Top 30 Supreme Court Cases

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  1. Marbury v. Madison (1803)
    Established the principle of judicial review; strengthened the power of the judicial branch by giving the Supreme Court the authority to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional.
  2. McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
    Confirmed the right of Congress to utilize implied powers to carry out its expressed powers; validated the supremacy of the national government over the states by declaring that states cannot interfere with or tax the legitimate activities of the federal government.
  3. Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
    Strengthened the power of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce; established the commerce clause's role as a key vehicle for the expansion of federal power.
  4. Engle v. Vitale (1962)
    Struck down state-sponsored prayer in public schools; ruled that the Regents' prayer was an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause.
  5. Lemon v. Kurtsman (1971)
    Struck down state funding for private religious schools; ruled that state aid to church-related schools must meet three tests: (a) the purpose of the aid must be clearly secular, (b) the government's action must neither advance nor inhibit region  and (c) the government's action must not foster an "excessive entanglement  between government and religion.
  6. Reynolds v. United States (1879)
    Banned polygamy; distinguished between religious beliefs that are protected by the Free Exercise Clause and religious practices that may be restricted; ruled that religious practices cannot make an act legal that would otherwise be illegal.
  7. Oregon v. Smith (1990)
    Banned the use of illegal drugs in religious ceremonies; ruled that the government can act when religious practices violate criminal laws.
  8. Schenck v. United States (1919)
    Ruled that free speech could be limited when it presents a "clear and present danger"; established the "clear and present danger" test to define conditions under which public authorities can limit free speech.
  9. New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)
    Ruled that public officials cannot win a suit for defamation unless the statement is made with "actual malice"; established the "actual malice" standard to promote "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open" public debate.
  10. Roth v. United States (1951)
    Ruled that obscenity is not constitutionally protected free speech; created the "prevailing community standards" rule requiring a consideration of the work as a whole.
  11. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969)
    Protected some forms of symbolic speech; ruled that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression a the schoolhouse gate.
  12. Texas v. Johnson (1989)
    Ruled that flag burning is a form of symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment.
  13. Barron v. Baltimore (1833)
    Ruled that the Bill of Rights cannot be applied to the states.
  14. Gitlow v. New York (1925)
    Established precedent for the doctrine of selective incorporation, thus extending most of the requirements of the Bill of Rights to the states.
  15. Weeks v. United States (1914)
    Established the exclusionary rule in federal cases; prohibited evidence obtained by illegal searches and seizures from being admitted in court.
  16. Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
    Extended the exclusionary rule to the states; illustrated the process of selective incorporation through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  17. Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
    Ruled that the Sixth Amendment right-to-counsel provision applies to those accused of major crimes under state laws; illustrated the process of incorporation by which the Sixth Amendment was applied to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  18. Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
    Ruled that the police must inform criminal suspects of their constitutional rights before questioning suspects after arrest; required police to read the Miranda rules to criminal suspects.
  19. Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857)
    Ruled that African Americans were not citizens and therefore could not petition the Supreme Court (overturned by the Fourteenth Amendment).
  20. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
    Upheld Jim Crow segregation by approving "separate but equal" public facilities for African Americans.
  21. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
    Ruled that racially segregated schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment  reversed the principle of "separate but equal" established in Plessy v. Ferguson.
  22. Regents of the University of California v. Gakke (1978)
    Ordered the Medical School at the University of California at Davis to admit Bakke; Ruled that the medical school's strict quota system denied Bakke the equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment; ruled that race could be used as one factor among others in the competition for available places.
  23. Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
    Upheld the affirmative action policy of the University of Michigan Law School; upheld the Bakke ruling that race could be a consideration in admissions policy but that quotas are illegal.
  24. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
    Ruled that a Connecticut law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy; established an important precedent for Roe v. Wade.
  25. Roe v. Wade (1973)
    Ruled that the decision to obtain an abortion is protected by the right to privacy implied by the Bill of Rights.
  26. Baker v. Carr (1962)
    Ruled that the judicial branch of government can rule on matters of legislative apportionment; used the principle of "one person, one vote."; ordered state legislative districts to be as equal as possible.
  27. Wesberry v. Sanders (1963)
    Established the principle of "one person, one vote" in drawing congressional districts; triggered widespread redistricting that gave cities and suburbs greater representation in Congress.
  28. Korematsu v. United States (1944)
    Upheld the constitutionality of the relocation of Japanese Americans as a wartime necessity (viewed by contemporary scholars as a flagrant violation of civil liberties)
  29. United States v. Nixon (1974)
    Ruled that there is no constitutional guarantee of unqualified executive privilege.
  30. Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
    Upheld federal limits on campaign contributions; struck down the portion of the Federal Election Campaign Act limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to their own campaign; ruled that spending money on one's own campaign is a form of constitutionally protected free speech; complicated congressional efforts to enact significant campaign finance reform.
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Top 30 Supreme Court Cases
2013-04-20 19:22:47
AP Government

AP Government Exam 2013
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