A Brief History of the Supreme Court
For more than 200 years, the Supreme Court has helped maintain the balance between the three branches of the U.S. government. This timeline includes some of the decisions made by this court that shaped history, for better or worse.
The image presents important events in chronological order as a vertical timeline. The year of the event and a short description accompanies each timeline entry.
1790: The first Supreme Court assembles on February 2nd, with six justices sharing the bench.
1791: The Court hands down its first decision in West v. Barnes.
1803: Marbury v. Madison establishes the Court's power to review the constitutionality of federal laws.
1857: The Court denies citizenship to African Americans in Dred Scott v. Sandford.
1869: After changing the number six times, Congress settles on nine justices for the Supreme Court panel.
1896: The Court upholds state segregation laws in Plessy v. Ferguson.
1944: The decision in Korematsu v. United States allows Japanese Americans to be held in internment camps during WWII.
1954: The Court outlaws racial segregation in schools in Brown v. Board of Education.
1966: Miranda v. Arizona establishes new procedures to protect the rights of those accused of a crime.
1967: Loving v. Virginia overturns state laws barring interracial marriage.
1973: In Roe v. Wade, the Court rules that women have a right to an abortion during the first two trimesters.
1974: United States v. Nixon holds the president cannot use executive privilege to withhold evidence in a criminal trial.
1989: Texas v. Johnson holds that flag burning is protected speech under the First Amendment.
2010: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission allows corporations to spend freely on elections.
2015: The Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges.