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Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decisions: A Book List


Last week, the United States Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

In 1996 DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes such as Social Security survivors' benefits, insurance benefits, immigration and tax filing.

Section 3 of the law defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and a spouse as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

This decision means that legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as married opposite sex couples. To celebrate this victory I compiled a list of books about other landmark United States Supreme Court decisions.

The Supreme Court Chamber, Digital ID 96345, New York Public LibraryThe Supreme Court Chamber, Digital ID 96345, New York Public Library

Brown v. Mississippi (1936)

A defendant's confession that is extracted by police violence cannot be entered as evidence and violates the Due Process Clause.

A "Scottsboro" Case in Mississippi: The Supreme Court and Brown v. Mississippi by Richard C. Cortner

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Declared state laws establishing separate schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation insofar as it applied to public education.

The Unfinished Agenda of Brown v. Board of Education

Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy by James T. Patterson

Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required under the Fourteenth Amendment to provide counsel in criminal cases to represent defendants who are unable to afford to pay their own attorneys, extending the identical requirement imposed on federal courts under the Sixth Amendment.

Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People's Justice by Karen Houppert

Miranda v. Arizona (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.

Miranda: The Story of America's Right to Remain Silent by Gary L. Stuart

Roe v. Wade (1973)

Struck down abortion laws restricting induced abortion prior to viability as unconstitutional, prohibiting most restrictions in the first trimester and permitting only health-related restrictions in the second.

Roe v. Wade: The Untold Story of the Landmark Supreme Court That Made Abortion Legal by Marian Faux

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (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.

A Right to Discriminate? How the Case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale Warped the Law of Free Association by Andrew Koppelman

Bush v. Gore (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.

A Badly Flawed Election: Debating Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court, and American Democracy

Lawrence v. Texas (2003)

The Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in thirteen other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory. The Court overturned its previous ruling on the same issue in the 1986 case Bowers v. Hardwick, where it upheld a challenged Georgia statute and did not find a constitutional protection of sexual privacy.

Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas: How A Bedroom Arrest Decriminalized Gay Americans by Dale Carpenter

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (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.

The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight over Presidential Power by Jonathan Mahler


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