Marbury v. Madison (1803): Established the principle of judicial review by declaring part of
the Judiciary Act of 1789 unconstitutional.
Fletcher v. Peck(1810): The first case to declare a state law unconstitutional.
McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): A state cannot tax an instrumentality of the federal
government. Broadly interpreted the “elastic clause” (i.e., the ”necessary and proper” clause) to
hold that if the “. . . end be legitimate . . . within the scope of the Constitution, and all means h
are appropriate . . . [ and] consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, [then the action
is]. . . constitutional.”
Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward 91819): Private charters are protected by the
Cohens v. Virginia (182): The federal courts have jurisdiction over state cases involving federal
Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): The federal government has the right to control interstate commerce.
Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1832): Declared the Cherokee a dependent domestic nation
possessing some sovereignty.
Worcester v. Georgia (1832): Georgia has no force in Cherokee territory.
Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842): Workers have the right to organize.
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857): Slaves were property and remained slaves, even when taken to
free territories or states. This case also held that Africans were not citizens and could not be
Ex Parte Milligan (1866): When federal courts are open during wartime, military courts do not
take precedence. Only Congress can suspend the right of habeas corpus and only when “the
public safety may require it.”
United States v. Cruikshank (1876): The court ruled that the right to bear arms “is not a right
granted by the Constitution” or by the Second Amendment. That amendment, the Court said,
restricts the power of Congress, but not the states, to regulate firearms.
Munn v. Illinois (1877): When private property affects public interest, states can act when
federal policy is absent.
Presser v. Illinois (1886): The Court upheld a state law banning the formation and parading of
armed groups of men.
Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad Co. V. Illinois (1886): Why the federal government
can regulate interstate commerce.
U.S. v. E.C. Knight Co. (1895): First case under Sherman Antitrust Act; manufacturing is not
the same as commerce.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): Established the principle of “separate but equal” between the races
Insular Cases (1901, 1903, 1904): The Constitution does not “follow the flag”; Congress must
determine the procedural rights of a territory.
Northern Securities Co. v. U.S. (1904): A holding company owning stock of competing
railroads violates the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Muller v. Oregon (1908): Upheld women’s work hour laws.
Danbury Hatters Case (Lowe v. Lawler) (1908): A union boycott violates the Sherman
Antitrust Act.
Schenck v. U.S. (1919): No freedom is absolute; every act must be judged according to
circumstances; established Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s “clear and present danger” test.
Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (1923): Denied congressional and state regulation of a minimum
Gitlow v. New York (1925): Held that freedom-of-expression guarantees of the First
Amendment (i.e., freedom of speech, and of the press) were “fundamental personal
rights”shielded from state action by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Schechter Poultry Corp. v. U.S. (1935): Declared the National Industrial Recovery Act
U.S. v. Butler (1936): Declared the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 unconstitutional.
U.S. v. Miller (1939): The Court sustained the conviction of Jack Miller, who had carried a
sawed-off shotgun across state lines in violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934. The
Court found no reasonable relationship between a sawed-off shotgun and a well-regulated militia.
National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. (1937): Upheld the
National Labor Relations Act.
West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943): Reversed the Gobitis decision of 1940,
which upheld expulsion of the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses from school for their refusal to
salute the American flag.
Korematsu v. U.S. (1944): Upheld the arrest and conviction of Fred Korematsu for
noncompliance with a military order for those of Japanese ancestry to go to relocation centers.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954): Held that separating out a group from the
general population was inherently unequal and, therefore, the doctrine of “separate but equal”
was unconstitutional. First in a series of Supreme Court Cases which ended school segregation.
Mapp v. Ohio (1963): Held that a search without a warrant (when there was ample time to
obtain one) was unreasonable and that evidence thus seized was inadmissible. This was the first
case in which the Court utilized the exclusionary rule to enforce constitutional guarantees.
Gideon v. Wainwright (1963): A lawyer must be provided to those charged with a felony, even
if they can’t pay.
U.S. v. O’Brien (1963): Held that a statute that makes it illegal to burn the American flag is an
unconstitutional infringement of free speech.
Escobedo v. Illinois (1964): If requested, a lawyer must be present during policy interrogation
before an indictment is made
Reynolds v Sims (1964) "One person, one vote". All State legislative branches much be based
on population. Forced massive reapportionment of state legislative districts.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966): Accused individuals have the right to remain silent and must be
informed of their rights.
Reed v. Reed (1971): Held that laws which treat men and women differently must be based on
an important government objective and must be substantially related to achieving that goal. This
was the first use of intermediate or heightened scrutiny applied to gender classification.
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971): The Court upheld a lower court
decision to bus students in order to integrate school systems, thus ending segregation in the
public school system.
Roe v. Wade (1973): A woman has the right to decide whether to have an abortion.
U.S. v. Nixon (1974): Court recognized executive privilege.
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978): Held that the university could not use
an explicit numerical quota system in admitting minority studnets but could “take race into
INS v. Chadha (1983) declaring unconstitutional the practice of Congress suspending
deportation rulings through legislative veto, with the effect of invalidating one-house legislative
veto power
Adarand Constructors v. Pena (1995): Held that any discrimination based on race must clearly
be necessary to a compelling state goal (i.e., strict scrutiny), regardless of whether its purpose is
to help a racial minority.
Printz v. US (1995) declaring federal Brady Bill background checks on gun purchasers
unconstitutional, with the effect of strengthening states' rights
Lawrence and Garner v. Texas (2003): Texas statute forbidding consenting adults from
engaging in homosexual sex in the privacy of their own home held unconstitutional under the
Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.