5 Landmark Supreme Court Cases

5 Landmark Supreme Court Cases

Five History-Making Cases From The Supreme Court

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803)
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
  • Roe v. Wade (1973)
  • Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)

Anyone wanting to go into law needs to understand the landmark Supreme Court cases and the effects these rulings ultimately had. There have been dozens of significant cases throughout US history. Here are some of the most significant that still govern America today.

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1. Marbury v. Madison (1803)

This was one of the first major decisions the Supreme Court handed down after the founding of the United States and it would establish one of the major powers of the Supreme Court as a branch of government. It started in 1789, where an act passed by Congress gave the Supreme Court the power to issue judicial writs. The question of this case revolved around the delivery of federal judicial commissions. Marbury v. Madison established judicial review, or the power of federal courts to strike down laws and executive orders if they find them to be unconstitutional. It cemented the responsibility of the courts to determine what the law ultimately is.

2. Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

This was the case that ruled school racial segregation was not constitutional. The case was brought by an African-American family whose daughter had been denied admission to a school near their home in Topeka, Kansas, and instead would need to ride a bus to a different school farther away. Previous cases, famously Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), had held that separate schools were permitted so long as they were equal and therefore did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. By 1954, the winds had changed. The case Cooper v. Aaron, which happened several years later, reaffirmed this ruling by stating that states could not pass laws to overrule it.

3. Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

This case was a landmark one for the rights of an individual who has been arrested. It established the policy now commonly known as Miranda Rights, which inform an individual of their right to remain silent and have legal counsel present during police questioning. The Supreme Court found that if individuals in police custody are not informed of their right to remain silent or have an attorney present during questioning, statements obtained may not be admissible as evidence in a trial according to the American Bar Association.

4. Roe v. Wade (1973)

Roe v. Wade is a landmark Supreme Court case that is still controversial today. It established that women have the right to terminate their pregnancies in the first two trimesters. Prior to Roe v. Wade, abortion was largely illegal in the United States except under certain circumstances. Roe v. Wade laid out a compromise between the conflicting rights of a mother and her unborn child that makes it more difficult to get an abortion the longer the pregnancy goes on. A later case from 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, modified the ruling to be based on fetal viability rather than trimesters.

5. Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)

Obergefell v. Hodges established that individuals of the same sex have the right to marry each other, as well as all rights and responsibilities that go along with it. This legalized same-sex marriage in the United States and effectively overturned all remaining state laws banning the practice. This right was upheld under the Fourteenth Amendment – both the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause. This is an unusual case in that it was not the culmination of a single lawsuit, but rather six cases originating in lower courts.

The United States Supreme Court has handed down some seismic decisions throughout its long history and is certain to continue to do so. All legal professionals should familiarize themselves with certain landmark Supreme Court cases.