Marbury v. Madison
Judicial Review, Federalism
At the end of President John Adams’ term, his Secretary of State failed to deliver documents commissioning William Marbury as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia. Once President Thomas Jefferson was sworn in, in order to keep members of the opposing political party from taking office, he told...
McCulloch v. Maryland
State Taxes, National Supremacy
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...
Gibbons v. Ogden
State Rights, Commerce Clause
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...
Dred Scott v. Sandford
Slavery, Due Process, the Missouri Compromise
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,...
Plessy v. Ferguson
"Separate but Equal," Equal Protection
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...
Korematsu v. United States
Japanese Internment, Equal Protection
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...
Brown v. Board of Education
School Segregation, Equal Protection
In Topeka, Kansas in the 1950s, schools were segregated by race. Each day, Linda Brown and her sister had to walk through a dangerous railroad switchyard to get to the bus stop for the ride to their all-black elementary school. There was a school closer to the Brown's house, but...
Mapp v. Ohio
Exclusionary Rule, Due Process
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...
Gideon v. Wainwright
Right to Counsel, Due Process
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...
Miranda v. Arizona
Self-Incrimination, Due Process
Ernesto Miranda was arrested after a crime victim identified him, but police officers questioning him did not inform him of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, or of his Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of an attorney. While he confessed to the crime, his attorney later argued that his...
Tinker v. Des Moines
Student Speech, Symbolic Speech
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...
Roe v. Wade
Abortion, Right to Privacy
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...
United States v. Nixon
Watergate, Checks and Balances
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...
Regents of the U. of California v. Bakke
Affirmative Action, Equal Protection
In the early 1970s, the medical school of the University of California at Davis devised a dual admissions program to increase representation of disadvantaged minority students. Allan Bakke was a white male who applied to and was rejected from the regular admissions program, while minority applicants with lower grade point...
New Jersey v. T.L.O.
Student Search & 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...
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier
Censorship, Student Press Rights
Hazelwood East High School Principal Robert Reynolds procedurally reviewed the Spectrum, the school’s student-written newspaper, before publication. In May 1983, he decided to have certain pages pulled because of the sensitive content in two of the articles, and acted quickly to remove them in order to meet the paper’s publication...
Texas v. Johnson
Flag Burning, Freedom of Speech
In a political demonstration during the Republican National Convention in Texas, protesting the policies of the Reagan Administration and of certain corporations based in Dallas, Gregory Lee Johnson doused an American flag with kerosene and set it on fire. No one was hurt or threatened with injury, but some witnesses...