Do you know the basics of these Supreme Court cases?

In this thread, the OP challenges respondents to name two Supreme Court cases, and finds that most respondents can easily do so. (Although there’s undoubtedly a bit of selection bias at work).

In post 28, Martin Hyde writes:

How many of these can you describe the basic story behind? Between “the names ring a bell” and “I can describe the background and point of view of each of the adversaries and I know who won and on what argument,” where do you stand? What is the story, if you do know it?

I consider myself more informed than most, but the only ones in that list I know details about are Brown v Topeka and Dred Scott v Stanford. Miranda is not on the list, but I know about that. The others I recognize but could not discuss without prompting.

I could give a rundown on them, but that’s a bit of a cheat as I have two years of grad school (and of teaching) American history with a political/constitutional focus.

I could probably brief all of them from memory except Gideon (and the relevant dates)- and I know what it was, I just don’t remember the reasoning given in the opinion. I took 12 hours of Con Law as an undergrad, though.

I can talk about all of them if I were to be asked in a television interview.

oh, goody! a pop quiz!

Marbury v. Madison - late 18th century - established judicial review under the federal Constitution; held that Congress could not expand the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which is defined by Art III of the Constituion; statutory provision conferring mandamus power on the Supreme Court struck down; first case of a federal statute being held invalid because it conflicted with the Constitution.

Brown v. Board of Education - 1950s - unanimous decision of the Supreme Court holding that “separate but equal” state facilities in a state school system was inherently unequal, and therefore in breach of the 14th Amendment; began school desegregation by federal courts. Overturned Plessy v. Ferguson.

Roe v. Wade - 1973 - found that the Constitution had a right to privacy which protected a women’s right to abortion in the early stages of a pregnancy; decided under the 14th Amendment.

Plessy v. Ferguson - late 19th century - held that providing separate “but equal” facilities for African-Americans on public transit was constitutional, under the 14th Amendment. Subsequently overturned by Brown v. Board of Education. There was one dissent, by Justice Harlan; his grandson sat on the Court in Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned Plessy on much the same grounds as the first Justice Harlan had suggested in his dissent.

Gideon v. Wainright - early 1960s - held that states were obliged to provide defence counsel at public expense to individuals charged with criminal offences; due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

Dred Scott v. San[d]ford* - 1857 - divided Court held that African-Americans by their nature could never be citizens; federal government had no power to prohibit slavery in territories; Dred Scott did not become free by moving to a free state.

  • there’s some dispute about how Sandford spelled his name - with a D or without. It appears in both forms on the various court pleadings.

Gideon v. Wainright is my bottom level–could match out of a list of X vs. Y s. Don’t know ANYTHING about the case–although my suspicion is that police are involved somehow.

Brown v. Board, is my other extreme. I’ve met Brown’s daughter–not “the” daughter, but her younger sister. At the time, Ms. Brown was working on the opening of a National Historic Site in a school which was affected by the decision. Thus I’m aware of many tiny, trivial details, as well as the impact that this decision had with regard to making changes broader than who could attend what school.

Marbury v. Madison I learned about in grad school.

Plessy v. Ferguson, and the Dred Scott case (only recognise the other party due to the other thread) I learned about at some point in school when studying history, I think.

Roe v. Wade’s details I know more because of Roe’s more recent history rather than anything else.

Nitpick: the Court held that African-American slaves could not become citizens, not African Americans in general.

Ditto. I teach American Government, and we delve into each of these cases, among others, in my class each semester.

I’m familiar with their essential significance, except for Gideon. For Plessy, I know whtat the impact of that case was, but I don’t know what side Plessy was on.

I’d say the Dred Scott case is known to most people as simply that; they don’t know the name of the other party.

From the Wiki summary of the case:

And from the decision itself:

I retract my nitpick.

Miranda v. Arizona is also a case we all need to know, as it’s a household name.

Miranda v. Arizona is also a case we all need to know, as it’s a household name.

Then there’s Mapp v. Ohio.

The OP’s list is heavily into racial decisions.

PolSci undergrad, and lawyer in the federal courts for 20 years.
Yeah, I could BS about any/all of them in a TV interview.

I recently found out that Dred Scott, at the time of the decision, was owned by an abolitionist, Calvin Chaffee. Scott was the property of his wife, who was the widow of Dr. Emerson, the Ft. Snelling physician who brought Scott into free territory. Sandford was the brother of Mrs. Emerson (Mrs. Chaffee) and the executor of Mr. Emerson’s will.

Sometimes, life is very strange.

(Chaffee transfered Scott and his wife to the Blows, the original owners of Scott, who freed him. There was some reason he could not be freed by Chaffee…)

Racial and gender discrimination is a sadly large part of American history. I’ve seen this meme popping up in several unexpected places, and the two decisions it seems that all my American-educated peers know is Brown vs the Board of Education and Roe v Wade.

I also have a hard time remembering which one was Plessy and which one was Ferguson.

And the Dred Scott thing has always bothered me. In lists, even in my school textbooks, all the cases were always Somebody v. Somebody else, except for Dred Scott. Why? Why? Why?

I can tell you the essential significance of all of those, which is IMHO the minimum required for an educated adult.

Most people can recite a few lines of that decision; I think we know it.