5 top landmark Supreme Court cases


The US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.



The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments this week in perhaps the most important appeals to reach the court in over a decade. Over three days and six hours, it is reviewing massive health care reform legislation backed by the Obama administration.

At stake is whether all Americans will be required to buy health insurance or whether the government can require its purchase. A decision is expected in late June, just months before the 2012 presidential election.

Here is a look at five other landmark Supreme Court cases over the years:

1. Marbury v. Madison (1803) - Often called the most important case in Supreme Court history. It established the Supreme Court's role in determining the constitutionality of laws and executive actions, and as the ultimate arbiter of the US Constitution.

2. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)-  Established the notion of a right to privacy under the Ninth Amendment. The Court ruled that a state's ban on the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. This fundamental case served as a precedent on abortion rights (Roe v. Wade) and homosexual rights (Lawrence v. Texas).

3. Brown v. Board of Education (1953) - Unanimously held that racial segregation of children in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision spearheaded desegregation in American public education in the US and helped lay the seeds for the civil rights movement.

4. New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) - Established what is considered today "freedom of the press" under the First Amendment. Ruled that public officials could not recover libel damages unless they could prove “actual malice" in false and damaging statements.

5. Miranda v. Arizona (1966) - Ruled that detained criminal suspects, prior to police questioning, must be informed of their constitutional right to an attorney and protected against self-incrimination.

Other key cases: Plessy v. Ferguson, Gideon v. Wainwright, United States v. Nixon, Roe v. Wade