A landmark case
, or landmark decision
, is a court decision which is published by an appeals court
or by the Supreme Court
, on some matter that is serious or important to a large number of people. A landmark case, once decided, shows the usual way in which the court
will rule on such issues in the future, and sometimes sets how lower courts must rule in the case of the same or a similar matter coming before them. It is sometimes referred to as a precedent
See Also: Civil Rights Rulings (Circa 1960's), Important Landmark Cases in Educational Law, Sex-related court cases.
In the United States, the most famous landmark case is the decision in Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973)*, in which it was ruled that a woman has a right to obtain an abortion during the first trimester (3 months) of pregnancy and that laws prohbiting this are unconstitutional.
Other landmark cases include:
- Dred Scott v. Sanford (which should have read Dred Scott v. Sandford) 60 U.S. 393, 19 How. 393, 15 L.Ed. 691, (1857)*, a negro is not a person and has no rights.
- Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U.S. 537 (1896)*, segregated facilities for blacks and whites are constitutional under the doctrine of Separate but equal, which held for close to 100 years.
- Brown v. Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) 344 U.S. 1 (1952), 344 U.S. 141 (1952), 347 U.S. 483 (1954), 349 U.S. 294 (1955)*, segregated schools in the several states are [unconstitutional] in violation of the 14th Amendment, overruling Plessy''
- Bolling v. Sharpe 347 U.S. 497 (1954)*, the companion case to Brown, which ruled that segregated schools in the District of Columbia violated the 5th Amendment
- Mapp v. Ohio 367 U.S. 643 (1961)* Evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Federal Constitution is inadmissible in a criminal trial in a state court.
- Gideon v. Wainwright 372 U.S. 335 (1963)*, Anyone charged with a serious criminal offense has the right to an attorney and the state must provide one if they are unable to afford legal counsel
- Escobedo v. Illinois 378 U.S. 478 (1964)*, a person in police custody has the right to speak to an attorney
- Miranda v. Arizona (and Westover v. United States, Vignera v. New York, and California v. Stewart) 384 U.S. 436 (1966)*, police must advise criminal suspects of their rights under the constitution
* See Court Citation
for an explanation of these numbers.
Northwestern University has a list called Supreme Court's Greatest Hits
and includes some of the following; others were also added:
- Abington School Dist. v. Schempp (and Murray v. Curlett), 374 U.S. 203 (1963)*
- Adarand Constructors v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200 (1995)*
- Agostini v. Felton, 96-552, 96-553, 117 S.Ct. 1997, 138 L.Ed.2d 391 (1997)*
- Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc, 501 U.S. 560 (1991)* nude dancing is not protected by the First Amendment
- Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986)* a state may declare the private practice in one's bedroom of certain sex acts to be a crime; ironically this statute that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court was later struck down by the Georgia State Supreme Court in the case of Powell v. Georgia (Actually Powell v. State). UPDATE in 2003, the Supreme Court would revisit the Bowers decision and effectively overturn it in Lawrence v. Texas.
- Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969)*
- Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993)*
- City of Boerne v. Flores, Archbishop of San Antonio, 95-2074, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997)*
- Clinton v. Jones, 95-1853 (1997)*
- Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971)*
- Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976)*
- Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990)*
- Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972)*, the method then in effect for imposing the death penalty is unconstitutional
- Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973)*
- Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976)*
- Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)* unmarried adults are entitled to use contraception and making it a crime to sell them to same is unconstitutional
- Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964)*, the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 can be applied to a place of public accommodation, prohibiting discrimination against negroes
- Hurley v. Irish American Gay Group of Boston,94-749, 515 U.S. 557 (1995)* excluding a gay group from a public parade merely because the state doesn't like their opinion is unconstitutional
- Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988)* a public figure shown in a parody must show actual malice to claim he is libelled
- Jones v. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968)*, The federal government may prohibit discrimination in housing by private parties under the Civil Rights Act of 1968
- Jurek v. Texas 428 U.S. 262 (1976)*, a "three-pronged" test for determining if the death penalty should be imposed is constitutional
- Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)*
- Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294, 379 U.S. 802 (1964)*
- Lawrence v. Texas, ___ U.S. ___,* 02-102 (June 26, 2003) Texas law that prohibits gays from engaging in consentual sodomy in private was unconstitutional because it did not prohibit heterosexuals from engaging in the very same conduct.
- Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)*
- Loving v. Virginia, 388 US 1, 18 L ed 2d 1010, 87 S Ct 1817 (1967)*, laws that prohibit marriage between races (anti-miscegenation statutes) are unconstitutional
- Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973)* To be obscene, a work must fail several tests to determine its value to society, essentially having "no redeeming social value" to be so declared
- New York Times v. Sullivan, (and Abernathy v. Sullivan) 376 U.S. 254 (1964)* A public official, to prove they were libelled, must show not only that a statement is false, but that it must have been published with malicious intent
- New York Times v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971)* Government's desire to keep so-called "Pentagon Papers" classified is insufficient to overcome 1st Amendment hurdle
- Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992)* PA's abortion law is unconstitutional and Roe v. Wade is still valid precedent
- Printz v. United States (PRINTZ, SHERIFF/CORONER, RAVALLI COUNTY, MONTANA v. UNITED STATES), 95-1478, 521 U.S. 98 (1997)* Brady Act requiring state official to execute a federal law (in doing background checks for gun ownership) is unconstitutional
- Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242 (1976)* Requirement of comparison of mitigating to aggravating factors to be used to impose death sentence is constitutional
- Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978)* Race-Based set-asides in educational opportunities violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution
- Reno v. ACLU, 96-511 (1997) * The Commmunications Decency Act, regulating certain content on the Internet, is so overbroad as to be an unconstutional restraint on the First Amendment
- Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976), 431 U.S. 633 (1977)* Mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional
- Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)* Most restrictions on 1st Trimester abortion are unconstitutional
- Romer v. Evans, 94-1039, 116 S. Ct. 1620 (1996)* Law prohibiting granting homosexuals protection against discrimination violates equal protection clause
- Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, 94-329, 515 U.S. 819 (1995)* University can't fund sectarian groups from student dues, then exclude religious ones that also qualify
- Roth v. United States (and Alberts v. California), 354 U.S. 476 (1957)* Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment
- San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973)* use of property tax as means to finance public education is constitutional
- South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987)* Withholding of Federal highway funds to force state to raise drinking age to 21 is permissible
- Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)* Law prohibiting burning of the American flag is unconstitutional as violating the First Amendment
- Tinker v. DesMoines Ind. Comm. School Dist, 393 U.S. 503 (1969)* Wearing armbands is a legitimate form of protest under the First Amendment
- U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, 93-1456, 93-1828 (1995)* State law cannot set term limits on members of Congress
- United States v. Lopez, 93-1260, 514 U.S. 549 (1995)* The Commerce clause of the Constitution does not give Congress the power to regulate guns in state-operated schools
- United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974)* The President of the United States is not above the law
- United States v. Virginia, 94-1941 (1996)* Virginia Military Institute, as a state-operated institution, cannot exclude women<
- Vacco v. Quill, 95-1858 (1997)* New York's prohibition on assisting suicide does not violate the Equal Protection Clause
- Vernonia School District v. Acton, 94-590 (1995)* Schools may require random drug testing
- Washington v. Glucksberg, 96-110 (1997)* Washington's prohibition on assisting suicide is constitutional
- Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)* Parents may remove children from public school for religious reasons
- Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976)* North Carolina's mandatory death sentence statute violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments