- 6Up 7Down 11The Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling in 1896 essentially held that "separate but equal" was okay, establishing the idea that segregation was constitutional. States could, legally, offer separate facilities (in this case, train seats), to blacks and whites, provided that the facilities were identical. This post-Reconstruction challenge to segregation was only the beginning.
- 7Up 5Down 9In 1803, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling that basically established the concept of "judicial review." The High Court ruled in favor of William Marbury. He was appointed by outgoing president John Adams as a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. When Thomas Jefferson became president, he ordered his secretary of state, James Madison, not to allow it. With this ruling, the Supreme Court forever changed the role (and power) of the court and, essentially, the way the U.S government operates.
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Snyder v. PhelpsIn October of 2010, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Snyder v. Phelps case. This case concerned the issue of public protests at funerals. Albert Snyder, the father of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, filed suit against the Westboro Baptist Church, led by pastor Fred Phelps. Snyder's son Matthew was killed in Iraq. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed at the young Marine's funeral, holding signs that said, among other things, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "Thank God for 9/11." Snyder filed a lawsuit. In March of 2011, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church, upholding the group's rights to picket, and saying that the First Amendment (free speech) protects protesters in this case, because Westboro's picket signs dealt with "matters of public import." Westboro continues to picket at military funerals and other high-profile funerals today.
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Citizens United vs. Federal Election CommissionCan the government regulate political speech? This cornerstone First Amendment principle was at the center of the Supreme Court's January 2010 decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. Ultimately, the High Court ruled that the U.S. government cannot ban any political spending by corporations (or unions) in candidate elections, including money for campaign ads that either support, or criticize, certain candidates. Some argued that not restricting such spending might compromise democracy. President Barack Obama was a sharp critic of the decision, saying that the ruling "opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy."
This decision reversed some key past rulings concerning campaign finance regulation - and will affect many, many f*ture political campaigns.
- 10Up 4Down 12The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 1857 in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case essentially established that all African-Americans, whether slaves or free, do not have Constitutional rights. Slave Dred Scott had sued, claiming he should be freed because the family he served had taken him to the free state of Illinois.
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