, both of which upheld the constitutionality of the labor law and affirmed his conviction.

The case was decided a mere three years after Lochner v. New York, (1905), in which a New York law restricting the weekly working hours of bakers was invalidated.

Schenck v. United States

Year: 1919
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- Established limits on free speech holding that this right is not absolute.
- Set the 'clear and present danger' standard for when free speech can be restricted.
Charles Schenck was the Secretary of the Socialist Party of America and was responsible for printing, distributing, and mailing to prospective military draftees during World War I, including 15,000 leaflets that advocated opposition to the draft. These leaflets contained statements such as; "Do not submit to intimidation", "Assert your rights", "If you do not assert and support your rights, you are helping to deny or disparage rights which it is the solemn duty of all citizens and residents of the United States to retain," on the grounds that military conscription constituted involuntary servitude, which is prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment.[1]

For these acts, Schenck was indicted and convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Schenck appealed to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the court decision violated his First Amendment rights.
The Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held that Schenck's criminal conviction was constitutional. The First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging insubordination, since, "when a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."[2] In other words, the court held, the circumstances of wartime permit greater restrictions on free speech than would be allowable during peacetime.

In the opinion's most famous passage, Justice Holmes sets out the "clear and present danger" test:
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 that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.[3]
The phrase "shouting fire in a crowded theater" was also paraphrased from this portion of the Court's opinion.

Charles Schenck consequently spent six months in prison.

Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United States

Year: 1935
Constitutional Principle:
- Separation of powers
- Property rights and economic policy
Why Decision is Important:
- Placed limits on the ability of Congress to delegate legislative powers to President.
- Narrowly defined interstate commerce.
- Declared the New Deal's NIRA unconstitutional.
The regulations at issue were promulgated under the authority of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933. These included price and wage fixing, as well as requirements regarding the sale of whole chickens, including unhealthy ones. The government claimed the Schechters sold sick poultry, which has led to the case becoming known as "the sick chicken case". Also encompassed in the decision were NIRA provisions regarding maximum work hours and a right of unions to organize. The ruling was one of a series which overturned elements of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation between January 1935 and January 1936, until the Court's intolerance of economic regulations shifted with West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 (1937). The National Industrial Recovery Act allowed local codes for trade to be written by private trade and industrial groups. The President could choose to give some codes the force of law. The Supreme Court's opposition to an active federal interference in the local economy caused Roosevelt to attempt to pack the Court with judges that were in favor of the New Deal.
Speaking to aides of Roosevelt, Justice Louis Brandeis remarked that, "This is the end of this business of centralization, and I want you to go back and tell the president that we're not going to let this government centralize everything."[

Korematsu v. United States

Year: 1944
Constitutional Principle:
- Equality
- Rights of minority groups
Why Decision is Important:
- Ruled that the forcible relocation of Japanese Americans to Wartime Relocation Agency camps during World War II was legal.
After Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941, the military feared a Japanese attack on the U.S. mainland and the American government was worried that Americans of Japanese descent might aid the enemy. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order forcing many West Coast Japanese and Japanese Americans into internment camps. Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American, relocated and claimed to be Mexican-American to avoid being interned, but was later arrested and convicted of violating an executive order. Korematsu challenged his conviction in the courts saying that Congress, the President, and the military authorities did not have the power to issue the relocation orders and that he was being discriminated against based on his race. The government argued that the evacuation was necessary to protect the country and the federal appeals court agreed. Korematsu appealed this decision and the case came before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court agreed with government and stated that the need to protect the country was a greater priority than the individual rights of the Japanese and Japanese Americans.

Brown v. Board of Education

Year: 1954
Constitutional Principle:
- Equality
- Rights of minority groups
Why Decision is Important:
- Ruled that segregation in education creates inequality.
- Overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and nullified the concept of "Separate but equal."

Watkins v. United States

Year: 1957
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- Ruled that the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) could not punish at will those witness who refused to cooperate.
Held that the power of the United States Congress is not unlimited in conducting investigations, and that nothing in the U.S. Constitution gives it the authority to expose individuals' private affairs.
John Thomas Watkins, a labor union official from Rock Island, Illinois, was convicted of contempt of Congress, a misdemeanor under 2 U.S.C. § 192, for failing to answer questions posed by members of Congress during a hearing held by a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities on April 29, 1954.

Watkins was born in July 1910 and ended his formal education in the eighth grade. At the time of his testimony he had four children and was working on behalf of the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize workers at a division of Firestone Rubber and Tire in Illinois. The UAW underwrote his legal expenses.[1]

Watkins was asked to name people he knew to be members of the Communist Party. Watkins told the subcommittee that he did not wish to answer such questions, that they were outside the scope of the subjects on which he was summoned to testify and of the committee's jurisdiction. He said:[2]


I am not going to plead the fifth amendment, but I refuse to answer certain questions that I believe are outside the proper scope of your committee's activities. I will answer any questions which this committee puts to me about myself. I will also answer questions about those persons whom I knew to be members of the Communist Party and whom I believe still are. I will not, however, answer any questions with respect to others with whom I associated in the past. I do not believe that any law in this country requires me to testify about persons who may in the past have been Communist Party members or otherwise engaged in Communist Party activity but who to my best knowledge and belief have long since removed themselves from the Communist movement.


I do not believe that such questions are relevant to the work of this committee nor do I believe that this committee has the right to undertake the public exposure of persons because of their past activities. I may be wrong, and the committee may have this power, but until and unless a court of law so holds and directs me to answer, I most firmly refuse to discuss the political activities of my past associates.

His conviction carried a fine of $500 and a year in prison.
The Supreme Court decided 6-1 to overturn Watkins' conviction

Mapp v. Ohio

Year: 1961
Constitutional Principle:
- Avenues of representation
- Federalism
Why Decision is Important:
- Upheld the principle that population is the only acceptable basis for the apportionment of seats in a legislative body.
- Established that the Supreme Court has cases when that reapportionment threatens voters rights.
Suspicious that Dollree Mapp might be hiding a person suspected in a bombing, the police went to her home in Cleveland, Ohio. They knocked on her door and demanded entrance, but Mapp refused to let them in because they did not have a warrant. After observing her house for several hours, the police forced their way into Mapp's house, holding up a piece of paper when Mapp demanded to see their search warrant. As a result of their search, the police found a trunk containing pornographic materials. They arrested Mapp and charged her with violating an Ohio law against the possession of obscene materials. At the trial the police officers did not show Mapp and her attorney the alleged search warrant or explain why they refused to do so. Nevertheless, the court found Mapp guilty and sentenced her to jail. After losing an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, Mapp took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court determined that evidence obtained through a search that violates the Fourth Amendment is inadmissible in state courts.

Engel v. Vitale

Year: 1962
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- Reinforced the separation of church and state.
- Ruled that use of the public schools to encourage prayer or other religious practices is a direct violation of the establishment clause.
The case was brought by the families of public school students in New Hyde Park, New York who complained that the voluntary prayer to "Almighty God" contradicted their religious beliefs. They were supported by groups opposed to the school prayer including rabbinical organizations, Ethical Culture, and Judaic organizations. The prayer in question was:

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.
The Court explained the importance of separation between church and state by giving a lengthy history of the issue, beginning with the 16th century in England. It then stated that school's prayer is a religious activity by the very nature of it being a prayer, and that prescribing such a religious activity for school children violates the Establishment Clause. The program, created by government officials to promote a religious belief, was therefore constitutionally impermissible.

Gideon v. Wainwright

Year: 1963
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- Ruled that to deny legal representation to defendants who can not afford to pay for it is a violation of those individual's constitutional rights.
In June 1961, a burglary occurred at the Bay Harbor Pool Room in Panama City, FL. Police arrested Clarence Earl Gideon after he was found nearby with a pint of wine and some change in his pockets. Gideon, who could not afford a lawyer, asked a Florida Circuit Court judge to appoint one for him arguing that the Sixth Amendment entitles everyone to a lawyer. The judge denied his request and Gideon was left to represent himself. He did a poor job of defending himself and was found guilty of breaking and entering and petty larceny. While serving his sentence in a Florida state prison, Gideon began studying law, which reaffirmed his belief his rights were violated when the Florida Circuit Court refused his request for counsel. From his prison cell, he handwrote a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case and it agreed. The Court unanimously ruled in Gideon's favor, stating that the Six Amendment requires state courts to provide attorneys for criminal defendants who cannot otherwise afford counsel.

Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States

Year: 1964
Constitutional Principle:
- Equality
- National power
Why Decision is Important:
- Found racial segregation of private facilities engaged in interstate commerce unconstitutional.
the U.S. Congress could use the Constitution's Commerce Clause power to force private businesses to abide by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Passed on July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned racial discrimination in public places, particularly in public accommodations, largely based on Congress' control of interstate commerce.

The Heart of Atlanta motel was a large, 216-room motel in Atlanta, Georgia, which refused to rent rooms to black patrons, in direct violation of the terms of the act. The owner of the motel, Moreton Rolleston, filed suit in federal court, arguing that the requirements of the act exceeded the authority granted to Congress over interstate commerce. In addition, the owner argued that the act violated his Fifth Amendment rights to choose customers and operate his business as he wished and resulted in unjust deprivation of his property without due process of law and just compensation. Finally, the owner argued that Congress had placed him in a position of involuntary servitude by forcing him to rent available rooms to blacks, thereby violating his Thirteenth Amendment rights.

In response, the United States countered that the restrictions in adequate accommodation for black Americans severely interfered with interstate travel, and that Congress, under the United States Constitution's Commerce clause, was certainly within its power to address such matters. Moreover, they argued, the Fifth Amendment does not forbid reasonable regulation of interstate commerce and such incidental damage did not constitute the "taking" of property without just compensation or due process of law. Third, they argued that the Thirteenth Amendment applied primarily to slavery and the removal of widespread disabilities associated with it; in such kind, the Amendment certainly would not place issues of racial discrimination in public accommodations beyond the reach of Federal and state law.

The District court ruled in favor of the United States and issued a permanent injunction requiring the Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. to refrain from using racial discrimination in terms of the goods or services that it offered to guests or the general public upon its premises.

Miranda v. Arizona

Year: 1966
Constitutional Principle:
- Criminal procedures
- Civil liberties
Why decision is Important:
- Established the requirement to inform people accused of crimes that they have the right to remain silent and receive legal representation before they say anything that can be held against them in court.

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

Year: 1969
Constitutional Principle:
-Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- Ruled that certain kinds of nonverbal communication can be protected under the First Amendment.
John and Mary Beth Tinker of Des Moines, Iowa, wore black armbands to their public school as a symbol of protest against American involvement in the Vietnam War. When school authorities asked that the Tinkers remove their armbands, they refused and were subsequently suspended. The Supreme Court decided that the Tinkers had the right to wear the armbands, with Justice Abe Fortas stating that no one expects students to "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

New York Times Co. v. United States

Year: 1971
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- Gave the media more power against governmental secrecy.
The ruling made it possible for the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers to publish the then-classified Pentagon Papers without risk of government censorship or punishment.

President Richard Nixon had claimed executive authority to force the Times to suspend publication of classified information in its possession. The question before the court was whether the constitutional freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment, was subordinate to a claimed need of the executive branch of government to maintain the secrecy of information. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did protect the right of the New York Times to print the materials.

Roe v. Wade

Year: 1973
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
-Ruled that state laws that criminalize abortion are unconstitutional.
Jane Roe was an unmarried and pregnant Texas resident in 1970. Texas law made it a felony to abort a fetus unless "on medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother." Roe filed suit against Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, contesting the statue on the grounds that it violated the guarantee of personal liberty and the right to privacy implicitly guaranteed in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. In deciding for Roe, the Supreme Court invalidated any state laws that prohibited first trimester abortions.
the Court ruled that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced against the state's two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting women's health. Arguing that these state interests became stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the trimester of pregnancy.

The Court later rejected Roe's trimester framework, while affirming Roe's central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability.[1] The Roe decision defined "viable" as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid", adding that viability "is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks."[

United States v. Nixon

Year: 1974
Constitutional Principle:
- Separation of powers
Why Decision is Important:
- Limited the President's right to confidentiality.
- Gave federal courts the right to decide when and how that confidentiality should be limited.
A congressional hearing about President Nixon's Watergate break-in scandal revealed that he had installed a tape-recording device in the Oval Office. The special prosecutor in charge of the case wanted access to these taped discussions to help prove that President Nixon and his aides had abused their power and broken the law. President Nixon's incomplete compliance with the special prosecutor's demands was challenged and eventually taken to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court decided that executive privilege is not limitless, and the tapes were released.

New Jersey v. T.L.O.

Year: 1985
Constitutional Principle:
- civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- Ruled that juveniles have the right to the same protection as adults against illegal search and seizure.
- More clearly defined what constituted a legal search and seizure.
A New Jersey high school student was accused of violating school rules by smoking in the bathroom, leading an assistant principal to search her purse for cigarettes. The vice principal discovered marijuana and other items that implicated the student in dealing marijuana. The student tried to have the evidence from her purse suppressed, contending that mere possession of cigarettes was not a violation of school rules; therefore, a desire for evidence of smoking in the restroom did not justify the search. The Supreme Court decided that the search did not violate the Constitution and established more lenient standards for reasonableness in school searches.

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health

Year: 1990
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
Why Decision is Important:
- 'Clear and convincing' evidence was presented to demonstrate that a Missouri woman (Cruzan) in a coma from 1983 car accident should have the right to die. Intravenous feeding was ended with court approval, and Cruzan subsequently died.
On January 11, 1983, Nancy Cruzan lost control of her old car that had no seat belts, was thrown from it and landed face down in a water-filled ditch. Paramedics found her with no vital signs, but they resuscitated her. After a couple weeks of remaining dormant within a coma, she was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). Surgeons inserted a feeding tube for her long-term care. Her husband and parents waited for a more substantial recovery, but eventually, after four years, accepted that there was no hope. The accident occurred seven years before they went to the Supreme Court.
The issue of this case was whether the State of Missouri had the right to require "clear and convincing evidence" in order for the Cruzans to remove their daughter from life support.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court found in favor of the Missouri Dept. of Health. However, it upheld the legal standard that competent persons are able to exercise the right to refuse medical treatment under the Due Process Clause. Because there was no "clear and convincing evidence" of what Nancy Cruzan wanted, the Court upheld the state's policy.
After the case was decided the family went back and found more proof that Nancy Cruzan would have wanted her life support terminated and eventually won a court order to have her removed from life support. Cruzan died 11 days later on December 26, 1990.

Planned Parenthood V. Casey

Year: 1992
Constitutional Principle:
- Civil liberties
- Rights of women
Why Decision is Important:
- Struck down the portions of a Pennsylvania law requiring (1) that a woman seeking an abortion must wait 24 hours between being informed about the procedure and having it performed and (2) that a married woman must inform her husband that she planned to have an abortion.
- Upheld the portion of the law requiring minors to inform their parents before having an abortion.
The plaintiffs were five abortion clinics and a class action of physicians who provide abortion services, in addition to one physician representing himself independently. They filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to enjoin the state from enforcing the five provisions and have them declared facially unconstitutional. The District Court, after a three-day bench trial, held that all the provisions were unconstitutional and entered a permanent injunction against Pennsylvania's enforcement of them.

Helps

Free Clep Prep
Landmark Supreme Court Cases http://www.streetlaw.org/en/landmark/home
For judiciary http://people.howstuffworks.com/judicial-system.htm
Constitution stuff http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html
Executive http://www.whitehouse.gov/our-government/executive-branch/
Senate http://www.senate.gov/legislative/common/briefing/Senate_legislative_process.htm
House http://www.house.gov/content/learn/
Political Parties http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm
Gov. Departments http://www.usa.gov/directory/federal/index.shtml
The DVD's The Standard Deviants - American Government Check the library

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