Glossary of Landmark Supreme Court Cases

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The government may block speech that poses a “clear and present danger” to the nation, particularly during wartime or other national emergencies.
Schenck v. United States
Justice Marshall establishes the doctrine of judicial review, giving the Supreme Court the final say as to the constitutionality of all government actions.
Marbury v. Madison
Established federal supremacy over states by ruling Maryland’s taxation of the 2nd Bank of the United States illegal; (2) adopted a liberal view of the Necessary and Proper Clause (Art. I, sec. 8, cl. 18)
McCullough v. Maryland
Overruled Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), holding that the concept of “separate but equal” is inherently unequal.
Brown v. Board of Education
A key “separation of powers” case. Courts may decide whether the legislative district lines drawn by a state legislature satisfy the Equal Protection Clause. Clarified the “political question” doctrine, under which courts cannot decide questions
Baker v. Carr
Held that indigent (poor) criminal defendants have the right to a lawyer paid by the state.
Gideon v. Wainwright
Upholds the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which banned racial discrimination in public places) as constitutional, based on both the Commerce Clause (Art. I, sec. 8, cl. 3) and Equal Protection (14th Amendment).
Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States
Criminal suspects must be informed of their constitutional rights prior to police questioning.
Miranda v. Arizona
Established that public school students are entitled to First Amendment protection for symbolic speech that is not likely to be disruptive.
Tinker v. Des Moines School District
Established a three-part test to determine if government action violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (purpose, effect and entanglement).
Lemon v. Kurtzman
Based on 14th Amendment substantive due process and an “unexpressed” right of privacy, grants women the right to determine whether or not to terminate pregnancy (subject to state controls during second and third trimesters).
Roe v. Wade
Authorized expanded use of eminent domain for economic development purposes rather than just traditional “public uses.”
Kelo v. City of New London

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