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Court Cases

Abortion and Reproductive Rights

  • Eisenstadt v. Baird

    Court Case | 1965

    While giving a speech on abortion and population control at Boston University in 1967, William Baird displayed and gave a woman contraceptive foam, a form of birth control. For doing this he was...

  • Griswold v. Connecticut

    Court Case | 1965

    In 1961, Estelle Griswold, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, a physician and professor at Yale Medical School and medical director of Planned Parenthood...

  • Roe v. Wade

    Court Case | 1973

    In 1969, Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old divorced waitress living in Texas, became pregnant and sought to get an abortion. Under Texas law, and in most states, abortion was illegal except for the...

  • Doe v. Bolton

    Court Case | 1973

    On April 16, 1970, a group of doctors and social workers sued Arthur Bolton, the attorney general of the state of Georgia, on behalf of a woman using the pseudonym "Jane Doe," claiming that...

  • Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth

    Court Case | 1976

    Following the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which found that a woman's right to terminate her own pregnancy was protected under a constitutional right to privacy...

  • Bellotti v. Baird

    Court Case | 1979

    In 1979, William Baird, a reproductive rights activist who had been victorious before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1972 case Eisenstadt v. Baird, which overturned a Massachusetts state law...

  • Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey

    Court Case | 1992

    In 1982, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Abortion Control Act, which imposed several requirements on women before they could obtain an abortion, including informed consent after hearing...

  • Gonzales v. Carhart

    Court Case | 2007

    In 2003, President George W. Bush (R, 2001–09) signed the Partial Birth Abortion Act, which outlawed certain types of abortions. Four doctors, including Leroy Carhart, believed that the law...

  • Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt

    Court Case | 2016

    In July 2013, Texas governor Rick Perry (R) signed a law imposing some of the strictest regulations on abortion in the country. These regulations included requiring doctors who perform abortions to...

Affirmative Action

  • Griggs v. Duke Power Co.

    Court Case | 1971

    For many years, the Duke Power Company's Dan River plant, a facility located in Draper, North Carolina, had a policy in which African Americans were employed in only one of its five departments...

  • Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody

    Court Case | 1975

    In 1966, Joseph P. Moody and a group of current and former African-American employees of Albemarle Paper Company in North Carolina sued their employer, claiming that they had been discriminated...

  • Hazelwood School District v. United States

    Court Case | 1977

    In 1977, the U.S. government accused the school district of Hazelwood in St. Louis County, Missouri, of engaging in a "pattern or practice" of discrimination against black teachers in...

  • Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

    Court Case | 1978

    Throughout much of American history, discriminatory policies and other obstacles prevented many African Americans and members of other minority groups from entering medical school, law school, and...

  • United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Weber

    Court Case | 1979

    In 1974, the skilled craft workers at the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation were almost exclusively white, especially in the company's southern plants. At the Kaiser plant in Gramercy...

  • Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan

    Court Case | 1982

    Since 1974, Joe Hogan, a registered nurse with a two-year degree, had been working as a nursing supervisor in Columbus, Mississippi. In 1979, he applied to a four-year nursing program at the...

  • Wygant et al. v. Jackson Board of Education et al.

    Court Case | 1986

    In 1972, the board of education in Jackson, Michigan, and the teachers union agreed to a new provision in their collective bargaining agreement. In the Jackson school district, as in most unionized...

  • City of Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co.

    Court Case | 1989

    In April 1983, the city council of Richmond, Virginia, adopted a plan intended to support minority-owned businesses. At the time, 50 percent of Richmond's population was black, but only 0.67...

  • Adarand

    Court Case | 1995

    The Adarand case was one of the longest and most complicated in the history of affirmative action law. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court three times under three different names:...

  • Gratz v. Bollinger

    Court Case | 2003

    In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the admissions program at the University of Michigan rated all applicants on a 150-point scale, with members of underrepresented minority groups—African...

  • Grutter v. Bollinger

    Court Case | 2003

    In 1996, Barbara Grutter, a white woman, applied to the University of Michigan's law school. The school rejected her, but with the help of the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a conservative...

  • Fisher v. University of Texas

    Court Case | 2013

    Fisher v. University of Texas was argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, first in 2013 and again in 2016. The case involved the admissions procedure at the University of Texas, in which...

  • Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

    Court Case | 2014

    On November 7, 2006, voters in Michigan approved a referendum to amend the state constitution to prohibit "all sex- and race-based preferences in public education, public employment, and public...

Animal Rights

  • Texas Beef Group v. Winfrey

    Court Case | 2000

    In the mid-1990s, a mysterious brain ailment called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease killed 10 young people in Britain. In March 1996, the British Ministry of Health linked the illness to a brain...

Capital Punishment

  • Wilkerson v. Utah

    Court Case | 1879

    In Utah Territory in 1877, authorities charged Wallace Wilkerson with murdering William Baxter, a bartender with whom he had been feuding. Wilkerson was convicted and sentenced to death. Under Utah...

  • In re Kemmler

    Court Case | 1890

    In 1889, a court in Buffalo, New York, convicted William Kemmler of murdering his common-law wife with a hatchet and sentenced him to death. Earlier that year, New York had become the first state to...

  • Rooney v. North Dakota

    Court Case | 1905

    In 1903, a court convicted John Rooney of murdering a farm worker in Fargo, North Dakota, and sentenced him to death by hanging. Three weeks earlier, the North Dakota legislature had passed a law...

  • Powell v. Alabama

    Court Case | 1932

    In 1931, Ozie Powell and eight other African-American youths were accused of raping two white women near Scottsboro, Alabama. The "Scottsboro Boys," as they became known, were immediately...

  • Louisiana ex rel.  Francis v. Resweber

    Court Case | 1947

    In 1945, a Louisiana court convicted 16-year-old Willie Francis of murdering a druggist and sentenced him to death by electrocution. As the execution was being carried out a year later, however...

  • Witherspoon v. Illinois

    Court Case | 1968

    In 1960, William G. Witherspoon was convicted of murdering a Chicago police officer and sentenced to death. As was permissible under Illinois law, prosecutors had excluded potential jurors who...

  • Furman v. Georgia

    Court Case | 1972

    In 1965, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), the legal arm of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), launched a campaign to have the death penalty declared...

  • Woodson v. North Carolina

    Court Case | 1976

    In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that state laws that provided juries too much leeway in imposing the death penalty and did not contain specific sentencing standards...

  • Gregg v. Georgia

    Court Case | 1976

    In 1973, Troy Leon Gregg, a 25-year-old Georgia man, killed two men who had picked him up hitchhiking. Gregg was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Gregg claimed that the U.S. Supreme...

  • Coker v. Georgia

    Court Case | 1977

    In 1974, Anthony Coker escaped from a Georgia correctional institution where he was serving consecutive life sentences for murder, rape, and kidnapping. He subsequently raped a woman during an armed...

  • Lockett v. Ohio

    Court Case | 1978

    In 1975, Sandra Lockett participated in planning and carrying out the robbery of a pawn shop in Akron, Ohio, during which the owner was killed. Although Lockett herself had not personally killed the...

  • Caldwell v. Mississippi

    Court Case | 1985

    In 1981, a Mississippi court found Bobby Caldwell guilty of shooting and killing the owner of a grocery store. During the sentencing phase of the trial, his attorney told the jury about Caldwell's...

  • Ford v. Wainwright

    Court Case | 1986

    While robbing a restaurant in 1974, Alvin B. Ford killed a Florida police officer. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death the same year. There was no suggestion of mental incompetence at...

  • Booth v. Maryland

    Court Case | 1987

    In 1983, John Booth was charged with two counts of first-degree murder after he and an accomplice bound, gagged, and stabbed to death an elderly couple in their Baltimore home during a robbery. Booth...

  • McCleskey v. Kemp

    Court Case | 1987

    In 1978, a Georgia court convicted Warren McCleskey, a black man, of killing a white Atlanta police officer during an armed robbery. At the penalty phase of the trial, a jury of 11 white people and...

  • Thompson v. Oklahoma

    Court Case | 1988

    In 1983, 15-year-old William Wayne Thompson of Oklahoma participated in the murder of his brother-in-law. A state law allowed a minor to be tried as an adult if the court found that the circumstances...

  • Penry v. Lynaugh

    Court Case | 1989

    In 1979, Johnny Paul Penry was arrested for the rape and murder of a Texas woman. At a competency hearing before his trial, a clinical psychologist testified that Penry had a cognitive disability and...

  • Payne v. Tennessee

    Court Case | 1991

    In 1988, a Tennessee jury convicted Pervis Tyrone Payne of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in the first degree. During the sentencing phase of...

  • Herrera v. Collins

    Court Case | 1993

    In 1981, Leonel Torres Herrera was arrested for murdering two police officers in Texas. In January 1982, Herrera was convicted of one of the killings and sentenced to death. Seven months later he...

  • Atkins v. Virginia

    Court Case | 2002

    In 1996, Daryl Renard Atkins and an associate kidnapped a man in Virginia and, using a shotgun, forced him to withdraw money from a cash machine before shooting and killing him. Atkins was convicted...

  • Kennedy v. Louisiana

    Court Case | 2008

    In 1998, Patrick Kennedy was convicted of raping his eight-year-old stepdaughter in Louisiana and sentenced to death. Kennedy appealed the sentence, but the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld it. Kennedy...

  • Baze v. Rees

    Court Case | 2008

    In 1992, Ralph Baze killed two law enforcement officers in Kentucky. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. To execute death row inmates, Kentucky used lethal injections in a procedure...

  • Glossip v. Gross

    Court Case | 2015

    In 1998, Richard Glossip, manager of a motel in Oklahoma City, was convicted of ordering the murder of another man and sentenced to death. Protesting his innocence, he argued he had received...

Drugs

  • United States v. Sokolow

    Court Case | 1989

    In 1984, federal drug enforcement agents stopped Andrew Sokolow at the Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii because they believed he showed several characteristics typical of drug smugglers...

  • National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab

    Court Case | 1989

    In 1986, the U.S. Customs Service, a federal agency responsible for monitoring the nation's borders, began requiring applicants for jobs in sensitive positions, such as those involving interdicting...

  • United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative

    Court Case | 2001

    In 1996, California voters approved a referendum called the Compassionate Use Act. Enacted into law, the referendum allowed a patient who obtained a recommendation for medical marijuana from a...

  • Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficente Uniáo do Vegetal

    Court Case | 2006

    In New Mexico, members of the O Centro Espírita Beneficente Uniáo do Vegetal (UDV), a religious sect with origins in the Amazon rainforest, sued the U.S. government to allow them to...

  • Safe Streets Alliance et al v. Alternative Holistic Healing et al

    Court Case | 2016

    In 2015, the Safe Streets Alliance, an anti-marijuana advocacy group, and two plaintiffs who owned land in Pueblo County, Colorado, filed suit against Alternative Holistic Healing, a company that...

Gay Rights

  • Norton v. Macy

    Court Case | 1969

    In 1963, Clifford Norton, a budget analyst at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), was driving his car around Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., an area known to be frequented...

  • Gay Students Organization of the University of New Hampshire et al. v. Bonner

    Court Case | 1974

    In November 1973, the Gay Students Organization (GSO) at the University of New Hampshire sponsored a dance at the school. New Hampshire governor Meldrim Thomson Jr. complained to the university about...

  • Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth

    Court Case | 2000

    In 1995, law student Scott Southworth was attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where student activity fees—funds levied in addition to tuition, room, and board—totaled...

  • Obergefell v. Hodges

    Court Case | 2015

    James Obergefell and John Arthur, a gay couple, had long lived together in Ohio, a state that did not recognize same-sex marriage. In 2013, they traveled to Maryland, a state that did recognize gay...