There are many influential Supreme Court cases that have shaped American history. These cases influenced how citizens exercised the civil rights granted to them by the United States Constitution. Many have set precedents on when and how a citizens’ civil rights are violated. Civil rights lawyers agree that these are some of the most influential decisions made by the Supreme Court:
Marbury v. Madison (1803)
Civil rights attorneys note this case as one of the most important cases in Supreme Court history. This case was the first of its kind to use the “judicial review” principle. This principle gave courts the power to overturn an Act of Congress they considered against the constitution. This case was an essential element in establishing the Supreme Court as a separate branch of government. It put the Supreme Court on a par with the legislative and executive branches as a check and balance component of the government.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
In 1892, the State of Louisiana passed a law that legalized segregation of blacks and whites. In a groundbreaking decision, civil rights lawyers lost the case. The Supreme Court upheld the Louisiana segregation laws. This opened the door for the famous separate, but equal era of segregation. The only dissenter, Justice John Marshall Harlan, remarked that the ruling would “stimulate aggressions, more or less brutal, upon the admitted rights of colored citizens.”
Brown v. Board of Ed. Topeka Kansas (1954)
This is probably one of the most famous victories for civil rights lawyers in the history of America. This civil rights case was actually five separate cases heard by the Supreme Court. Each case challenged segregation in public schools. The main case started in Topeka, Kansas. Segregation laws forced a student to walk several miles to attend a blacks only school while a whites only school was much closer.
Civil rights lawyers challenged the laws on the grounds that they were in violation of the 14th Amendment. This amendment states that every citizen has the right to equal protection under the law. The state claimed that prior Supreme Court decisions like Plessy v. Ferguson set the precedent for the laws to stay. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the civil rights attorneys and overturned the Plessy case precedent. This decision marked the beginning of the civil rights movement.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
Arizona police arrested a man by the name of Ernesto Miranda. They charged him with kidnapping and raping a woman. He was never informed of his rights, and he did not know to ask for a lawyer. He faced a grueling interrogation by police over the next two hours. Ernesto confessed to the crime through the interrogation. His civil rights attorneys later argued that police violated his rights, and appealed.
The Supreme Court acquitted Ernesto Miranda of the charges. They also ruled that police must inform all citizens under arrest of their rights before police may question them. Any information or statements acquired before a citizen learns their rights is inadmissible in court. This case became the grounds for the famous Miranda Rights that police must read to citizens upon arrest.
Roe v. Wade (1973)
Norma McCorvey of Texas was pregnant but did not want to give birth to the child. At the time, it was against state law for women to have an abortion. Taking the name of “Jane Roe”, she and civil rights lawyers sued the State of Texas. They claimed laws outlawing abortion violated her rights to privacy. The civil rights attorneys argued that the laws interfered in what Roe could or could not do with her own body. The state contended that an act of abortion was the same as murder. It was therefore in the state’s interest to protect the life of unborn children.
The Supreme Court ruled that laws prohibiting abortion were, in fact, a violation of a woman’s right to privacy. It was one of the biggest victories by civil rights lawyers. This decision opened the door for women across the nation to receive abortions. Despite this decision, abortion is still hotly debated, even today.
Civil Rights Lawyers Change Lives
These are just a few of the many groundbreaking court cases that relied on expert civil rights lawyers to change longstanding legal doctrines. They led to the creation of new laws and constitutional amendments that now protect every citizen’s rights.