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Chisholm v. Georgia

Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793) is one of the first important decisions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, however, is not widely known or studied in constitutional law classes because its main holding, which abrogated state sovereign immunity for suits by citizens of other states, was quickly superseded by the ratification [...]

affordable care act

In King v. Burwell, a divided Court ruled that all tax subsidies granted under the healthcare law are legal. Had the Court ruled otherwise, the sweeping healthcare reform law may have been in jeopardy. The latest ACA lawsuit before the Supreme Court specifically addresses whether regulations promulgated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can extend [...]

Hayburn’s Case: The Issue of Justiciability

Hayburn's case

Although the Judiciary Act of 1789 authorized the creation of the Court, the justices did not consider their first case until 1792. Hayburn's case presented the Court’s first opportunity to decide the justiciability of a legal matter under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which refers to the Court’s authority to adequately resolve a dispute. [...]

confederate license plate

In Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that Texas’ specialty license plate designs constitute government speech. Accordingly, Texas was entitled to refuse to issue a confederate flag license plate featuring the design without running afoul of the First Amendment. As more fully detailed in our preview post, [...]

The Fourteenth Amendment and the Slaughterhouse Cases

slaughterhouse cases

In a 5-4 decision, the majority adopted a narrow construction of the Amendment’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, which limited its application to the rights of United States citizenship rather than that of the states.  In 1869, the Louisiana state legislature passed "An Act to Protect the Health of the City of New Orleans, to Locate [...]

Same-Sex Marriage Affirmed in Obergefell v. Hodges

Obergefell v. Hodges

“The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest,” Justice Kennedy stated from the bench. “These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty [...]

DRED scott decision

The justices also addressed whether a former slave was considered a “citizen” of the United States and, therefore, entitled to file suit in federal court. In 1785, Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia. After being purchased by U.S. Army Surgeon, Dr. John Emerson, Scott lived in the free state of Illinois and the [...]

Separation of Powers Decides Jerusalem Passport Dispute

Jerusalem Passport Dispute

In Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the power to recognize foreign states and governments is exclusive to the President. The 6-3 decision, which rested almost exclusively on the Constitution’s separation of powers, highlights that the justices often disagree over the proper balance of power between Congress and the Executive Branch. In [...]

Gibbons v. Ogden: The Commerce Clause

Commerce Clause

In Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824), the U.S. Supreme Court first held that Congress has the authority to regulate any form of commerce that crosses state lines. The opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Marshall, is considered the most influential regarding the Commerce Clause. The state of New York passed a law granting [...]

Olmstead v. United States and the NSA Privacy Debate

NSA Privacy Debate

The decision in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928) highlights that while technology may change, the arguments about our privacy rights and government overreach do not. The 1928 case addressed whether use of evidence in private telephone conversations intercepted via wiretapping violated the Fourth Amendment. The defendant in the case, Roy Olmstead, was [...]