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Supreme Court Insights

Article III of the United States Constitution established the Supreme Court as the highest court in the land. Throughout the nation's history, the justices who served on this court have written decisions that changed the lives of many - and shaped the U.S. legal system. FindLaw's Supreme Court Insights is here to help everyone understand the court's most famous and impactful decisions. 

Civil Procedure Cases

  • Ashcroft v. Iqbal

    Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009) raised the bar for plaintiffs in civil actions, requiring them to present a "plausible" cause of action or risk having their case dismissed.

  • Pennoyer v. Neff

    Pennoyer sets the foundation for personal jurisdiction, sometimes called in-personam jurisdiction.

  • International Shoe Co. v. Washington

    International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945) established the "minimum contacts" rule for personal jurisdiction.

  • Dred Scott v. Sandford

    Dred Scott's fight for freedom led to one of the most infamous Supreme Court decisions of all time, where the Supreme Court held that enslaved persons lacked standing to sue.

Criminal Trials & Policing

  • Blakely v. Washington

    Blakely v. Washington (2004) overturned sentencing guidelines all over the country after finding many of them violated a defendant's right to a trial by jury.

  • Mapp v. Ohio

    Mapp v. Ohio (1961) made huge changes for the rights of those accused of a crime by deciding whether evidence gathered without a warrant was admissible in state court.

  • Gideon v. Wainwright

    Gideon v. Wainright (1963) held that criminal defendants accused of a felony in federal and state court have the right to an attorney, even if they can't afford one.

  • Miranda v. Arizona

    Miranda v. Arizona (1966) created the "Miranda warning," a list of rights a person must be made aware of before they are questioned in police custody, such as the right to remain silent.

Elections & Voting

  • Baker v. Carr

    Baker v. Carr established the "political question" doctrine, which says federal courts can't get involved in cases that are more about political issues than the law.

  • Shaw v. Reno

    Shaw v. Reno established how courts review oddly shaped Congressional districts when there are questions of racial gerrymandering.

  • Citizens United v. FEC

    One of the most controversial modern Supreme Court opinions, Citizens United gave corporations and unions unprecedented power in elections.

Equal Protection

  • Affirmative Action Cases

    Affirmative action gives "preferential" treatment to members of historically disadvantaged groups. The Supreme Court has weighed in on this sometimes controversial process on several occasions.

  • Loving v. Virginia

    One of the only Supreme Court cases about a love story, Loving v. Virginia ended all state bans on interracial marriage.

  • Plessy v. Ferguson

    In 1896, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Plessy v. Ferguson - making "separate but equal" the law of the land for more than 50 years.

  • Brown v. Board of Education

    The U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ended the "separate but equal" doctrine and paved the way for school integration.

Freedom of Speech and the Press

  • New York Times v. Sullivan

    An essential pillar of protection for the free press, Times v. Sullivan held that public figures face a higher standard for proving libel (a type of defamation).

  • Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

    In 1988, the United States Supreme Court placed a limit on the types of speech protected by the First Amendment in a school setting.

  • Brandenburg v. Ohio

    When does a speech with violent rhetoric cross the line into criminal behavior? That is the question the Supreme Court took up in Brandenburg v. Ohio.

  • Schenck v. United States

    Though freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, the Supreme Court decided that exceptions could be made when a "clear and present danger" was posed to the public.


  • McDonald v. City of Chicago

    McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) not only extended Second Amendment protection to actions by state governments, it held that the Constitution protects an individual right to bear arms.


  • Lawrence v. Texas

    Lawrence v. Texas established a constitutionally protected right to engage in private sexual acts, overturning the country's remaining anti-sodomy laws.

  • Bostock v. Clayton County

    This 2020 Supreme Court decision held that protections against discrimination from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Obergefell v. Hodges

    The Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges found that bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional, effectively legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

Freedom of Religion

  • Engel v. Vitale

    Engel v. Vitale was an important Supreme Court decision regarding prayer in schools in the 1960s.

  • Everson v. Board of Education

    In Everson v. Board of Education, a closely divided Supreme Court decided whether a New Jersey program that helped children in Catholic schools violated the First Amendment.

Reproductive Rights

  • Griswold v. Connecticut

    In Griswold v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court held that there was a constitutional right to privacy that included using birth control.

  • Roe v. Wade

    The landmark 1973 case on abortion rights that stood for nearly 50 years.

  • Why Was Roe v. Wade Overturned?

    Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health (2022) overturned the landmark abortion decision in Roe v. Wade. We break down how a case challenging Roe v. Wade made its way to the Supreme Court and how the Court overturned its own precedent.

Separation of Powers

  • McCulloch v. Maryland

    McCulloch v. Maryland was the first, and probably the most important, Supreme Court decision addressing federal power.

  • Marbury v. Madison

    Why do federal judges decide what is, and is not, constitutional? It goes back to 1803, when Marbury v. Madison set up judicial review.

  • McGirt v. Oklahoma

    Although the Court backpedaled in later opinions, this 2020 decision had a major impact on how law enforcement handles crimes committed on Native lands.

  • NFIB v. Sebelius

    National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius upheld the ACA's individual mandate as permissible under Congressional commerce powers.

  • Gibbons v. Ogden

    How much power does the commerce clause give Congress? In 1824, the Supreme Court attempted to answer this question in Gibbons v. Ogden.

  • Korematsu v. United States

    Often called one of the Supreme Court's worst decisions, this opinion held that a WWII-era executive order displacing Japanese Americans did not violate the Constitution.

Search & Seizure

  • New Jersey v. TLO

    In New Jersey v. T.L.O., decided in 1985, the Supreme Court decided when school officials could search students' personal belongings.

  • Mapp v. Ohio

    In 1961, the Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is inadmissible in state court.

Privileges and Immunities

  • The Slaughterhouse Cases

    What began with a Louisiana law addressing cholera ended with the Supreme Court narrowly interpreting the privileges and immunities clause - to the point that legal scholars say it's almost meaningless.

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