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Legal Research: Supreme Court Cases

Selected Landmark Supreme Court Cases by Subject

Abortion & Birth Control

  • 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479

Defendants, a director of medical clinic and a doctor, challenged a decision from the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, which convicted them of violating a state law that prohibited the dispensing or use of …

  • 1973 Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113

Plaintiffs, a pregnant single woman and a married couple, and intervenor physician sued defendant district attorney challenging the constitutionality of Texas abortion laws, and sought an injunction. The United …

  • 1989 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490

Appellees, public health care officials and nonprofit corporations that performed abortions, filed a class action against appellant State of Missouri, which challenged the constitutionality of a Missouri statute …

  • 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833

Petitioners, abortion clinics and physician, brought suit against respondents, the governor and others, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from five provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of …

  • 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914

In an action brought by plaintiff physician challenging the constitutionality of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-328 (Supp. 1999), which criminalizes performance of "partial birth abortions," the Court granted certiorari to …

  • 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124

Petitioner, the United States Attorney General, sought certiorari review of judgments from the United States Courts of Appeals for the Eighth and Ninth Circuits affirming district court rulings in favor of …

Capital Punishment

  • 1972 Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238

The Court found that the key question was whether the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty under the laws applicable to the prisoners constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth …

  • 1976 Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153

Upon certiorari review, the Supreme Court held that the punishment of death did not invariably violate the United States Constitution.

  • 1976 Jurek v. Texas, 428 U.S. 262

The court granted certiorari to decide whether petitioner was correct in his assertion that the imposition of the death penalty violated his rights under the Eigth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court concluded that …

  • 1976 Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242

Defendant sought certiorari review of a decision of the Supreme Court of Florida, which affirmed defendant's sentence of death imposed following his conviction for murder.

  • 1976 Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325

The Court granted certiorari to consider the constitutionality of defendent's death sentence under Louisiana law which the defendant claimed violated the Eigth and Fourteenth Amendments.

  • 1976 Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280

On a grant of certiorari to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the Court considered petitioner inmates' arguments that the Government's imposition of the death sentence on them for first degree murder violated …

  •  2005 Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551

Respondent juvenile committed murder at the age of 17. He was tried and sentenced to death. He filed a petition for state postconviction relief, arguing that the reasoning forbidding the execution of mentally …

Civil Commitment

  • 1975 O'Connor v. Donaldson, 422 U.S. 563

The patient was civilly committed to confinement in a mental hospital and kept in custody there, against his will, for nearly 15 years. In the patient's action against the superintendent, a verdict was entered …

Civil Rights, Affirmative Action

  • 1978 Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265

The Court reversed in part and affirmed in part a judgment declaring a special admissions program unlawful, enjoining petitioner medical school from considering the race of any applicant, and denying respondent an …

  • 2003 Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244

The university's undergraduate admissions policy was based on a point system that automatically granted 20 points to applicants from underrepresented minority groups. This class-action equal protection suit alleged …

  • 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306

Petitioner law school applicant sued respondents, a law school, university regents, and university officials, claiming race discrimination in the law school's admission policy. The trial court concluded that the …

Civil Rights, Homosexuality

  • 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186

The Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not confer any fundamental right on homosexuals to engage in acts of consensual sodomy, even if the conduct occurred in the privacy of their …

  • 1995 Hurley v. Irish American Gay Group of Boston, 515 U.S. 557

Appeal of judgment on writ of certiorari from Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which affirmed lower court's ruling that concluded that the denial of respondent gay organization's application to march in a …

  • 1996 Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620

Petitioners, the State of Colorado and State officials, appealed a decision from the Supreme Court of Colorado, which affirmed the district court's judgment that enjoined enforcement of an amendment to the Colorado …

  • 2000 Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640

On writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, petitioners organization appealed judgment that application of state public accommodations law did not violate their First Amendment freedom of association. …

  • 2003 Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558

On writ of certiorari, petitioners appealed a decision of the Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District, upholding state law that made it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate …

Civil Rights, Racial Discrimination

  • 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393

Certiorari was granted from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Missouri finding that respondent was not liable to petitioner for assault. The trial court held that petitioner was a slave and, …

  • 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537

The Court rejected petitioner's argument that the separation of the two races stamped one race with a badge of inferiority. The Court affirmed that a Lousiana statute that implied merely a legal distinction between …

  • 1944 Korematsu v. US, 323 U.S. 214

Petitioner, an American citizen of Japanese descent, was convicted in the United States district court for remaining in a designated military area contrary to an order which directed that after May 9, 1942, all …

  • 1964 Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. US, 379 U.S. 241

Appellant motel, which discriminated in the renting of its rooms on the basis of race, sought review by certiorari of a judgment from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by …

  • 1964 Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294

An injunction restraining appellant from enforcing Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against appellee came before the court on direct appeal. Appellee served food procured via interstate commerce and served …

  • 1967 Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1

The Court found that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violated the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause and deprived appellants of liberty without due process of …

  • 1997 City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507

The court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was unconstitutional because it allowed considerable Congressional intrusion into the states' general authority to regulate for the health and …

  • 2009 Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct. 2658

Petitioners, white and Hispanic firefighters, brought actions against respondent city alleging that the city's refusal to certify promotion examination results based on disparate racial impact of the examination …

Civil Rights, School Desegregation

  • 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483

The Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and the "separate but equal" doctrine, finding that it had no place in public education. Segregation was a denial of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth …

  • 2007 Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701

Both school districts adopted plans whereby, after place of residence and availability of space were considered, school assignments were made on the basis of race to ensure that schools were racially balanced. The …

Civil Rights, Sex Discrimination

  • 1973 Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677

Appellants, female military personnel, sought review of the judgment of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, which rejected appellants' contention that the statutory difference in …

  • 1976 Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190

Oklahoma statutes prohibited the sale of beer to males under the age of 21 and to females under the age of 18. The Court held that the gender-based differential invidiously discriminated and constituted a denial of …

  • 1996 United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515

Appeal by United States from judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit holding for Virginia in suit challenging policy denying women admission to publicly funded university.

Elections

  • 2000 Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98

The petition of appellant presidential candidate and others for writ of certiorari to the Florida Supreme Court was granted in a case ordering the manual recount of ballots cast in a presidential election in one …

  • 2000 Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, 531 U.S. 70

The Court vacated the Florida state supreme court's judgment in favor of the Democratic presidential candidate regarding authority of the boards and respondent Florida Secretary of State as to manual recounts of …

  • 2010 Citizens United, Appellant v. Federal Election Commission, 130 S. Ct. 876

Appellant nonprofit corporation sued appellee, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), challenging the constitutionality of a ban on corporate independent expenditures for electioneering communications and disclaimer …

Freedom of Religion

  • 1947 Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1

The Court held that the First Amendment did not prohibit New Jersey from spending tax-raised funds to pay the bus fares of parochial school pupils as a part of a general program under which it paid the fares of …

  • 1962 Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421

Petitioner parents applied for a writ of certiorari after the Court of Appeals of New York granted a judgment that upheld the school board's authority to use prayer in the public schools on the condition that no …

  • 1963 Abington School District v. Schempp (and Murray v. Curlett), 374 U.S. 203

The Court concluded that state laws requiring readings from the Bible at the beginning of the school day amounted to requiring religious exercises and such exercises were being conducted in direct violation of the …

  • 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602

In a consolidated case from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and from the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, appellant citizens and taxpayers …

  • 1972 Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205

The parents practiced the Amish and Mennonite religions and argued that sending their children to public school after the eighth grade violated their religious beliefs and threatened their religious way of life. The …

  • 1992 Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577

The Court held that accommodating the Amish and Mennonite parents' religious objections to compulsory education after the eigth grade would not impair the physical or mental health of the child, result in an …

  • 1993 Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520

Petitioners, church and its president, applied for and received licensing, inspection and zoning approvals to establish a church including a ritual of animal sacrifice from respondent city. In response, an emergency …

  • 1995 Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819

Petitioner students brought an action against respondents alleging First Amendment violations for respondents' refusal to authorize payment of the printing costs of petitioners student publication based on its …

  • 1997 Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203

This action arose from a case in which U.S. Supreme Court held that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment barred a city from sending public school teachers into parochial schools to provide education to …

Freedom of Speech and of the Press

  • 1919 Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47

Defendants were convicted of conspiracy and other crimes under the Espionage Act for distributing leaflets that opposed the military draft. Defendants appealed their convictions on the basis that the Espionage Act …

  • 1942 Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568

Appellant was convicted under a New Hampshire statute for using offensive language towards another person in public. Appellant contended that the statute was invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment because it placed …

  • 1957 Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476

Petitioners, New York and California mail-order businessmen, were convicted under federal and state statutes, of mailing obscene materials. Petitioners appealed on grounds that the federal statute violated the First …

  • 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254

The Court held that petitioner newspaper's constitutional guarantees to freedom of speech and of the press by the First and Fourteenth Amendments required a rule that prohibited a public official from recovering …

  • 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444

Petitioner was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan and was convicted under Ohio's criminal syndicalism statute, which made it unlawful to advocate crime or methods of terrorism or to voluntarily assembly with any group to …

  • 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503

Petitioner high school students challenged the constitutionality of respondent school officials' suspension of petitioners for wearing black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War.

  • 1971 Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15

Appellee argued that the four-letter expletive imprinted on appellant's jacket, which he wore in the municipal courthouse as an expression of his feelings toward the Vietnam War and the draft, was "offensive …

  • 1971 New York Times v. United States, 403 U.S. 713

In an action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the United States government sought an injunction against the publication by the New York Times of the contents of a classified …

  • 1973 Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15

Defendant was convicted of distributing obscene matter. The Court held that the standard to determine whether material was obscene was whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, not …

  • 1988 Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260

The petitioner, a high school principal removed articles from the school newspaper. The Court found that public schools did not possess all of the attributes of traditional public forums. The school had an interest …

  • 1988 Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46

Petitioner magazine sought review of the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, affirming an award of monetary damages to respondent, a nationally known minister, for intentional …

  • 1989 Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397

Petitioner State requested a writ of certiorari to examine a decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, which reversed the trial court's decision that convicted respondent of desecrating a flag after he …

  • 1991 Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., 501 U.S. 560

The case was before the court on a writ of certiorari to United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which had concluded that nude dancing performed for entertainment was expression protected by the …

  • 1997 Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844

After Congress passed the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), appellees sought a declaratory judgment deeming it an unconstitutional violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. The Court found that the CDA …

  • 2000 Erie v. Pap's A. M., 529 U.S. 277

On writ of certiorari to Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Western District, petitioner city appealed judgment determining that petitioner's ordinance banning public nudity unconstitutionally burdened the expressive …

International Law

  • 1998 Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371

Petitioners asserted that the failure to inform petitioner inmate at the time of his arrest of his right as a foreign national to contact his consulate violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The court …

Mental Competency

  • 1960 Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402

One whose conviction of crime in a Federal District Court was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit sought a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. In a per curiam …

  • 1986 Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399

The Court held that Eigth Amendment prohibited the execution of the insane and that the procedures used to determine petitioner's competency did not meet the requisite heightened standard of reliability where there …

  • 1993 Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389

The issue before the Court was whether the competency standard for pleading guilty or waiving the right to counsel was higher than the competency standard for standing trial. The court held that a defendant who …

Right to Attorney

  • 1963 Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335

The inmate's charged offense was a felony under Florida law. He appeared in state court without funds and without a lawyer and asked the court to appoint counsel for him. The state court refused because only a …

  • 1964 Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478

Petitioner appealed the affirmation of his conviction of murder by the Supreme Court of Illinois, which held that petitioner's confession had been admissible even though it was obtained after he had requested and …

  • 1966 Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436

Certiorari was granted to review a judgment from the Supreme Court of Arizona for this and three other similar cases, to determine the admissibility of statements obtained from defendant, who was subjected to …

  • 1967 In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1

The Court disagreed with the lower court's conclusion that the child and his parents received due process after the child was taken into custody after a female neighbor complained of lewd phone calls while he was …

Right to Bear Arms

  • 1939 US. V. Miller, 307 U.S. 174

Defendants were indicted for transporting an unregistered double barrel 12-gauge shotgun in interstate commerce in violation of the National Firearms Act. Defendants filed a motion to quash the indictment alleging …

  • 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783

Respondent, a special policeman, filed the instant action after the District refused his application to register a handgun. The Court held that the District's ban on handgun possession in the home and its …

Right to Die

  • 1990 Cruzan v. Dir., Mo. Dep't of Health, 497 U.S. 261

Petitioners, parents suing on their behalf and on behalf of their daughter, appealed a decision of the Supreme Court of Missouri which denied their petition for a court order directing the withdrawal of their …

  • 1997 Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793

At issue on appeal was whether New York's prohibition on assisting suicide violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court held that New York's statute outlawing assisted suicide neither …

  • 1997 Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702

Respondents brought a suit seeking a declaration that Washington state's ban on physician-assisted suicide was unconstitutional on its face. On review, the United States Supreme Court held that history, legal …

  • 2006 Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243

Respondent State of Oregon and others challenged in federal court an interpretive rule issued by petitioner U.S. Attorney General which would have disrupted physician assisted suicide under the Oregon Death With …

Separation of Powers

  • 1803 Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137

The applicant and two others contended that the late President of the United States had nominated them to the Senate and that the Senate had advised and consented to their appointments as justices of the peace. At a …

  • 1816 Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 14 U.S. 304

On writ of error, the Supreme Court held that the appellate power of the United States does extend to cases pending in the state courts.

  • 1819 McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316

Defendant appealed a judgment of the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland finding for plaintiff, who brought suit against defendant to recover certain penalties under a Maryland act imposing a tax on all banks …

  • 1859 Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506

The Court concluded that the state supreme court lacked the power to inquire into the custody of the federal prisoner even if it concluded that the such custody was unconstitutional. The Supremacy Clause was clothed …

  • 1920 Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416

The State brought a bill in equity, which challenged the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of July 3, 1918 claiming that the treaty was an unconstitutional interference with appellant's sovereign rights under the Tenth …

  • 1958 Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1

Petitioners, the Little Rock School Board and School Superintendent (school authorities), asked a district court to postpone their program for desegregation mandated by the Brown v. Board of Education decision …

  • 1974 United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683

Cross-petitions were granted for immediate review of the denial of a motion to quash a third-party subpoena duces tecum issued by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia directing the President …

  • 1987 South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203

The Court affirmed held that: (1) the indirect imposition of a minimum drinking age through the reduction of federal highway funds otherwise allocable to a state if the state had a minimum drinking age below 21 was …

  • 1995 U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779

Petitioners challenged a decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court that affirmed a ruling of the trial court that declared unconstitutional an Arkansas Constitutional Amendment which limited the amount of terms that …

  • 1995 United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549

Respondent was convicted of violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 after carrying a concealed handgun and bullets to school. Respondent's conviction was reversed on appeal. In upholding the reversal, the …

  • 1997 Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681

Respondent, a private citizen, sought to recover damages from petitioner, the President of the U.S., based on actions that allegedly took place before his term began. Petitioner argued that in all but the most …

  • 1997 Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898

The Brady Act amended a detailed federal scheme that governed distribution of firearms established by the Gun Control Act of 1968. Interim provisions directed state law enforcement officers to participate in …

Terrorism

  • 2004 Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507

The citizen-detainee was born in the United States, detained in Afghanistan during the United States' military action against the Taliban regime, and transferred to the United States. The Court determined that the …

  • 2004 Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466

Petitioner aliens filed various actions challenging the legality of their detention at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. They invoked the court's jurisdiction and asserted various causes of action including federal …

  • 2004 Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426

The President ordered the Secretary to place the detainee in military custody. The detainee was transferred from federal custody to military custody in another judicial district. The detainee sought habeas corpus …

Unreasonable Search and Seizure

  • 1961 Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643

Defendant appealed from a judgment of the Supreme Court of Ohio, which affirmed her conviction for possessing obscene literature in violation. Defendant contended that the evidence seized during a search and that …

  • 1967 Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347

Defendant sought review of a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which, in affirming defendant's conviction for transmitting wagering information by telephone, rejected the …

  • 1995 Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646

Petitioner school district required student athletes to submit to drug testing, for which the student's parents had to sign consent forms. Respondents, a seventh grade student and his parents, refused to sign the …

  • 2006 Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103

Defendant's motion to suppress evidence of his cocaine use that was seized as a result of a warrantless search to which he explicitly did not consent, but to which his wife did consent, was initially denied, but the …

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