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.
Supreme Court Insights
Civil Procedure Cases
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.
Qualified Immunity: Both Sides of the Debate
We look at the origins of the controversial doctrine of qualified immunity, what it was meant to do, and why it's often criticized.
Police Misconduct, Section 1983, and Civil Rights
An overview of Supreme Court decisions regarding excessive force by police and other constitutional violations by law enforcement.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal
Best known as a civil procedure case, Iqbal also concluded that qualified immunity shielded high-ranking government officials from liability for the actions of their subordinates.
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.
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.
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
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.