Selected Supreme Court Decisions
Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803). Dismissed Marbury's petition for a writ of mandamus to gain federal office. Established a precedent for the Court's power of judicial review.
Slaughterhouse Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall) 36 (1872). Limited the scope of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Made Due Process and Equal Protection clauses principal vehicles for protecting civil liberties from infringement by state governments.
Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879). Upheld federal criminal law prohibiting polygamy and denied a Mormon's free exercise claim to the practice. Distinguished between beliefs (which could not be regulated) and actions (which could).
Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad Co. v. Chicago, 166 U.S. 225 (1897). The first case in which a liberty listed in the Bill of Rights was "incorporated" to include protection from infringement by a state government.
Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914). Established "exclusionary rule" (disallowing presentation of illegally obtained evidence in criminal trials) for criminal cases in federal courts.
Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940). Free Exercise Clause expressly applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment; overturned a city licensing law requiring religious groups to obtain licenses before engaging in solicitation.
Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940). Public school requirement of saluting and pledging allegiance to the American flag does not merit Free Exercise exemption.
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 157 (1943). Overruled Gobitis; First Amendment provides exemption from mandatory participation in rituals that parties conscientiously oppose—including saluting the flag in a public school classroom.
Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947). Applied the Establishment Clause to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, but upheld the practice of states' providing school bus transportation to religious and public school children alike.
Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952). Upheld the constitutionality of granting students released time from public schools to attend religious education or services; such released time does not violate Establishment Clause.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Ruled segregation of public schools by race a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This case is widely regarded as an instance of judicial activism by the Warren Court.