Top 10 Most Impactful Decisions Made by the US Supreme Court

This list will talk about some of the biggest and most impactful decisions made by the Supreme Court. They don’t make very many decisions in a year but when they do they can be game changer for society as a whole. Some of these decisions still have influence/impact today while others influenced certain movements to take place.
The Top Ten
1 Marbury v. Madison

Before President Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801, John Adams and Congress appointed several judges including William Marbury as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia. But the new administration's Secretary of State James Madison wouldn't validate the appointment. So Marbury sued. The judges ruled unanimously that Madison's refusal was illegal but the law Marbury sued under was also unconstitutional. What makes this court case so impactful was the fact that it established the Supreme Court's ability for Judicial Review. In other words they could declare any law or act unconstitutional which essentially sets the stage for every future decision made

2 Dred Scott v. Sandford

This case arose from a suit brought by a slave in Missouri named Dred Scott. Scott had lived for a time in the free state of Illinois. When his master died in 1849, he sued the widow, arguing his time in the slave-free state made him a free man. The Supreme Court held
7-2 that since Scott's ancestors were imported into the US and sold as slaves, he could not be an American citizen. Since he wasn't a citizen, he had no jurisdiction to sue, which also meant that black people living free in the north were barred from federal courts. The court also held that under the Fifth Amendment, slaves were property, and any law that deprived a slave-owner of their property was unconstitutional. Basically this added more fuel to the fire over slavery which was already getting out of hand. Honestly this is one of the worst decisions made in the Supreme Court in US History it aged absolutely horribly

It was a terrible decision, one of the stupidest ones ever. It contributed to the Civil War

3 Miranda v. Arizona

In 1963, police obtained a written confession from Ernesto Miranda that said he had kidnapped and raped a woman. However, they had not advised Miranda of his right to have an attorney present during the interrogation. Miranda appealed on the basis that his confession had been gained unconstitutionally. The Supreme Court held 5-4 that law enforcement must advise suspects of their right to remain silent, their right to an attorney, and that anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law. Evidence could not be used in a trial unless the warnings had been given and knowingly waived. Watch any TV show or movie involving police and you will hear a cop say when they arrest someone "you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." That wouldn't be the case without this court decision. There's even a name for those statements called the Miranda Warning.

4 Roe v. Wade

One of the most controversial Court Cases in our nation's history. I'm not saying that I agree or disagree with what they said because this is one of those "hot button" topics. This case stemmed from a Texas law that said abortion was illegal unless, by doctor's orders, it was to save a woman's life. An anonymous plaintiff called Jane Roe (who was later identified as Norma McCorvey) filed against the Dallas County district attorney, arguing the law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court held 7-2 that overly restrictive legislation around abortion was unconstitutional. Based on a right to privacy in the 14th Amendment, the state was not allowed to regulate a woman's decision. This case overruled any laws that made abortion illegal before a fetus was viable, basically giving women more power when it comes to their bodies and having children.

5 Brown v. Board of Education

In the 1950s, Linda Brown had to take a dangerous route to school, because the only school that was closer was for white students. Her father, Oliver Brown, believed this was a breach of the 14th Amendment, which says, "no state can deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Brown, along with a dozen other parents, challenged the segregation policy on behalf of their 20 children. The Supreme Court unanimously held that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal. A second decision called for lower courts and school boards to proceed with desegregation. This decision knocked down the doctrine of "separate but equal" from Plessy v. Ferguson, which had allowed mixed race schools, transportation, and facilities to exist as long as they were "equal."

6 Gideon v. Wainwright

Clarence Earl Gideon was charged with breaking and entering a pool hall. He requested a lawyer to defend his case but Florida's state court rejected him because he was poor. After defending himself poorly Gideon went to prison. Giddeon appealed, and the issue was whether the right to counsel extended to felony defendants in state courts. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states were required to appoint attorneys to those who were unable to afford their own counsel. The US Justice System was forever changed when they affirmed that "lawyers in criminal cases are necessities not luxuries" it overruled the decision in Betts v Brady which denied counsel to indigent defendants when prosecuted by a state. It ensured that no defendant would ever be required to defend themselves without an attorney. The quality of the attorneys still varies however

7 Tinker v. Des Moines

Mary Beth Tinker was a 13-year-old junior high school student in December 1965 when she and a group of students decided to wear black armbands to school to protest the war in Vietnam. The school board got wind of the protest and passed a preemptive ban. When Mary Beth arrived at school on Dec. 16, she was asked to remove the armband and was then suspended. The students were told they could not return to school until they agreed to remove their armbands. The students returned after the Christmas break without armbands, but in protest, they wore black clothing for the remainder of the school year and filed a First Amendment lawsuit. the court ruled 7-2 that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." The court found that the First Amendment applied to public schools, and school officials could not censor student speech unless it disrupted the educational process. Because wearing a black armband was not disruptive, the ...more

8 Mapp v. Ohio

Ohio police thought a suspected bomber was hiding out in Dollree Mapp's house, so they forced their way in without a warrant. When Mapp asked where the warrant was, they held up a blank piece of paper. In their search of her house, they found pornographic materials. They arrested Mapp and later convicted her for being in possession of obscene materials. She appealed because they lacked a warrant to search her house in the first place. The Supreme Court held 6-3 that the police were in violation of the Fourth Amendment which protects citizens against any unreasonable search or seizure of property. Any violation of the Fourth Amendment's right against unlawful searches and seizures made evidence inadmissible in court. Justice Clark wrote in his majority opinion that " the exclusionary rule," which prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence in criminal trials, was essential.

9 Plessy v. Ferguson

This is another one of those court cases that didn't age well Homer Plessy, who was black under Louisiana law of the time, boarded a train and sat in a car that was reserved for white passengers. When he refused to move, he was arrested. Plessy argued that the Separate Car Act, which required all railroads to provide equal but separate accommodation, was violating his rights under the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. The Supreme Court held 7-1 that "separate but equal" accommodations for whites and blacks did not violate the 14th Amendment. Justice John Marshall Harlan, known as the " great dissenter," wrote that the Constitution was color-blind, and the US had no class system. "There is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens; there is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens," he wrote. However the decision solidified the "separate but equal" doctrine all the way until Brown V Board of ...more

10 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
The Contenders
11 Terry v. Ohio

In 1963, three men were suspiciously walking back and forth in a block in Cleveland, Ohio, and a detective thought they were preparing to rob a store. He approached them, identified himself, then frisked them and found two concealed guns. One of the men was convicted for having the gun. The man appealed. The issue was whether police frisking violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court held 8-1 that the search was reasonable since the men were acting suspiciously, warranting inquiry. If circumstances justify a belief that an individual is armed and dangerous, the justices ruled, the officer may pat down the outside of an individual's clothing. Essentially this gave police the ability to investigate activity they deem suspicious.

12 Schenck v. United States
13 Texas v. Johnson
14 Bush v. Gore

This Supreme Court decision was very important. After a very long and contested Presidential Election, Gore filed a lawsuit against Bush and that triggered a Supreme Court case over the recount of ballots in Florida. Gore lost the case and Bush was named President. This is one of the most controversial cases in history.

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