When important landmark cases, either civil or criminal, are challenged
by lawyers on Constitutional grounds, that is, whether the outcome or
result is consistent with Constitutional guarantees, the case might end
up in the United States Supreme Court. Because these rulings are final,
many such cases have shaped U.S. history, and will continue to do so.
Here is our list of the biggest of the biggest!
Your right to freedom
of religion – but not the requirement
to be religious
An Arkansas science teacher petitions the Supreme Court to declare an old-forgotten
state law banning the teaching of evolution in public school unconstitutional
– and the Supreme Court Justices agreed. (Epperson v. Arkansas, 1965)
The Miranda Warning
You have a right to know your 5th amendment rights against self-criminalization and the right to a lawyer,
the Supreme Court said in this historic criminal case. From this point
on, suspects are read their "Miranda Rights", among them the
right to remain silent and have an attorney present, when an arrest is
made. (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966)
Equal protection under the law
In one of the most famous Supreme Court cases of all time, and a case that
helped lay the framework for the Civil Rights Movement, the Court struck
down racial segregation in a Kansas public school. The Court held that
the Kansas segregation laws violated the "Equal Protection"
clause of the 14th Amendment. Kansas lawmakers would not be allowed to prohibit young Linda
Brown from attending a public school because of her skin color. (Brown
v. Board of Education, 1954)
The right to burn a United States flag
Regardless of where you stand personally on the act of burning a national
flag, this behavior is protected as freedom of speech by the Constitution.
In a divided ruling (5-4), the Supreme Court held that Gregory Lee Johnson
was within his 1st Amendment rights when he set fire to an American flag on the steps of
Dallas City Hall during a protest, effectively overturning a sentence
of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. (Texas v. Johnson, 1989)