Fletcher v. Peck (1810)
Upheld a sale of public land, even though almost all of the legislators who voted for the land sale had been bribed by purchases.
Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)
New Hampshire could not nullify the charter of Dartmouth College because the original charter constitutes a binding contract, the terms of which could not be changed without impairing the obligations in the original contract.
Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge (1837)
Original charter for the Charles River Bridge did not imply a monopoly that closed off competitors. Ruled that Massachusetts could charter the rival Warren Bridge because the states should encourage economic competition and technological advancements.
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
Slaves were not citizens who possessed rights, but simply were private property belonging to owners.
Lochner v. New York (1905)
Use of due process clause to protect business from state regulation of maximum working hours.
District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)
Second Amendment incorporated - DC's gun control law was unconstitutional in that the Second Amendment protects the fundamental right of individuals to own guns.
US v. Carolene Products Company (1938)
Set the standard for interpreting different court cases in establishing ordinary and strict scrutiny.
Schenck v. US (1919)
For a reason to be compelling the government must show that the speech poses a clear and present danger.
Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)
Case involving the appeal of a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. "Guarantees of free speech...do not permit a state to forbid advocacy of the use of force of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to incitement or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."
Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
Invalidated parts of the Federal Election Campaign Act - a restriction on how much money a candidate for federal office might put into his/her own campaigns.
Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life (2007)
Court ruled that restrictions on media advertising by corporations and labor unions in the period immediately before an election in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain - Feingold) in an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.
Texas v. Johnson (1989)
Gregory Johnson challenged a Texas state law against flag desecration under which he had been convicted for burning an American flag as part of a demonstration of the 1984 Republican convention. Overturned the Texas law, saying it falls under freedom of expression.
Near v. Minnesota (1931)
Court followed up on Gitlow (1925) by invalidating the Minnesota Public Nuisance law as a violation of freedom of the press.
Bradzburg v. Hayes (1972)
Supreme Court has rejected the argument that constitutional doctrines on freedom of the press give reporters immunity from testifying when they have been issued or subpoenaed by court.
New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)
The Court ruled that the US government could not prevent newspapers from publishing portions of the Pentagon Papers that revealed how the US had become in the Vietnam War. Prior restraint.
New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)
Protected newspapers against trivial or incidental errors when they were reporting on public persons - public persons are held to a higher standard of prior when they bring libel prosecutions.
Miller v. California (1973)
Set a reasonably clear three-part test used by the courts to define obscenity.
New York v. Ferber (1982)
Courts ruled that states can prohibit the production, distribution, and sale of child pornography.
Reno, Attorney General of the US v. American Civil Liberties Union (1997)
Decided unanimously that the legislation incriminating the allowance of transmission of indecent material across the Internet which minors might access. Declared it was a violation of the First Amendment, being overly broad and vague and violating the free speech rights of adults to receive and send information.
West Virginia v. Barnette (1995)
Court reversed Gobitis and firmly established free exercise of religion as protected against infringement by the states.
Minersville School District v. Gobitis
Upheld the expulsion of two school children who refused to salute the flag because it violated their faith as Jehovah's witnesses.
Employment Division v. Smith (1990)
Upheld state law outlawing the use of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies.
City of Boerne v. Flores (1991)
Clinton tried to overturn 1990 decision with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act 1993 but the Act was declared unconstitutional because the act unduly extended national government power over the states.
Everson v. Board of Education (1947)
Incorporated the establishment clause into the 14th Amendment by sustaining a New Jersey program to reimburse parents for bus transportation to parochial schools.
McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)
A program for teaching religion in public schools was found to be unconstitutional.
Zorach v. Clauson (1952)
Court upheld a similar program in New York because students were permitted to leave school premises early for religious instruction.
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
Burger specified 3 conditions that every law must meet to avoid establishing religion. 1) The law must have a secular purpose. 2) The primary effort of the law must be neither to retard nor advance religion. 3) Government must never foster excessive entanglements between the state and religion.
Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995)
Court ruled that the university, which is a state-supported institution, must provide the same financial subsidy to a student religious publication that it provides to other student publications.
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002)
Approved Cleveland is program of school vouchers that provides public money to parents who want to send their children to private schools, whether secular or religious.
Van Orden v. Perry
Court allowed a display of a 6 foot high monument of the 10 commandments in front of the state capitol in Austin because it was one of 40 monuments.
Engel v. Vitale (1962)
Court ordered the state of New York to suspend its requirement that all students in public school to recite a nondenominational prayer at the start of each school day.
Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000)
Court ruled that student-led prayers at school-sponsored events such as football games are not constitutionally permissible because they have the "improper effect of coercing those present to participate in an act of religious worship."
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005)
Concluded that the concept of Intelligent Design was just another word for creationism.
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
Supreme Court ruled that a right to privacy exists when it struck down law making birth control illegal.
Roe v. Wade (1973)
Court ruled in favor of a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. Transformed abortion from a legislative issue into a constitutional issue and from a matter of policy into a matter of rights.
Lawrence v. Texas (2003)
State antisodomy laws prohibiting consensual gay and lesbian sexual relations are unconstitutional.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
Court enunciated the exclusionary rule to prevent police and prosecutors from using evidence that had been obtained from warrantless and unreasonable searches.
Murray v. United States (1988)
Allowed prosecutors to use evidence obtained from illegal searches if other evidence unrelated to the illegal evidence would have justified a search warrant (retroactive probable cause).
Wyoming v. Houghton (1999)
Rehnquist Court further narrowed the exclusionary rule - that police who have probable cause to search an automobile for illegal substances may also search personal possessions of passengers in the car (in this case, a purse).
Wilson v. Arkansas (2006)
The Roberts Court wrote that police need not knock when entering a house with a search warrant.
Herry v. United States (2009)
Roberts wrote that evidence should not be excluded unless police misconduct was "deliberate" and "culpable"
Knowles v. Iowa (1998)
Bag of marijuana discovered in a search incident to a speeding ticket was excluded as the product of an illegal search.
Kyllo v. United States (2001)
Court ruled that police could not use high technology thermal devices to search through the walls of a house to check for the presence of high-intensity lights used for growing marijuana.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
Court held that, prior to questioning, all persons had the right to be informed of their rights to remain silent and to consult an attorney.
Dickerson v. United States (2000)
Main principle of the Miranda decision was upheld by the Rehnquist court.
Powell v. Alabama (1932)
Famed Scottsboro Boys prosecution - the court ruled that legal counsel must be supplied to all indigent defendants accused of a capital crime.
Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
Court ruled that defendants accused of any felony in state jurisdictions are entitled to a lawyer and that the states must supply one when a defendant cannot afford to do so.
Furman v. Georgia (1972)
Found that death penalty laws then in exercise constituted cruel and unusual punishment because the procedures were arbitrary and discriminatory.
Gregg v. Georgia (1976)
Held that capital punishment was NOT inherently cruel or unusual; but the court tended to create an obstacle course of standards that states had to meet.
McCleskey v. Kemp (1987)
Ruled that individual defendants must show that racism played a role in their specific cases.
Penry v. Lynaugh (1989)
Allowed the execution of a convicted murderer who had the intelligence of a seven year-old.
McCleskey v. Zant (1991)
Court also expedited executions by denying most avenues of appeal and delay.
Keeney v. Tomayo-Reyes (1992)
Court limited the right of "death row" inmates convicted in state courts to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Atkins v. Virginia (2002)
Court followed the lead of 18 states in banning the use of the death penalty for mentally retarded defendants.
Ring v. Arizona (2002)
Court overruled the death sentences of more than 160 convicted killers, declaring that only juries, not judges, can decide on the use of the death penalty for crimes.
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004)
Supreme Court ruled that both foreigners and American citizens detained as "enemy combatants" have a right to have a hearing to contest the basis of their detentions.
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
Chief Justice Taney claimed that African Americans had no right that whites or government were required to honor or respect.
Dowell v. Oklahoma City (1991)
Ruled that school districts that had made lengthy good faith efforts to end the effects of previously legal school segregation in their jurisdictions had fulfilled their constitutional obligation for equal protection of the races in education.
Slaughterhouse Cases (1873)
Court found that the clause protected only the rights of citizens of the US as citizens and not rights that were the responsibility of the states; in these cases, the court denied citizens protection against abuses by state government.
Civil Rights Cases (1883)
Court ruled that the 14th Amendment did not give Congress the power to prohibit discrimination unless it was practiced by state government; equal protection did not include racial discrimination by private parties (such as owners of restaurants)
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
Even state-sponsored discrimination was found to be constitutional. "Separate but equal" public facilities.
Minor v. Happersett (1874)
Supreme Court decided that women's suffrage was not a right inherent in the national citizenship guarantees of the 14th Amendment.
Smith v. Allwright (1944)
Court decided that the practice of excluding nonwhites from political-party primary elections was unconstitutional.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
Overturned separate but equal doctrine in public schools (Plessy v. Ferguson).
Loving v. Virginia (1967)
Ruled that Virginia's law against interracial marriage served no compelling government purpose that would justify unequal treatment of races.
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978)
Prohibited the use of racial quotas by university admissions committees (reverse discrimination against white males) but apparently saw no problem with the use of race as a factor in hiring or admissions.
Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education (1986) & Richmond v. Croson Co. (1989)
Programs that narrowly redress specific violations will be upheld as constitutional but that broader affirmative action programs that address society's racism will be struck down.
Adarand Constructors v. Peña (1995)
Federal government must abide by the strict standards for affirmative actions programs imposed on the states in the Richmond case and could not award contracts using race as the main criterion.
Miller v. Johnson (1995)
Court ruled that race could not be used as the basis for drawing House district lines in an effort to increase the number of racial minority members in Congress.
Craig v. Boren (1976)
Six justices supported Justice William Brennan's compromise, which created a more rigorous scrutiny of gender as a "somewhat" suspect category.
Webster v. Reproductive Services (1989) & Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)
Two cases that gave considerable latitude to the state to restrict abortions.
Harris v. Forklift Systems Inc. (1993)
Further defined sexual harassment when it ruled unanimously that workers did not have to prove that offensive actions made them unable to do their jobs or caused them any psychological harm, only that the work environment was hostile or abusive.
Tennessee v. Lane (2004)
Court ruled that the disabled could sue a state for money damages in federal court if the state fails to make its courts fully accessible.
Bowers v. Hardwick (1986)
Upheld Georgia's law against sodomy. Declared assertions of a constitutional right to homosexuality to be facetious.