Supreme Court Key Cases

Some of the key cases to know for the Supreme Court - not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most useful ones to remember. If you have trouble remembering lots of cases (like I did) then these should help.

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Strength Cases ­ strengthen the role of Federal Government
Marbury vs. Madison
o 1803
o Established judicial review precedent ­ first time the SC examined a
decision from the executive and declared it unconstitutional
McColluch vs. Maryland
o Maryland attempted to tax the federal government (the National Bank,
o Also a question of Congress passing "necessary and proper" laws ­
turns out if Congress passes a law, it is by definition necessary and
o Federal government wins ­ supremacy clause (feds beat states when
there is a conflict)
Gibbons vs. Ogden
o Supremacy clause again ­ conflict between state and fed
o Interstate commerce clause ­ when there's conflict between two
states, feds get to say which wins (in this case, a river running
between two states)
Limitation Cases ­ limit your rights
Scott vs. Sanford
o 1856
o Scott was a slave who believed when he was taken to a free state he
was therefore free
o Lost the case, as slaves were basically ruled to be property (doesn't
matter where you take them, they're still slaves)
o (Could be argued to have been good for slavery, by being deeply
objectionable to all abolitionists and maybe helping start the civil war)
Plessy vs. Ferguson
o 14th Amendment ­ "equal protection and due process of the law"
o Separate is equal ­ Plessy lost, Jim Crow won
Schenk vs. US
o Schenk was antiwar, got arrested for it
o SC allowed the arrest, comes up with doctrine: the clear and present
danger doctrine ­ they're not limiting the 1st Amendment, but because
Schenk was telling people to not accept the draft and was creating a
clear and present danger freedom of speech still applies, but not
everything is allowed under it
Korematsu vs. United States
o Regards habeus corpus ­ no imprisonment without trial, right to be left
alone when you haven't done anything!
o Japanese Americans were being regarded as the enemy in WWII
they were interned ­ removed from their homes and put under lock
and key, no torture or imprisonment but they weren't allowed to leave
o Turns out in WWII you can do what you like ­ US won
Expansive Cases ­ expanding rights

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Mostly called Warren Cases after the chief justice)
Brown vs. Board of Education
o 14th Amendment job ­ this time, court says separate is not equal
o Basically outlaws segregation and begins getting rid of Jim Crow
o Fits well with Plessy vs. Ferguson
Mapp vs.…read more


Old Sir

For students looking to find short-cuts to important and well-known Supreme Court case studies this is a very useful starting point. Students will need to read around cases in more depth in order to address AO2, (evaluation and analysis).

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