List of Supreme Court Cases

Key Supreme Court Cases

The Founding Fathers established a system of checks and balances to insure 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 have had a significant impact on the United States of America.

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James Madison, America's Third President
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.

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John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
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 McCulloch v. Maryland, the Supreme Court allowed for implied powers of the federal government according to the "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution. This case allowed the powers of the federal government to expand and evolve beyond that specifically written in the Constitution.

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Painting depicts a portrait of Aaron Ogden (1756-1839), governor of New Jersey from 1812-1813, 1833.
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.

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Scott v. Sanford (Dred Scott Decision) - 1857

Portrait of Dred Scott (1795 - 1858)
Portrait of Dred Scott (1795 - 1858). Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Scott v. Stanford 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, they were still slaves. The ruling increased tensions between the North and South in the build up to the Civil War.

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African American students at a segregated school following the supreme court case Plessy v Ferguson established Separate But Equal, 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 thirteenth amendment to mean that separate facilities were allowed for different races. This case was a cornerstone of segregation in the South.

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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.
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.

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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 and again has entered the political landscape with the detention of suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay prison under President George W. Bush.