The Supreme Court of the United States handles some of the most important court cases in our country so famous supreme court cases and decisions have helped shape our history; it has tremendous powers to impact laws that everyday citizens will abide by for years to come. And while most of these decisions didn’t involve any use of legal document solutions or docketing software, these 8 decisions have impacted the history of the United States. That’s why it’s valuable to learn about and from landmark Supreme Court cases that changed the way Americans live. Let’s take a look at a few of these important and interesting Supreme Court cases.
Marbury v. Madison, 1803
Long before there were mobile apps for lawyers, Marbury v. Madison was one of the most important Supreme Court cases because it established the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review (the right to declare a law unconstitutional) over Congress. It also helped define the boundary between the executive and judicial branches of the United States government.
McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819
McCulloch v. Maryland is one of the more famous Supreme Court cases because it established the federal government’s implied powers over states. The Supreme Court made the decision when the state of Maryland began imposing a tax on all bank notes not chartered by Maryland. And since the Second Bank of the United States was the only out-of-state bank existing in Maryland at the time, it was interpreted as an attack on the federal bank, therefore, the tax law was ruled unconstitutional because it was an attempt to violate the powers of the federal government in one of the Supreme Court’s earlier landmark cases.
Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963
Additional famous court cases include Gideon v. Wainwright because it established the right of a criminal defendant to have an attorney even if they could not personally afford to pay for one. In this famous Supreme Court case, the court unanimously ruled that due to the Fifth and Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, states are required to provide an attorney to defendants who cannot afford to pay for one.
The case involved a burglary case where the person charged was denied the right to an attorney just because they couldn’t afford to pay for one. After being charged with the crime of burglary, Gideon (the person charged) arrived at the courthouse too poor to pay for counsel. Here’s what happened:
The COURT: Mr. Gideon, I am sorry, but I cannot appoint counsel to represent you in this case. Under the laws of the State of Florida, the only time the court can appoint counsel to represent a defendant is when that person is charged with a capital offense. I am sorry, but I will have to deny your request to appoint counsel to defend you in this case.
GIDEON: The United States Supreme Court says I am entitled to be represented by counsel.
The Florida court declined to appoint counsel for Gideon. As a result, he was forced to act as his own counsel and conduct his own defense in court, emphasizing his innocence in the case. At the conclusion of the trial the jury returned a guilty verdict. The court sentenced Gideon to serve five years in the state prison.
After being convicted, Gideon appealed to the United States Supreme Court that his Sixth Amendment rights had been violated. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that counsel must be provided to defendants who can’t afford an attorney and as a result of that ruling over 2,000 previously convicted people were released from Florida’s prisons. And today, indigent prisoners are appointed lawyers so that they can get a fair trial in court.
Miranda v. Arizona, 1966
Miranda v. Arizona was an important and landmark Supreme Court case that established the requirement that police advise people in custody of their rights before questioning them. This important Supreme Court case has had a significant impact on how American law enforcement operates. What is now known as Miranda rights are an essential part of police procedure in every state and city/town. This was also a very controversial Supreme Court case at the time as the court was split (5-4).
Loving v. Virginia, 1967 (9-0 decision)
Loving v. Virginia didn’t involve family lawyer software but was definitely considered one of the landmark court cases which invalidated laws forbidding interracial marriage. The case was brought by Mildred Loving (a black woman) and Richard Loving (a white man) who were sentenced to one year in prison for marrying each other which was against the law in Virginia. The state of Virginia had a “Racial Integrity” law that prohibited marriages between whites and blacks. This famous Supreme Court case found these “anti-miscegenation” laws to be unconstitutional.
Roe v. Wade, 1973
Roe v. Wade could be on of the most famous U.S. supreme court cases ever. Roe v. Wade determined that the right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. The controversial Supreme Court case also established that the right of woman to have an abortion was limited to the third trimester of pregnancy. But in the Supreme Court case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Court determined that a woman has a right to abortion until fetal viability–the ability of the fetus to live outside the woman’s body. Considered one of the more controversial Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade struck down many abortion restrictions created by states, new restrictions have arisen and the right to abortion has been consistently challenged by opponents since 1973.
United States v. Nixon, 1974
United States v. Nixon is also on our list of 8 of the most important Supreme Court cases which prohibited sitting Presidents from using their executive powers to withhold evidence during a criminal investigation. The Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. President could not claim executive privilege to withhold evidence being requested by a court during a criminal investigation. In this case, President Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal and was facing impeachment. The court requested copies of tapes that they determined included incriminating evidence against people under investigation and possibly the president himself. When President Nixon refused to deliver the tapes, the Supreme Court ruled that he had no rights to invoke his executive privilege in a criminal case.
Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015
Obergefell v. Hodges was a landmark Supreme Court case that ruled that same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The famous court case made it possible for same-sex couples to get married in all fifty states, and the ruling required all fifty states to lawfully perform and recognize same-sex marriages on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex marriages. This important case has been challenged by some states but the Supreme Court has ruled that bans on same-sex marriages are unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court continues to have a powerful influence on how laws are interpreted today. And Smokeball law firm practice management software can have a powerful incluence on how you manage and run your practice. Sign up for your free demo and see why the most profitable small law firms use Smokeball!