• Chief Justice Oliver Elisworth, 1796-1800, appointed by President George Washington.

  • Joseph Cinquez led a slave revolt aboard the Spanish ship La Amistad (1839) and later won his freedom in United States V. Amistad (1841).

  • Rosa Parks being finger-printed, following her arrest for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 1956.

  • Brooklyn-born Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued on behalf of women’s rights and was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993.


September 17, 1787 Thirty-nine delegates to Philadelphia Convention sign the U.S. Constitution, in which Article III invests judicial authority in “one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

September 24, 1789 The Federal Judiciary Act establishes a federal court system, including the Supreme Court.

February 2, 1790 The first Supreme Court meets in New York City.

December 15, 1791 Bill of Rights (first ten amendments to the Constitution) is ratified by three-fourths of the states.

February 7, 1795 The ratification of the Eleventh Amendment is completed by the twelfth of the fifteen states, overturning the United States Supreme Court’s 1793 decision in Chisholm v. Georgia. The Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal lawsuits by citizens of a state against another state.

July 6, 1798 The Federalist Congress passes the Alien and Sedition Acts, which permit the arrest, imprisonment and deportation of aliens during wartime. The Sedition Act makes it a crime for American citizens to “print, utter or publish . . . any false, scandalous, and malicious writing” about the government.




  • Supreme Court Justice
    Thurgood Marshall, 1967-
    1991, appointed by President
    Lyndon B. Johnson.

  • Future President Lyndon B. Johnson poses with
    his Mexican-American grade school students,
    Cotulla, Texas, 1928.

  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the Four Freedoms in January 1941, extending the idealistic American vision of individual liberties throughout the world.

  • WPA photograph shows New Orleans Police
    Department’s Rogues Gallery, 1942.


March 5, 1801 Chief Justice John Marshall takes office and strengthens the authority of the Supreme Court by urging fellow justices to support a single majority opinion in all cases and by establishing that the Constitution is a set of laws that the Court may interpret.

July 1, 1803 In Marbury v. Madison the Court rules a law passed by Congress unconstitutional, solidifying the power of judicial review and giving federal courts the authority to declare laws invalid.

March 16, 1810 In Fletcher v. Peck, the Court rules unconstitutional a state law that repealed another state law that had authorized the selling of once Native lands, reaffirming a right to contract and minimizing Native title.

February 2, 1819 Dartmouth College v. Woodward applies the Contract Clause of the Constitution to protect the charter granted to Dartmouth from intrusions by a state legislature.

July 1, 1819 The Court in McCulloch v. Maryland recognizes Congressional power, relying on the necessary and proper clause, for the constitutional authority to charter a national bank.

March 2, 1824 The Court in Gibbons v. Ogden relies upon the Commerce Clause of Article 1 of the Constitution to recognize Congressional power to pass statutes regarding commerce among the states, including on navigable waters.

March 18, 1831 In Cherokee Nation v. the United States, the Court declines to hear the Cherokee case against the state of Georgia which sought to assert its jurisdiction over Cherokee lands within the state. Chief Justice Marshall defines the Cherokee as a “domestic dependent nation” rather than a sovereign nation.

March 3, 1832 In Worcester v. Georgia, the Court rules that the state of Georgia has no jurisdiction in Cherokee territory and that the Cherokee represent independent political communities. President Andrew Jackson refuses to enforce the decision, setting the stage for the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of the Cherokee by federal troops.

July 10, 1832 President Andrew Jackson vetoes legislation to recharter the Second Bank of the University, claiming executive right to interpret the Constitution independently of the other branches of government.

February 16, 1833 In Barron v. Baltimore the Court rules against its earlier strong nationalist opinions and argues that the Bill of Rights applies only to the federal government and that the states could protect individual rights in their own constitutions.

March 28, 1836 Roger B. Taney takes the oath as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

  • Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, 1939-1975, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

  • Chief Justice John Jay, 1789-1795, appointed by President George Washington. Painting by Gilbert Stuart.

  • New York Giants play exhibition baseball game in Memphis’s Russwood Park, whose outfield bleachers demonstrate Jim Crow laws, 1922.

  • Chief Justice John Rutledge, 1795, appointed by President George Washington.

March 1, 1842 In Prigg v. Pennsylvania the Court rules that the federal Fugitive Slave Act took precedence over all state fugitive slave laws enacted by northern states opposed to slavery.

January 29, 1850 The Compromise of 1850 determines the outcome of the recently acquired western lands following the Mexican War, by admitting California as a free state and strengthening the Fugitive Slave Act.

March 2, 1852 In Cooley v. Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia, the Court rules that a Pennsylvania law did not conflict with Congress’s authority to regulate interstate and international commerce according to the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

May 30, 1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act divides the land west of Missouri into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, allowing for popular sovereignty to determine the existence of slavery.

March 6, 1857 In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Court rules that blacks, including free blacks, were not citizens under the Constitution. Scott is prevented from being a citizen of the United States despite having lived in states that forbade slavery. In so doing, the Court rules the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (already repealed by Congress) unconstitutional. The Court also denies Congress the right to regulate slavery in the new territories. This decision plays a significant role in hardening antagonisms between the north and south.

May 20, 1862 The wartime Congress approves the Homestead Act, providing 160 acres of surveyed government land to settlers at little or no cost.

July 2, 1862 The Morrill Act marks the first federal aid to higher education, granting government land to states, whose sale would then finance institutions for training in agriculture and the mechanic arts.

January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “all persons held as slaves” within rebellious areas “are and henceforward shall be free.”

December 6, 1865 The Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, is ratified.

April 3, 1866 In Ex parte Milligan, the Court acts on the federal government’s emergency powers during a time of war, ruling that President Lincoln has violated the Constitution by suspending the writ of habeas corpus and authorizing military tribunals.

  • Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, 1796-1800, appointed by President George Washington.

  • Chief Justice John Marshall, 1801-1835, appointed by President John Adams. Painting by Henry Inman.

  • Roy Tekeno, Yuichi Hirata and Nabou Samamura reading the Los Angeles Times in front of the Office of Reports Free Press, Manzanar War Relocation Center, California, 1943.

  • Portrait of Dred Scott, whose case before the Supreme Court denied citizenship to all African Americans, whether free or slave.

July 9, 1868 The Fourteenth Amendment declares that all people born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the country, thereby negating the decision in Scott v. Sandford. Section 1 prohibits states from depriving any person of due process of law or equal protection of the laws.

February 3, 1870 The Fifteenth Amendment states that the right to vote cannot be denied on the grounds of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

April 14, 1873 In the Slaughterhouse Cases the Court distinguishes between state and federal citizenship and declares that states are not required to provide their citizens with the same “privileges and immunities” they enjoy as national citizens.

April 15, 1873 In Bradwell v. Illinois, the Court upholds an Illinois Supreme Court decision barring women from being lawyers in court. The Court does not use the Fourteenth Amendment to overturn sex discrimination laws until 100 years later. Justice Joseph P. Bradley writes: “The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

March 9, 1875 Minor v. Happersett holds that a state can deny a woman citizen the right to vote as the Court did not consider this right to be a privilege of national citizenship.

March 1, 1877 In Munn v. Illinois, the Court rules that a state can regulate a private business that affects a public interest.

May 6, 1882 Congress rejects the country’s “open-door” policy on immigration by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibits Chinese laborers and miners from entering the United States.

October 15, 1883 In the Civil Rights Cases, the Court declares unconstitutional sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 that had prohibited racial discrimination in inns, public conveyances and places of public amusement. This narrow interpretation effectively withdraws the federal government from civil rights enforcement.

December 8, 1884 In Chew Heong v. United States, the Court determines that Heong, a Chinese laborer who had resided in the U.S. in 1880, but left in 1881, was entitled to reentry in 1884.

May 10, 1886 The Court in Yick Wo v. Hopkins decides that although a law may be racially neutral, it may be administered in such a racially discriminatory manner that it may violate the equal protection of persons — including noncitizens — under the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • Seven thousand, two hundred men and women from more than 50 countries are sworn in as American citizens at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, on November 11, 1954.

  • Chief Justice Roger Taney, 1836-1864, appointed by President Andrew Jackson.

  • Poster for New York City Department of Parks announcing classes forming for swimming lessons, showing African-Americans on one side and white children on the other, W.P.A.
    Art Project, 1940.

  • Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States declares that the right to vote cannot be denied on the grounds of race, color or previous condition of
    servitude, 1870.


February 4, 1887 Congress passes the Interstate Commerce Act, making the railroads the first industry under federal regulation.

February 8, 1887 Congress passes the Dawes Act, which aims to break up reservations and grant land allotments to individual Native Americans.

October 8, 1888 Melville Fuller takes the oath as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

March 3, 1890 The United States Supreme Court decides Hans v. Louisiana, interpreting the Eleventh Amendment to prohibit not only federal court lawsuits by citizens of a state against another state, but federal lawsuits by citizens of a state against their own state.

July 2, 1890 President Benjamin Harrison signs the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which aims to prohibit trusts that had come to dominate major industries and destroy competition.

March 3, 1891 The Judiciary Act of 1891 creates nine federal courts of appeal and effectively removes Supreme Court justices from the burden of “circuit riding.”

January 21, 1895 United States v. E.C. Knight Co. demonstrates the Court’s unwillingness to limit the power of monopolistic businesses; in this case the American Sugar Refining Company is allowed to acquire all the stock of its leading competitors and conduct a monopoly of manufacturing.

May 18, 1896 In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court upholds a Louisiana statute that has established “separate but equal [railroad] accommodations for the white and colored races.”

April 25, 1898 Williams v. Mississippi asserts that a Mississippi law requiring citizens to pass a literacy test before being allowed to vote is valid; this law and similar ones passed by southern states effectively disenfranchises southern blacks.


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    Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, 1939-1962, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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    Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, 1937-1971, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937.

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    Harper’s Weekly cover of November 16, 1867 depicts the first vote by African-Americans following passage of the Fifteenth Amendment

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    Puck Magazine cartoon lampooning the workload of the Supreme Court during the 1880s.



April 17, 1905 In Lochner v. New York, the Court invalidates a New York State law that limited the working hours in bakeries to ten per day or sixty per week, as an infringement of the “liberty of contract” that was contained in the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision limits the ability of states to enact regulatory legislation.

February 24, 1908 Muller v. Oregon gives states the power to limit the maximum working hours of women based largely on the copious research of future Justice Louis Brandeis, which “proved” that long hours are harmful to a woman’s health, safety and morals. In the 1960s and 1970s future Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would lead efforts to overturn laws similar to this because they treated women differently than men.

February 3, 1913 The Sixteenth Amendment allows Congress to impose a federal income tax. Although some states do not have an income tax, all residents are subject to the federal income tax.

April 8, 1913 The Seventeenth Amendment mandates the direct election of senators by each state’s voters rather than by a legislative body of that state.

June 3, 1918 The United States Supreme Court decides Hammer v. Dagenhart, declaring unconstitutional the federal Keating-Owen Act of 1916 that prohibited interstate shipment of goods made by child labor.

January 16, 1919 The Eighteenth Amendment bans the production, transport and sale of alcohol beverages in the U.S. taking effect on January 17, 1920, swamping the criminal justice system with vendors of illegal alcohol and spawning an organized crime network. This amendment is overturned with the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933.

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    Cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly mocking the platform of the Democratic Party as virulently racist, 1868.

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    An elderly man in the Solidarity Day march of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Washington, DC, 1981.

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    Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York, following Supreme Court decision upholding the National Labor Relations (Wagner Act), 1937.

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    Participants marching in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965.


August 18, 1920 The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified, declaring that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or by any State on account of sex.” This amendment nullifies all state laws that had previously failed to grant women the vote.

June 2, 1924 Congress grants citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States.

June 16, 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Industrial Recovery Act, designed to aid the nation’s economic recovery during the Great Depression. The Act suspends antitrust laws and orders companies to write industry-wide “codes of fair competition” that fixes wages and prices and establishes production quotas.

July 6, 1935 The National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, [and] to bargain collectively.”

August 15, 1935 The Social Security Act establishes a national old-age insurance system and provides funds to aid children, the blind and the unemployed.

April 12, 1937 In National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and McLaughlin Steel Co. the Court upholds the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) that authorizes Congress to intervene in activities affecting national commerce, including employer/union relations.

May 24, 1937 The United States Supreme Court holds the Social Security Act constitutional in Steward Machine Company v. Davis and in Helvering v. Davis.

April 25, 1938 In a case upholding the constitutionality of a federal law prohibiting “filled” milk from being distributed in interstate commerce, the United States Supreme Court renders its decision in United States v. Carolene Products Co., including the most famous footnote in constitutional history outlining the basis for strict scrutiny of suspect classifications.

June 3, 1940 In Minersville School District v. Gobitis, the Court upholds the constitutionality of expelling a Jehovah’s Witness’s child from school for refusing to salute the American flag in a daily ceremony.

February 19, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, compelling involuntary removal and detention of West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry.

June 1, 1942 Betts v. Brady rules that Betts is not entitled to legal defense in a non-capital case. This decision is later overturned in Gideon v. Wainwright (1962).

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    Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice 1864-1873, appointed by President Abraham Lincoln.

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    New York Times – Supporters of gay marriage rally outside the Supreme Court during arguments on California’s Proposition 8 on March 26, 2013.

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    Chief Justice Morrison Waite, 1874-1888, appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant.

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    Chief Justice Melvin Weston Fuller, 1888-1910, appointed by President Grover Cleveland.

June 14, 1943 In West Virginia State of Education v. Barrette the Court reverses its ruling in Minersville School District by applying the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment rather than the Religion Clause and declares the flag salute to be a matter of speech.

April 3, 1944 Smith v. Allwright outlaws the “whites only” primary election declaring that a state cannot “permit a private organization to practice racial discrimination” in elections.

December 18, 1944 Korematsu v. United States rules Japanese Americans, regardless of their citizenship, can be interned based on Executive Order 9066.

May 3, 1948 In Shelley v. Kraemer, the Court invalidates enforcement of racial covenants in housing.

July 26, 1948 President Harry Truman issues Executive Order 9981, calling for the desegregation of the U.S. armed services.

December 20, 1948 In Goesaert v. Cleary, the Court upholds a Michigan law forbidding women from working in bars in cities with a population greater than 50,000 unless they are the wife or daughter of the owner. The Court repudiates this ruling in Craig v. Boren (1976), announcing that sex-based classifications are subject to “stricter scrutiny” under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

June 5, 1950 McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education invalidates segregated conditions for African Americans at a public university.

February 27, 1951 The Twenty-Second Amendment limits presidents to two elected terms.

June 2, 1952 The Court decides “The Steel Seizure Case,” Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, holding unconstitutional President Harry Truman’s attempt to invoke his executive powers to resolve a labor dispute during the Korean War.

May 4, 1953 Terry v. Adams invalidates “self-governing, voluntary clubs” designed to disenfranchise blacks through a whites-only primary.

October 5, 1953 Earl Warren takes the oath as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

May 17, 1954 In Brown v. Board of Education the Court orders the desegregation of public schools, declaring that separate school systems for blacks and whites are inherently unequal.

May 3, 1954 The Court rules in Hernandez v. Texas that Mexican-American and all racial groups have equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

June 17, 1957 In Yates v. U.S. the Court overturns the convictions of 14 Communist Party leaders convicted under the conspiracy provisions of the Smith Act, distinguishing between advocacy of an abstract doctrine and advocacy of action.

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    Native Americans received citizenship and the right to vote in 1924. Here President Calvin Coolidge poses with members of the Osage Nation at the White House, 1925.

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    Puerto Ricans demonstrate for better jobs and housing outside City Hall, New York City, 1967.

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    Although Pennsylvania state law desegregated streetcars in 1867, the issue sparked conflict in racially divided Philadelphia. This broadside promotes Democrat mayoral candidate Daniel Fox, 1868.

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    Joseph Cinquez led a slave revolt aboard the Spanish ship La Amistad (1839) and later won his freedom in United States v. Amistad (1841).


June 24, 1957 Roth v. United States defines obscenity as material whose “dominant theme taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest” to the “average person, applying contemporary community standards.” Obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.

September 24, 1957 President Dwight Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10730, placing the Arkansas National Guard under federal control. The Order sends 1,000 U.S. Army paratroopers to Little Rock to ensure the safe desegregation of Central High School.

September 12, 1958 The day after hearing argument, the United States Supreme Court renders its unanimous opinion in Cooper v. Aaron holding that the Arkansas officials were bound by federal court orders to desegregate the schools.

November 14, 1960 Gomillion v. Lightfoot rules that an Alabama law changing the city boundaries of the city of Tuskegee to eliminate almost all African-Americans was unconstitutional because it discriminates against African-American residents by denying them the vote in municipal elections.

December 5, 1960 In Boynton v. Virginia, the Court mandates desegregation of a bus station restaurant under the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) tested enforcement of this ruling by staging a Freedom Ride through the deep South in 1961.

June 19, 1961 Mapp v. Ohio overrules the decision in Wolf v. Colorado (1949) and extends the reach of the Fourth Amendment’s protection by prohibiting the use of evidence seized in illegal searches in state criminal trials.

March 18, 1963 Gideon v. Wainright guarantees the right to an attorney for defendants in criminal trials for serious offenses, even if they cannot afford one.

May 27, 1963 In Watson v. City of Memphis the Court orders the desegregation of city parks without undue delay.

January 23, 1964 The Twenty-fourth Amendment forbids states and the federal government from imposing a “poll tax” in order to vote in a national election.

July 2, 1964 Congress passes the Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race and religion in hiring, promoting and firing. Title VII of the Act establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

December 7, 1964 McLaughlin v. Florida invalidates a state ban on interracial cohabitation.

December 14, 1964 In Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States the Court unanimously upholds Congressional ability to prohibit racial discrimination in a major test of the public accommodations provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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    Rosa Parks being fingerprinted, following her arrest for Puck Magazine shines a light in favor of a woman’s right to vote, 1914. refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 1956.

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    Chief Justice Edward White, 1910- 1921, appointed by President William Howard Taft.

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    Puck Magazine shines a light in favor of a woman’s right to vote, 1914.

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    Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, 1916-1939, appointed by President Woodrow Wilson.

June 7, 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut reverses a state prohibition against the prescription, sale or use of contraceptives, even for married couples and articulates a constitutional right to privacy.

August 6, 1965 The Voting Rights Act of 1965 takes effect, enforcing the Fifteenth Amendment. “No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting . . . shall be imposed by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the U.S. to vote on account of race or color.”

June 13, 1966 In Miranda v. Arizona, Chief Justice Warren writes for the Court: “the person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.”

June 12, 1967 The Court in Loving v. Virginia declares unconstitutional a state miscegenation law, criminalizing interracial marriages, as violating the equal protection clause.

February 24, 1969 In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Court rules that the First Amendment rights of school students includes wearing black armbands as an anti-war protest.

June 23, 1969 Warren Burger takes the oath as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

June 7, 1971 A closely divided Court in Cohen v. California declares that there was a First Amendment right to wear a jacket with an expletive directed at military conscription, saying “one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.”

June 30, 1971 The New York Times v. United States the Court permits The Times to publish the “Pentagon Papers,” rejecting the government’s argument of prior restraint.

November 22, 1971 In Reed v. Reed the Court declares unconstitutional a state law giving a preference to men over women regarding probate of the estates of deceased persons as violating the equal protection clause.

March 22, 1972 In Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a Massachusetts law limiting the distribution of contraceptives to married couples, establishing the right of unmarried individuals to obtain contraceptives.

June 29, 1972 The Court in Furman v. Georgia holds that the death penalty as it was being administered violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade involves a challenge to a Texas law prohibiting all but lifesaving abortions. The Court rules that the Constitution’s right of privacy, grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, includes abortion, evaluated by a trimester scheme during pregnancy.

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    Chief Justice William Howard Taft, 1921-1930, appointed by President Warren G. Harding.

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    Suffrage Poster in California demands the vote, c. 1911.

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    W.P.A. photographs show members of the New Orleans Police Department checking fingerprints, 1942.

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    Women suffrage headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, 1912.

March 21, 1973 The Court’s ruling in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez upholds a school-funding scheme, rejecting claims that education is a fundamental right and that differences in school funding violate equal protection.

June 21, 1973 In Miller v. California the United States Supreme Court articulates the standard, still operative, for declaring a work obscene and thus not protected by the First Amendment.

July 24, 1974 United States v. Nixon rules against the president’s use of executive power in commanding President Nixon to release tape recordings relevant to the criminal proceedings in the Watergate case.

June 16, 1975 The Court recognizes that commercial speech, including advertising, is protected by the First Amendment, in Bigelow v. Commonwealth of Virginia.

January 30, 1976 In Buckley v. Valeo, the Court construes money to be a form of speech protected by the First Amendment in the context of political campaigns. The Court makes a distinction between restrictions on individual contributions to political campaigns and candidates as constitutional, but restrictions on candidate expenditures as unconstitutional.

July 2, 1976 In five consolidated cases, generally known as Gregg v. Georgia, the United States Supreme Court upholds the death penalty schemes of some states, while declaring others unconstitutional. The Court declares that a capital punishment scheme must have objective criteria and appellate review, while allowing consideration of each individual defendant.

December 20, 1976 In Craig v. Boren, the Court settles on “intermediate” scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for sex-based classifications: less than racial classifications but more than ordinary classifications.

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    Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, 1930-1941, appointed by President Herbert Hoover.

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    Federal Ship Hamilton takes part in New York celebration of the adoption of the Constitution, 1789.

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    Fred Korematsu contested the constitutionality of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which ordered the evacuation of residents of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. The Supreme Court upheld the federal government’s order in Korematsu v. United States (1944).

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    Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, 1941-1946, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.




June 28, 1978 In the first major test of affirmative action, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke rejects the use of racial quotas in admissions to state supported schools.

January 15, 1985 New Jersey v. T.L.O. rules that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures applies to searches of students conducted by public school officials.

June 19, 1986 The first sexual harassment case heard by the Court, Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, determines that sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

September 26, 1986 William H. Rehnquist takes the oath as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

June 19, 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard rules that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools is unconstitutional.

June 21, 1989 Texas v. Johnson declares that burning the United States flag in protest is a protected form of symbolic speech under the First Amendment.

April 17, 1990 Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith the Court rules that a state can deny unemployment benefits to an employee who was fired for using a banned substance, even though the use of that substance (peyote) is part of a religious ritua l among Native Americans.

June 29, 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood upholds Roe v. Wade, but allows states to place greater restrictions on abortion rights, including parental notification and a 24-hour waiting period.

April 26, 1995 In United States v. Lopez, the Court rules for the first time in more than half a century that Congress did not have power to legislate under the Commerce Clause. In a 5-4 decision, the Court holds unconstitutional the Gun Free School Zones Act.

May 20, 1996 In Romer v. Evans, the Court rules unconstitutional Colorado’s Amendment 2, passed by voter initiative, that prohibited any policy protecting gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from discrimination.

June 26, 1996 In United States v. Virginia, the Court declares unconstitutional the male-only admission policy at the state-run Virginia Military Institute in a majority decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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    Certificate issued to a volunteer in the Union army during the Civil War, c. 1861.

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    March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963.

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    Puck Magazine illustration satirizing Pope Leo XIII attempting to affect the separation between church and state, 1885.

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    Chief Justice Fred Vinson, 1946- 1953, appointed by President Harry S. Truman.



May 15, 2000 United States v. Morrison rules that parts of the Violence Against Women Act (1994) exceed congressional power under the Commerce Clause and under section 5 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

December 12, 2000 The Court essentially decides the outcome of the presidential election in Bush v. Gore, ruling that the recount of Florida ballots cannot continue because it would deprive some voters of equal protection.

June 23, 2003 The Court in Grutter v. Bollinger upholds the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action plan, recognizing diversity in higher education as a compelling state interest.

June 26, 2003 Lawrence v. Texas strikes down a Texas statute making it a crime for persons of the same sex to engage in intimate sexual conduct as violating substantive due process.

June 28, 2004 In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the United States Supreme Court decides that “enemy combatants” being held at Guantanamo Bay who were United States citizens had a due process right to challenge their status.

June 27, 2005 In Van Orden v. Perry, the Court approves the constitutionality of placing a monument containing the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol in Austin, Texas, as not violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

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    African-American and white soldiers during World War II, 1945.

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    Thurgood Marshall and Charles Houston with their client Donald Gaines Murray during court proceedings, c. 1935.

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    Chief Justice Earl Warren, 1953- 1969, appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower

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    Anti-Chinese sentiment expressed in advertisement for washing machine. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which stayed in effect until 1943.


September 29, 2005 John Roberts takes the oath as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

April 18, 2007 In Gonzales v. Carhart the Court reverses its course on abortion in a 5-4 decision, upholding the federal “Partial-Birth Abortion Act” that prohibited a procedure doctors use to perform abortions after approximately 12 weeks.

June 26, 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller rules that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm and use that weapon for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

January 21, 2010 In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court rules 5-4 that under the First Amendment “corporate persons” enjoy the same rights as individuals to contribute to political campaigns.

May 24, 2010 In Lewis v. City of Chicago, the Court holds unanimously that a group of African-American applicants for firefighter had filed a timely charge of race discrimination against Chicago and that the city had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

June 28, 2010 In an extension of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Court determines in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms for self-defense applies to the states.

June 28, 2012 The Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act, in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, asserting that the requirement for most Americans to either obtain health insurance or pay a penalty was authorized by Congressional power, either under the Commerce Clause or the Taxing Clause.

June 17, 2013 Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. finds the National Voter Registration Act precludes states from requiring additional information from voting applicants beyond what is required in the federal form used to register voters for federal elections.

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    Chief Justice Warren Burger, 1969-1986, appointed by President Richard M. Nixon.

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    President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which overcomes the resistance by state officials to enforce the 15th Amendment right to vote.

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    Harper’s Weekly engraving of the Supreme Court of the United States, June 1888.

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    “Take Fresh Air,” painting by Henry Sugimoto, on the trip from Fresno, California, to an internment camp for Japanese at Jerome, Arizona, 1957.

June 20, 2013 In American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, the Court rules that the Federal Arbitration Act’s mandate favoring arbitration holds even when arbitrating a federal antitrust claim on an individual basis would be prohibitively expensive. This decision will likely enable courts to dismiss many future antitrust class actions.

June 25, 2013 Shelby County v. Holder interprets Section 4b of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ends the preclearance requirement for states and municipalities with a history of discrimination. Chief Justice Roberts writes that Congress cannot subject a state to preclearance because of discrimination forty years ago.

June 25, 2013 In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the Court rules that the Indian Child Welfare Act does not provide a non-custodial father custody rights, enabling a couple to adopt the child.

June 26, 2013 In United States v. Windsor the Court holds that Section 3 of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), limiting the federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to heterosexual unions, regardless of state laws, is unconstitutional. In a companion case decided the same day, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court decides that the parties before it do not have constitutional standing to raise the issue of same-sex marriage in California.

August 31, 2013 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiates at a same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C.

  • 57-MS

    Ladies of the 75th Congress from left: Rep. Caroline O’Day (NY), Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers (MA), Rep. Mary T. Norton (NJ), Rep. Nan Honeyman (OR), Rep. Virginia E. Jenckes (IN),and Sen. Hattie W. Caraway (AR), 1938.

  • 58-MS

    Satiric description of domestic life once women gain the vote, 1909.

  • 59-MS

    Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, 1957-1990, appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower.

  • 60-MS

    “Colored” drinking fountain in streetcar terminal, Puck Magazine cartoon lampoons Jim Crow Laws, 1913. Oklahoma City, OK, 1939.

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