Humanities › Issues 7 Important Supreme Court Cases Top Cases Affecting Civil Rights and Federal Power Share Flipboard Email Print Issues The U. S. Government U.S. Legal System History & Major Milestones U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights U.S. Political System Income Tax & The IRS Defense & Security Consumer Awareness Campaigns & Elections Business & Finance U.S. Foreign Policy U.S. Liberal Politics U.S. Conservative Politics Women's Issues Civil Liberties The Middle East Terrorism Race Relations Immigration Crime & Punishment Animal Rights Canadian Government View More By Martin Kelly History Expert M.A., History, University of Florida B.A., History, University of Florida Martin Kelly, M.A., is a history teacher and curriculum developer. He is the author of "The Everything American Presidents Book" and "Colonial Life: Government." our editorial process Martin Kelly Updated October 29, 2019 The Founding Fathers established a system of checks and balances to ensure that one branch of government did not become more powerful than the other two branches. The U.S. Constitution gives the judicial branch the role of interpreting the laws. In 1803, the power of the judicial branch was more clearly defined with the landmark supreme court case Marbury v. Madison. This court case and the others listed here are those that have had a significant impact on determining the abilities of the U.S. Supreme Court to determine civil rights cases and clarifies the power of the federal government over state's rights. 01 of 07 Marbury v. Madison (1803) James Madison, America's Third President. He was named in the key Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison. traveler1116 / Getty Images Marbury v. Madison was a historic case that established the precedent of judicial review. The ruling written by Chief Justice John Marshall cemented the authority of the judicial branch to declare a law unconstitutional and firmly established the checks and balances the Founding Fathers had intended. 02 of 07 McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was the Chief Justice presiding over the key McCulloch v. Maryland case. Public Domain/Virginia Memory In a unanimous decision for McCulloch v. Maryland, the Supreme Court allowed for implied powers of the federal government according to the "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution. The Court held that Congress possessed unenumerated powers not explicitly outlined in the Constitution. This case allowed the powers of the federal government to expand and evolve beyond that specifically written in the Constitution. 03 of 07 Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) Painting depicts a portrait of Aaron Ogden (1756-1839), governor of New Jersey from 1812-1813, 1833. The New York Historical Society/Getty Images Gibbons v. Ogden established the supremacy of the federal government over state's rights. The case gave the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce, which was granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. This case was the first significant expansion of the power of the federal government over U.S. domestic policy, and thus enabled later legislation for setting civil rights at the national level. 04 of 07 The Dred Scott Decision (1857) Portrait of Dred Scott (1795 - 1858). Hulton Archive / Getty Images Scott v. Stanford, also known as the Dred Scott decision, had major implications about the condition of slavery. The court case struck down the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act and ruled that just because a slave was living in a "free" state, that didn't mean they weren't still slaves. This ruling increased tensions between the North and South in the build-up to the Civil War. 05 of 07 Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) African American students at a segregated school following the supreme court case Plessy v Ferguson established Separate But Equal, 1896. Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images Plessy v. Ferguson was a Supreme Court decision that upheld the separate but equal doctrine. This ruling interpreted the 13th Amendment to mean that separate facilities were allowed for different races. This case was a cornerstone of segregation in the South. 06 of 07 Korematsu v. United States (1946) Korematsu v. United States upheld the conviction of Frank Korematsu for defying an order to be interned with other Japanese-Americans during World War II. This ruling placed the security of the United States over individual rights. This ruling remains in the spotlight as controversy swirls around the detention of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay prison, and as President Trump supports a travel ban that many people claim discriminates against Muslims. 07 of 07 Brown v. Board of Education (1954) Topeka, Kansas. The Monroe School historic site of Brown v Board of Education, what is considered the start of the Civil rights movement in the United States. Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images Brown v. Board of Education overturned the separate but equal doctrine which had been given legal standing with Plessy v. Ferguson. This landmark case was a significant step in the civil rights movement. In fact, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to force desegregation of a school in Little Rock, Arkansas, based on this decision.