Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Where health care ranks among biggest Supreme Court decisions

The Supreme Court’s divided decision on health care reform might take years to evaluate. As the case is probably far from done when it comes to legal actions, where does it stand in historic terms?

Supreme_Court_of_the_United_StatesOfficially, the case is known as National Federation Of Independent Business v. Sebelius, and it upheld most of President Barack Obama’s health care agenda, with the exception of some Medicaid provisions.

The health care decision could have far-reaching social and economic effects for years, and it will enter the short list of decisions known by most Americans, by a few words, such as Miranda, Dred Scott, Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore.

As a yardstick, here is a short list what many experts consider as landmark court decisions. Some of these cases are still be contested today, which bodes as a sign for the health care case.

To be sure, there are many other decisions that were very important, but a handful of decisions are usually mentioned in any discussions of landmark cases.

Note that two of these 15 landmark cases were reversed over time: one by the amendment process, the other by the Supreme Court.

Marbury v. Madison (1803) The mother of all landmark Supreme Court decisions, it established the court’s ability to overrule acts of Congress that were in conflict with the Constitution.

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819). The court decided the federal government can use any means the Constitution doesn’t forbid, and state governments can’t block the actions of the federal government.

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857). The decision that drove the nation closer to Civil War. The court decided blacks couldn’t be U.S. citizens and had no standing to sue in federal courts. Two amendments overturned this decision after the war.

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The case established segregation as legal under the concept of separate but equal facilities. It was overturned in the 1950s.

Korematsu v. United States (1943). The ruling upheld the American policy of holding Japanese-Americans in interment camps.

Brown v. Board of Education (1954-1955), The court found segregated schools were unconstitutional in violation of the 14th Amendment. It also rejected the “separate but equal” doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Gideon v. Wainwright (1963). The ruling found that defendants without money must be provided representation without charge.

Miranda v. Arizona (1966). The court said police must advise criminal suspects of their rights to remain silent, to have a lawyer and to have one appointed if a suspect can’t afford an attorney.

Roe v. Wade (1973). The decision struck down some laws restricting abortion, especially in the early parts of pregnancy. The decision has been revised in other challenges but not repealed.

Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke (1978). The court decided race could be used as a factor in college admissions but quotas based on race weren’t allowed.

Texas v. Johnson (1989). The court ruled that offensive acts such as flag burning are protected by the First Amendment as freedom of speech.

Bush v. Gore (2000). The decision stopped the recount of presidential election ballots in Florida, settling the 2000 election.

Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The court found state laws unconstitutional laws that penalize adults who engage in consensual same-sex acts.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). The court allowed corporations and unions to spend on certain political campaigns without limits under the First Amendment.

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