While outsiders may view law as a stagnant entity that changes slowly over time, enlightened observers take great joy in the realization that law is a liquid creation that is constantly being changed, molded and finessed by dozens of court ruling each and every day. Perhaps no other court in the land has caused more seismic shifts in the law than the Supreme Court. Since its inception, the court has ruled on some of the most important and defining issues of our time and the impact of those rulings is still being felt today. Let’s take a look at just a few of the most famous Supreme Court rulings in history.
While the Supreme Court has been making landmark rulings from day one, perhaps the best known court ruling of all time was Brown v. Board of Education. With this 1954 ruling, and the follow up case a year later, segregation in public schools was put to an end. Of course, the front line battles continued for years afterward, but this ruling was essentially the death knell for any sort of government sanctioned racism in the United States. Critics point to the fact that a ruling of this sort should not have been needed to end what is so obviously a horrendous practice, but sometimes, positive changes in society need to be given a push, and in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the push completely changed the landscape of America.
As controversial as Brown v. Board of Education was at the time, there is a nation wide consensus that the ruling was correct and an important step socially for the country. In the case of 1973’s Roe v. Wade, the battle cries of both sides are still being heard loud and clear. The Roe v. Wade ruling is hailed by some as the most important human rights and woman’s rights ruling since women were given the right to vote, while critics claim is has caused a virtual holocaust of lost lives. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the ruling for so many is that while Brown v. Board of Education caused a decade or two of infighting before people everywhere realized the wisdom of the ruling, Roe v. Wade might be more contentious today than it was in 1973. The ruling has done nothing to help people on both sides to communicate and build an understanding of why the ruling that was made was correct. With the current formula of the Supreme Court leaning to the conservative side, supporters of the Roe v. Wade decision are fearful that the case may be reheard in the near future and that the practice of abortion will be made illegal once again. Regardless of whether that happens or not, the battle over women’s rights is still as passionate today as it was then and it shows no signs of slowing down.
It is impossible to quantify the impact that Supreme Court rulings have made on our daily lives, but we can tune in the next time a major case is being heard to catch a glimpse of what the future holds.