How Much Do You Know About These Supreme Court Cases?


By: Marie Hullett

7 Min Quiz

Image: Caiaimage/Chris Ryan/OJO+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

"A person's sex bears no necessary relationship to ability," Ruth Bader Ginsburg told justices in the famous 1973 court case, Frontiero v. Richardson. Her client, Sharron Frontiero, won the landmark case 8-1, which helped pave the way toward gender equality in the workplace. Thanks to the trailblazing efforts of others like Ginsburg, many key cases have set the precedent for greater equality and justice in courtrooms across the nation. Of course, other outcomes were not so well-received, especially now that Americans have the benefit of hindsight. 

From the noble to the hugely oppressive to the just plain bizarre, there are a number of historical Supreme Court cases to know about. Due to these cases, you can now attend school with other races, burn an American flag, and marry whomever you want, for starters. 

The following quiz covers dozens of notable Supreme Court cases that have taken place anywhere from 1803 to 2018. Whether you're an aspiring lawyer or have never cracked open a law book, test your knowledge of these formative cases with the following quiz! 

Which court case legalized gay marriage across all 50 states?

In a 5-4 decision in 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges helped legalize gay marriage across all 50 states. The case determined that same-sex couples possess a fundamental right to marry guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Love is love!


In a 9-0 decision, what was the outcome of the Loving v. Virginia case of 1967?

Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Loving, a black woman, were sentenced to a year in prison for getting married. The Supreme Court's decision then deemed the state's prohibition unconstitutional, which effectively legalized interracial marriage across the nation.


If you ever get arrested, the police officer must inform you of your constitutional right to an attorney. Which landmark case do you have to thank for this?

In 1966, Miranda v. Arizona ruled that detained persons must be informed of their right to an attorney and against self-incrimination. After Phoenix resident Ernesto Miranda was coerced into confessing to charges of rape, kidnapping and robbery and sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison, he appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the prosecution could not use Miranda's confession as evidence because they failed to inform him of his rights.


Which court case set the precedent for the actual malice standard?

In one of the most famous cases supporting press freedom in the U.S., New York Times Co. v. Sullivan established the need for actual malice in libel cases. Thus, when a public person files a libel suit, they must prove that the publication intended actual malice. This 1964 decision helped publications report more freely on civil rights cases.


The Supreme Court settled a dispute about presidential election results through __________.

Most people recall the fiasco that unfolded in the aftermath of Florida's 2000 presidential election. The case stopped the recount that was happening in the state on the grounds that there wasn't sufficient time to complete it and that there was no suitable alternative method.


Who was Dred Scott?

In 1857, Dred Scott, an enslaved African American man, tried to sue to obtain his freedom when his owners took him to free states and areas of the U.S. The court shot down his case 7-2. The move enraged anti-slavery proponents in the North, which in part helped spur the American Civil War.


In 1819, a landmark case helped define the extent of the United States' legislative powers. What was it?

After the state of Maryland attempted to halt operation of a branch of the Second Bank of the United States by imposing a tax on bank notes created outside Maryland, cashier James W. McCulloch refused to pay it. The court found Maryland's tax to be unconstitutional on the grounds that the federal government has supreme power over individual state's governing abilities.


Which of the following 2018 Supreme Court cases involved gay rights?

In a decision of 7-2, the court ruled in favor of a baker from Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds. Although the Colorado Court of Appeals found the bakery's actions to be discrimination based on sexual orientation, which was a violation of state law, the Supreme Court reversed the decision. The court said that the state violated the baker's rights as extended by the Free Exercise Clause.


In 1892, an African American man refused to sit in a train car designated for black people. Which case did this incident propel?

Homer Plessy argued that his constitutional rights were violated, but the Supreme Court ruled against him. The ruling set the precedent for Jim Crow legislation and "separate-but-equal" policies to become even more rampant.


In 1978, a landmark case helped uphold affirmative action in college admissions, but barred specific racial quotas. What was it?

After Allan P. Bakke, a white man, was denied admission to University of California, Davis' medical school twice, he filed suit in state court. The California Supreme Court ruled that the school's minority program violated the rights of white applicants and ordered Bakke's admittance, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld. The court condoned affirmative action for minority groups but said that specific racial quotas like UC's were not allowed.


What was the result of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka?

In 1954, justices unanimously found racial segregation of public school children to be unconstitutional. Today, this case is considered to have played a key role in the civil rights movement and the abolition of "separate-but-equal" policy.


If you get arrested for a crime, the state you live in is obliged to provide you an attorney in the event that you can't afford one. Which case set this precedent?

In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon was accused of robbing a poolroom, charged, and sentenced to five years in prison, all based on one witness accusation. Gideon was forced to represent himself in court because he couldn't afford a lawyer. In prison, Gideon appealed the decision on the grounds that it violated his right to counsel. With support of a lawyer newly appointed by the court, Gideon won the case unanimously in 1963.


Which case invalidated sodomy laws throughout the U.S.?

In 1998, after two Texas men were charged with a misdemeanor for having sexual intercourse in their apartment, they appealed the decision to the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals. The court found the sodomy law unconstitutional, but then overturned the judgment. The men's legal team filed a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, which found that the Texas statute and those like it were unconstitutional.


Which of the following Supreme Court cases was most integral to constitutional law as we know it?

Marbury v. Madison helped found the concept of judicial review in the U.S., which means that the courts can take down laws and regulations that conflict with the U.S. Constitution. The decision effectively ingrained the U.S. Constitution as a list of laws rather than ideals.


In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that women have a constitutional right to an abortion during the first two trimesters. What was this case called?

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause applied to a woman's right to an abortion. The case is considered a landmark decision in abortion rights.


What year did Roe v. Wade take place?

Roe v. Wade took place in 1973. Since then, there have been at least seven prominent Supreme Court cases involving abortion rights, including Gonzales v. Carhart and Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.


One of the following cases is fundamental to "the right to bear arms." Which is it?

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment safeguard's an individual's right to bear arms for purposes like self-defense in the home. Police officer Dick Anthony Heller brought the case forward due to Washington D.C.'s prohibition of handguns.


Today, political campaign spending by organizations is less regulated than before in part due to which case?

This 2010 Supreme Court case found that political spending by organizations like corporations, labor unions and associations to be a form of First Amendment protected speech. This decision remains very controversial.


Which case found that state and municipal courts don't need federal approval to alter voting laws?

In Shelby County v. Holder, the court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required specific states and local governments to attain federal clearance prior to the implementation of new voting laws. The court found the law to be unconstitutional because it was based on outdated data.


Which court case ruled that Executive Order 9066, which placed Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II, was constitutional?

In this devastating case, the court sided with the government 6-3. The Supreme Court ruled that Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese Americans into internment camps regardless of citizenship, was constitutional. Fred Korematsu, an American of Japanese descent who refused to go to the camp, is now remembered as a civil rights hero.


In 2018, a Supreme Court justice renounced Korematsu v. United States during which major case?

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld what became widely known as Trump's "travel ban," which restricted travel to the U.S. by people from several majority-Muslim nations. Hawaii was among the states that challenged it on the grounds that it was anti-Muslim and therefore unconstitutional. During the case, Justice Sonia Maria Sotomayor called Trump v. Hawaii "gravely wrong" and said that it "redeploys the same dangerous logic" as Korematsu v. United States.


Today, most Americans are legally obliged to maintain basic health insurance in part due to which case?

In 2012, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius upheld the power of Congress to enact the majority of the Affordable are Act and other acts that required all Americans to possess health insurance by 2014. In a vote of 5-4, the court ruled that the move validated Congress' constitutional right to taxation.


When did Shelby County v. Holder take place?

Shelby County v. Holder took place in 2013. The move has been viewed as highly controversial, in part because critics say that it makes it easier for local governments to engage in voter suppression unchecked.


Which 1886 case ruled that non-citizens posses the right to due process?

In 1866, the court ruled that immigrants like Yick Wo have the same right to due process as citizens under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. After Wo was arrested for running a laundry facility in a wooden building, he sued for a writ of habeas corpus.


You already know what happened in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. But what happened in Brown v. Board II?

Although Brown v. Board of Education made racial segregation illegal in schools, many all-white schools in the U.S. were slow to implement the new policy. In Brown v. Board of Education II, the court ordered the schools to hurry up. It also outlined specific rules for desegregation.


Which of these cases were influential to the original Brown v. Board of Education decision?

In 1950, Herman Marion Sweatt, a black man, was denied entry to the University of Texas' School of Law because the Texas State Constitution barred racial integration in schools. Sweatt's case eventually arrived at the Supreme Court, which ruled that Sweatt couldn't attend the state's all-black school on "separate but equal" grounds because the school wasn't equal; it lacked resources, professors, etc. This case played a key role in Brown v. Board of Education.


If you burn an American flag, it can be considered protected speech under the First Amendment. Which case set this precedent?

In 1989, the court ruled 5-4 that Gregory Lee "Joey" Johnson's burning of the U.S. flag constituted expressive conduct as protected by the First Amendment. This decision effectively reversed 48 state laws that banned the desecration of the American flag.


In 1948, the Supreme Court found that the Equal Protection clause prohibits racially discriminatory housing covenants. Which case was this?

When an African-American family, the Shelleys, tried to purchase a home in St. Louis, MO, in 1945, they found that a 1911 covenant barred "people of the Negro or Mongolian Race" from living there. When a neighbor, Louis Kraemer, sued to prevent them from buying it, the court ruled in favor of the Shelleys.


Today, if law enforcement officials engage in an "unreasonable" search of your home, any evidence they collect cannot be used in state law criminal prosecutions. Which case set this precedent?

In 1957, police arrested Dollree Mapp in response to evidence collected from forcing open her door based on an anonymous tip. In Mapp v. Ohio, the court found in a 6-3 ruling that the evidence was obtained in violation of her rights, through "unreasonable search and seizure": a violation of the Fourth Amendment.


Which Supreme Court case ruled that the government can legally transfer privately-owned land to another private owner if it leads to economic development?

In 2005, the Supreme Court found that the benefits that a community experienced from private land redevelopment qualified as valid "public use" of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. In a 5-4 ruling, the court ruled that the City of New London could redevelop a plot of abandoned land owned by two locals.


In 1965, public school students were suspended for wearing black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War. Which First Amendment-centric case came forth because of this?

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that First Amendment rights should extend to students in public schools. If a school wanted to impede free speech, the court ruled that the school must demonstrate that the specific speech "substantially interferes" with school operations.


Which case ruled that the First Amendment does not protect obscene material?

Samuel Roth, who owned a literary publication business, was convicted in 1957 for selling and advertising the publication "American Aphrodite," which contained erotica and nude photographs. The court affirmed the decision and defined obscenity as what "the average person, applying contemporary community standards," would find obscene.


Thanks to __________, the sitting president cannot use executive privilege to withhold relevant evidence in a criminal trial.

In a resounding 8-0 ruling against President Richard Nixon, the court ruled that the president could not use executive privileges to withhold evidence during the Watergate scandal of 1974. Of course, you know what happened next.


In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that it's unconstitutional for state officials to encourage students to recite an official school prayer. Which case was this?

After the New York State Board of Regents approved a voluntary prayer for the start of each school day, several families challenged the move on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. Jewish man Steven I. Engel alleged that the prayer violated his religious beliefs. In a 6-1 decision, the court found the prayer to be unconstitutional.


Which 1965 case found that a state ban on contraceptive use violated the right to marital privacy?

In a 7-2 decision, the court found that the state of Connecticut's prohibition of contraceptive use violated marital privacy. Though the Bill of Rights doesn't use the word "privacy" explicitly, the court said that the right is implied in other “emanations” of constitutional protections.


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