Landmark court decisions in the United States come most frequently (but not exclusively) from the United States Supreme Court. United States Courts of Appeal may also make such decisions, particularly if the Supreme Court chooses not to review the case, or adopts the holding of the court below. Although many cases from State supreme courts are significant in developing the law of that state, only a few are so revolutionary that they announce standards that many other state courts then choose to follow.
Individual rights 
Discrimination based on race 
- Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857) People of African descent that are slaves, or were slaves and subsequently freed; or their descendants, cannot be U.S. citizens. Consequently, they cannot sue in federal courts. Also, slavery cannot be outlawed in the western territories before they access statehood. After the Civil War, this decision was voided by the subsequent Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.
- 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 60 years (see Brown v. Board of Education, below).
- Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944) American citizens of Japanese descent can be interned and deprived of basic constitutional rights; first application of the strict scrutiny test.
- Brown v. Board of Education, 344 U.S. 1 (1954), 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. Found that "The "separate but equal" doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, "has no place in the field of public education."
- Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954) The companion case to Brown, which held that segregated schools in the District of Columbia violated the 5th Amendment.
- Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) Laws that prohibit marriage between races (anti-miscegenation statutes) are unconstitutional.
- Jones v. Alfred H. 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.
- Gates v. Collier, 501 F.2d 1291 (5th Cir. 1974) Brought an end to the trustee system and flagrant inmate abuse at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, Mississippi. It was the first case of a body of law developed in the Fifth Circuit holding that a variety of forms of corporal punishment against prisoners was considered cruel and unusual punishment and abolished racial segregation in prison.
- Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978) Race based set-asides in educational opportunities violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The decision leaves the door open to some race usage in admission decisions. See Grutter v. Bollinger.
- Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200 (1995) Race based discrimination, including discrimination in favor of minorities (affirmative action), is subject to strict judicial scrutiny.
- Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003) A narrowly tailored use of race in student admission decisions may be permissible under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, as a diverse student body is beneficial for all students (as hinted in Regents v. Bakke).
- Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 07-1428 (2009) Municipalities may not decline to certify the results of an otherwise fair exam merely because it would have made disproportionately more white applicants eligible for promotion.
Discrimination based on sex 
- Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412 (1908) Oregon state restrictions on the working hours of women are constitutional.
- Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp., 400 U.S. 542 (1971) An employer may not, in the absence of business necessity, refuse to hire women with pre-school-age children while hiring men with such children.
- Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971) Administrators of estates cannot be named in a way that discriminates between sexes.
- Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973) Sex-based discriminations are inherently suspect. A statute giving benefits to the spouses of male, but not female members of the uniformed services (on the assumption that only the former were dependent) is unconstitutional.
- Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976) Setting different minimum ages according to sex (female 18, male 21) to be allowed to buy beer is unconstitutional sex-based discrimination, contrary to the equal protection clause.
- United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996) Sex-based "separate but equal" military training facilities violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation 
- 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; this statute was later struck down by the Georgia State Supreme Court as a violation of the Georgia State Constitution in the case of Powell v. Georgia (actually Powell v. State). Overruled by Lawrence v. Texas.
- Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996) A law cannot prohibit anti-discrimination protected class laws for sexual orientation. (specifically for homosexuals and bisexuals in this instance) (decision founded on the Equal Protection Clause).
- Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) Texas law criminalizing same-sex adults who engage in consensual sexual conduct furthers no legitimate state interest and violates their right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. (effectively bans all sodomy laws in the United States)
Birth control and abortion 
End of life 
Restrictions on involuntary commitment 
Power of Congress to enforce civil rights 
- Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964) Interstate commerce, and hence the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting discrimination against blacks) applies to places of public accommodation patronized by interstate travelers.
- Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964), 379 U.S. 802 (1964) The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce (Article I, section 8) extends to a restaurant not patronized by interstate travelers, but which serves food that has moved in interstate commerce. This ruling makes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply to virtually all businesses.
- City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997). The enforcement clause of the 14th Amendment does not permit Congress to substantially increase the scope of the rights determined by the Judiciary. (here, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993), but can only enact legislation that remedies or prevents actual violations of existing Court-determined rights.
Other areas 
Criminal law 
Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure 
Right to an attorney 
- 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 to remain silent, to consult with a lawyer and to have one appointed if the suspect is indigent. The interrogation must stop if the suspect states he or she wishes to remain silent.
- In re Gault 387 U.S. 1 (1967) Juveniles accused with a crime are protected under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- Montejo v. Louisiana, 556 U.S. 07-1529 (2009) A defendant may waive his right to counsel for police interrogation, even if police initiate the interrogation after the defendant's assertion of his right to counsel at an arraignment or similar proceeding. This decision overruled Michigan v. Jackson.
Other rights regarding counsel 
- Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984) To obtain relief due to ineffective assistance of counsel, a criminal defendant must show that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that counsel's deficient performance gives rise to a reasonable probability that, if counsel had performed adequately, the result of the proceeding would have been different.
- Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky 253 U.S. 482 (2010) Criminal defense attorneys are duty-bound to inform clients of the risk of deportation under three circumstances. First, where the law is unambiguous, attorneys must advise their criminal clients that deportation "will" result from a conviction. Second, where the immigration consequences of a conviction are unclear or uncertain, attorneys must advise that deportation "may" result. Finally, attorneys must give their clients some advice about deportation—counsel cannot remain silent about immigration consequences.
Right to remain silent 
Right to competency evaluation 
Other competency rights 
- Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389 (1993) A defendant competent to stand trial is automatically competent to plead guilty or waive the right to legal counsel.
Right to refuse treatment 
- Rogers v. Okin, 478 F.Supp. 1342 (D. Mass. 1979) The competency of committed patients is presumed until a patient is adjudicated incompetent.
- Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972) The method then in effect for imposing the death penalty is unconstitutional.
- Jurek v. Texas 428 U.S. 262 (1976) A "three-pronged" test for determining if the death penalty should be imposed is constitutional.
- Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976) North Carolina's mandatory death sentence statute violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
- Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976) Carefully drafted death penalty statutes may be constitutional. This ruling made executions possible again after Furman v. Georgia (see above) had stopped them.
- 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.
- Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976), 431 U.S. 633 (1977) Mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional.
- Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986) Upheld the common law rule that the insane cannot be executed.
- Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005) A sentence of death may not be imposed on juveniles.
- Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407 (2008) A sentence of death may not be imposed for the crime of rape, when the victim did not die and death was not intended.
Other criminal sentences 
- Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 08-7412 (2010) A sentence of life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, may not be imposed on juvenile non-homicide offenders.
- Miller v. Alabama, (2012) Life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, may not be a mandatory sentence for juvenile offenders.
- Hylton v. United States 3 U.S. 171 (1796) A tax on the possession of goods is not a "direct" tax, which must be apportioned under Article One of the United States Constitution. First instance of judicial review (compare Judicial review in the United States - Court decisions from 1788 to 1803).
- Ware v. Hylton 3 U.S. 199 (1796) The US Supreme Court held that the Treaty of Paris (1783) superseded an otherwise valid Virginia statute and used the Supremacy Clause to nullify the law. First example of judicial nullification of a state law (compare Judicial review in the United States - Court decisions from 1788 to 1803).
- Marbury v. Madison 5 U.S. 137 (1803) Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is unconstitutional to the extent it purports to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond that permitted by the Constitution. Congress cannot pass laws that are contrary to the Constitution. First example of judicial nullification of a federal law (compare Judicial review in the United States - Marbury v. Madison).
- Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 14 U.S. 304 (1816) Federal courts may review State court decisions when they rest on federal law or the federal constitution. This decision provides for the uniform interpretation of federal law throughout the various states.
- McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819). The court stated the doctrine of implied powers, from the Necessary and Proper Clause at Article I, section 8. To fulfill its goal, the federal government may use any means the constitution does not forbid (as opposed to only what the constitution explicitly allow or only what can be proved to be necessary). State government may in no way hinder the legitimate action of the federal government (here, Maryland cannot levy a tax on the Bank of the United States). The court has varied in time on the extents of the implied powers with a markedly narrower reading approximately from the 1840s to the 1930s).
- Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824) The power to regulate interstate navigation is granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
- Cooley v. Board of Wardens, 53 U.S. 299 (1852) U.S. 299 (1852), When local circumstances make it necessary the states can regulate interstate commerce, providing that such regulations do not conflict with federal law. States' laws related to commerce powers can be valid so long as Congress is silent on the matter.
- Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506 (1859) State courts cannot issue rulings that contradict the decisions of federal courts.
- Swift & Co. v. United States, 62 U.S. 375 (1905), Congress could constitutionally prohibit local business practices as a means to regulate interstate commerce because those practices, when combined together, were within "the stream of commerce" between the states. The Swift holding was later replaced by the Supreme Court's N.L.R.B. v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. (1937) decison which hold that a local commercial activity considered in isolation may still constitute "interstate commerce" if that activity has a "close and substantial relationship" to interstate commerce.
- Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920) Treaties made by the federal government are supreme over any state concerns about such treaties having abrogated any states' rights arising under the Tenth Amendment.
- United States v. Wheeler, 254 U.S. 281 (1920) The Constitution grants to states, not the federal government, the power to prosecute individuals for wrongful interference with the right to travel.
- National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, 301 U.S. 1 (1937) Confirmed the constitutionality of The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which created the National Labor Relations Board. Ruled that the Commerce Clause applies to labor relations, and therefore the NLRB has the right to sanction companies that fire or discriminate against workers for belonging to a union.
- Steward Machine Company v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548 (1937) The federal government is permitted to impose a tax, even if the goal of the tax is not simply the collection of revenue (in this case, it was argued that a tax upon employers was designed to coerce states into adopting laws providing unemployment compensation).
- United States v. Darby Lumber Co., 312 U.S. 100 (1941) Affirmed the constitutionality of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under The Commerce Clause, since the act prevented states from lowering labor standards to gain commercial advantage. Affirmed that control over interstate commerce belongs entirely to congress.
- Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942) The Commerce Clause of the constitution allows Congress to regulate anything that has a substantial economic effect on commerce, even if that effect is indirect.
- Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958) States are bound by the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and cannot choose to ignore them.
- United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974) Ruled that the doctrine of executive privilege is legitimate, however the President cannot invoke it in criminal cases to withhold evidence.
- South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987) It is permissible to withhold Federal highway funds to encourage states to meet a federal standard setting the minimum legal age for purchasing and possessing alcoholic beverages.
- U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995) State law cannot set term limits on members of Congress.
- United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995) The Commerce Clause of the Constitution does not give Congress the power to prohibit mere possession of a gun near a school, because gun possession by itself is not an economic activity that affects interstate commerce even indirectly.
- Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997) The President of the United States has no particular immunity, which could require civil law litigation against the President for a dispute unrelated to the office of President (e.g. having occurred before (s) he took office), to be stayed until the end of the President's term. Such delay would deprive plaintiffs, (and arguably the defendant), of the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.
- Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998) The line-item veto is unconstitutional on a federal level, as it amounts to a presidential amendment to the law without the pre-authorization of Congress. According to the Constitution, Congress must initiate all amendments to existing laws.
- Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997) Certain interim provisions of the Brady Act requiring state officials to execute a federal law (in doing background checks for gun ownership) are unconstitutional.
- United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000) Parts of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 were unconstitutional because they exceeded congressional power under the Commerce Clause and under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005) Congress may ban the use of marijuana even where states approve its use for medicinal purposes.
- National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. ___ (2012) The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid is unconstitutional as-written—it is unduly coercive to force the states to choose between participating in the expansion or forgoing all Medicaid funds. In addition, the individual health insurance mandate is constitutional, by virtue of the Taxing and Spending Clause (though not by the Commerce Clause).
Freedom of speech and of the press 
- Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919) Established the idea that "clear and present danger" in certain speech is not protected by the First Amendment. Schenck's attempts to obstruct recruitment processes were perceived as a "clear and present danger that will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent".
- Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931) Recognized the freedom of the press by rejecting prior restraints on publication. Except in rare cases, censorship is unconstitutional.
- Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942) Established the “fighting words doctrine” that some words are not protected under the First Amendment because they are tantamount to violent actions.
- Roth v. United States (and Alberts v. California), 354 U.S. 476 (1957) Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment.
- One, Inc. v. Olesen, 355 U.S. 371 (1958) Pro-homosexual writing is not per se obscene.
- New York Times v. Sullivan (and Abernathy v. Sullivan), 376 U.S. 254 (1964) Public officials, to prove they were libelled, must show not only that a statement is false, but also that it has been published with malicious intent.
- Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) Mere advocacy of the use of force, or of violation of law (in this case, by a Ku Klux Klan leader) is protected by the 1st Amendment free speech clause. Only inciting others to take direct and immediate unlawful action would be without constitutional protection.
- Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969) Wearing armbands is a legitimate form of protest under the First Amendment, even on public school grounds.
- Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971) One should not be convicted for wearing a jacket in a courtroom emblazoned with the phrase "Fuck the Draft" (in the Vietnam War context), as this is communication, protected by the free speech clause of the 1st Amendment. The word "fuck" itself, clearly not directed at the hearer, is not in this particular instance a fighting word, and so not without constitutional protection.
- 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.
- 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.
- Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978) Defined the power of the FCC to regulate indecent broadcasts, including the so-called "seven dirty words" that could then not be said on TV or radio.
- Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988) Public school curricular student newspapers that have not been established as forums for student expression are subject to a lower level of First Amendment protection than independent student expression or newspapers established (by policy or practice) as forums for student expression.
- 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.
- Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989) Law prohibiting burning of the American flag is unconstitutional as violating the First Amendment.
- Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., 501 U.S. 560 (1991) Nude dancing is not protected by the 1st Amendment.
- Reno v. ACLU, 520 U.S. 1113 (1997) The Communications Decency Act, regulating certain content on the Internet, is so overbroad as to be an unconstitutional restraint on the 1st Amendment.
- Erie v. Pap's A. M., 529 U.S. 277 (2000) Upholding the 1991 ruling that nude dancing is not protected by the 1st Amendment.
- Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), limits on corporate and union political expenditures during an election cycle violate the First Amendment.
- Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 564 U.S. 08-1448 (2011), video games are protected forms of media speech and states may not ban the sale of them to minors.
- Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940) Free exercise of religion is protected from intrusive state action through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940) Public schools can compel students to salute the American Flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance despite the students' religious objections to these practices. Later overruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
- Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947) Government reimbursing transportation costs to and from Catholic schools does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; however, a wall of separation must be erected between church and state.
- McCollum v. Board of Education, (333 U.S. 203 (1948)) The use of public school facilities by religious organizations to give religious instruction to school children violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
- Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962) Government-directed prayer in public schools, even if it is denominationally neutral and non-mandatory, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
- Abington School District v. Schempp (and Murray v. Curlett), 374 U.S. 203 (1963) The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment forbids state mandated reading of the Bible, or recitation of the Lord's Prayer in public schools.
- Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971) For a law to be considered constitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the law must have a legitimate secular purpose, must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion, and must not result in an excessive entanglement of government and religion.
- Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) Parents may remove children from public school for religious reasons.
- Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) Teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional.
- Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992) Public schools inviting clergy to read prayer at an official ceremony (here a graduation ceremony) violates First Amendment non-establishment clause.
- Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993) Government must show a compelling interest to draw a statute targeting a religion's ritual (as opposed to a statute that happens to burden the ritual, but is not directed at it). Failing to show such an interest, the prohibition of animal sacrifice is a violation of First Amendment free exercise clause.
- Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819 (1995) University can not fund secular groups from student dues, then exclude religious ones that also qualify under the same funding scheme.
- Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203 (1997) A government program sending government employees to parochial schools (and also, to other private schools) specifically to provide remedial education to disadvantaged children (and not to all children) does not violate the First Amendment non establishment clause.
- Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005) Teaching intelligent design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because intelligent design is not science and "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."
- Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, (2012) The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar suits brought on behalf of ministers against their churches, claiming termination in violation of employment discrimination laws. The government is by the Establishment Clause barred from appointing ministers and can not interfere with the freedom of religious groups to select their own due to the Free Exercise Clause.
Right to assemble and petition the government 
- Hurley v. Irish American Gay Group of Boston, 515 U.S. 557 (1995) Private parade organizers have a right to exclude groups with whose message they disagree from participating.
- Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000) Private organizations' First Amendment right of expressive association allows them to choose their own membership and expel members based on their sexual orientation even if such discrimination would otherwise be prohibited by anti-discrimination legislation designed to protect minorities in public accommodations.
The right of the people to keep and bear arms 
- District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008) Ruled that "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."
- McDonald v. Chicago (2010) Ruled that The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for self defense is fully applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
Legality of targeted firearms prohibition 
- United States v. Miller 307 U.S. 174 (1939) Held that a sawed-off shotgun did not constitute a weapon suitable for militia use, and therefore verified the constitutional integrity of the National Firearms Act. Prior to Heller, Miller was the primary legislation covering the individual right to bear arms, and its more conservative interpretation of individual rights (in the context of the militia) was the primary jurisprudential basis for subsequent legislation outlawing specific weapon types. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 1994, especially, was dependent on Miller, and the future of such legislation in the context of Heller is yet to be determined.
Other areas 
- Fletcher v. Peck, 10 U.S. 87 (1810) For the first time the Court struck down a State law as unconstitutional. A State legislature (in this case, Georgia) can repeal a previous, corruptly made law (in this case, a land grant), but not void valid contracts made under this law.
- Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518 (1819) extended contract rights to corporations and established the differences between public and private corporations.
- Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2 (1866), Trying citizens in military courts is unconstitutional when civilian courts are still operating. Trial by military tribunal is constitutional only when there is no power left but the military, and the military may validly try criminals only as long as is absolutely necessary.
- Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873) The Fourteenth Amendment protects only the "privileges or immunities" conferred by virtue of the federal United States citizenship to all individuals of all states within it, but not those privileges or immunities incident to citizenship of a state.
- The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677 (1900) Ruled that federal courts could look to customary international law because it is an integrated part of American law.
- Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905), asserted that the "right to free contract" or "liberty of contract" is implicit in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936) A defendant's confession that is extracted by police violence cannot be entered as evidence and violates the Due Process Clause.
- United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304 (1936), While the Constitution does not explicitly say that all ability to conduct foreign policy is vested in the President, it is nonetheless given implicitly and by the fact that the executive, by its very nature, is empowered to conduct foreign affairs in a way that Congress cannot and should not. The President has "plenary" powers in the foreign affairs field that is not dependent upon congressional delegation.
- Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1937) A proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution is considered pending before the states indefinitely unless Congress establishes a deadline by which the states must act. Further, Congress—not the courts—is responsible for deciding whether an amendment has been validly ratified.
- Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938) Federal courts do not have the power to create general federal common law when hearing state law claims under diversity jurisdiction (led to the development of the Erie doctrine).
- Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957), The U.S. Constitution supersedes all treaties ratified by the United States Senate.
- Williams v. Lee, 358 U.S. 217 (1959) State courts do not have jurisdiction on Indian reservations without Congressional authorization, to allow state infringement undermines tribal sovereignty.
- Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962) The reapportionment of state legislative districts is not a political question, and is justiciable by the federal courts.
- Reynolds v. Sims, 337 U.S. 533 (1964) A complimentary case on Baker v. Carr, which stated that districts must be of as equal population as mathematically possible, so as to ensure equal protection. This case also applied to districts in the federal House of Representatives.
- Menominee Tribe v. United States, 391 U.S. 404 (1968) Native American treaty rights are not abrogated without a clear and unequivocal statement by Congress and that statutes and treaties are to be construed liberally in favor of the tribe.
- Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970) Entitlement programs such as welfare conferred property rights on recipients, and their termination required procedural due process.
- San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973) use of property tax as means to finance public education does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- Oneida Indian Nation of New York v. County of Oneida, 414 U.S. 661 (1974) there is federal subject-matter jurisdiction for possessory land claims brought by Indian tribes based upon aboriginal title, the Nonintercourse Act, and Indian treaties.
- Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976) Established test for deciding what process is due when procedural due process applies that balances (1) the government's interests, (2) the individual's interest, and (3) the likelihood of making an inaccurate decision using the existing procedures and probable value of additional procedural safeguards.
- Nixon v. General Services Administration, 433 U.S. 425 (1977) Congress has the power to pass an act directing the seizure and disposition, within the control of the Executive Branch, of the papers and tapes of a former president.
- Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), a government agency's interpretation of its own mandate from Congress is entitled to judicial deference if the authority is ambiguous and the agency's interpretation is reasonable.
- Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984), making of individual copies of complete television shows for purposes of time-shifting does not constitute copyright infringement, but is fair use.
- Selle v. Gibb, 741 U.S. 896 (1984), the doctrine of striking similarities is not enough in the absence of proof of access. Evidence of access must extend beyond mere speculation.
- Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, 499 U.S. 340 (1991), originality, not sweat of the brow, is the touchstone of copyright protection.
- Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993) expert evidence must be generally accepted in the scientific community (Daubert standard).
- Nobleman v. American Savings Bank, 508 U.S. 324 (1993) disallowed the use of cram downs for primary residences.
- Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371 (1998), rejected jurisdiction of International Court of Justice in a capital punishment case dealing with a citizen of Paraguay.
- Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), ended the recount of ballots in Florida in the 2000 presidential election as violative of the Equal Protection Clause, effectively resolving the election in favor of George W. Bush.
- Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004), 542 U.S. 466 The U.S. court system has the authority to decide whether foreign nationals (non-U.S. citizens) held in Guantanamo Bay were wrongfully imprisoned.
- Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), upheld power of a local government to seize property for economic development purposes.
- Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), Military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay are illegal and lack the protections required under the Geneva Conventions and United States Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), foreign terrorism suspects have constitutional rights to challenge their detention at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in United States courts.
- Cuomo v. Clearing House Association, 557 U.S. 08-453 (2009), states can enforce their own laws and regulations against national banks and financial institutions.