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Supreme Court Developments
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Click on a date to learn more about Supreme Court developments during a specific time period.
1787 1794 1810 1833 1857 1866 1874 1883 1896 1910 1918 1930 1935 1941 1954 1963 1966 1973 1981 1989 1995 2000 2005
Marshall's Federalism
Fletcher v. Peck marks the first time the Supreme Court holds a state law unconstitutional. In voiding an act by the Georgia legislature repealing a corrupt land grant made by a previous state legislature, the Court rules that Georgia has violated the Contract Clause of the Constitution.

President James Madison appoints Joseph Story to the Court. Story, only 32 at the time, remains the youngest justice ever to have served on the Court.

In Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, the Court reasserts its power to review and overturn state court decisions touching on federal questions. The decision, written by Joseph Story, issues a strong rebuke to the high court of Virginia, which, in seeking to ignore an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision, had claimed that its decisions were not constitutionally subject to federal review.

The Court rules in McCulloch v. Maryland that, under the implied powers doctrine, Congress has the constitutional authority to charter a national bank, and strikes a Maryland law imposing a state tax on all branches of the bank located within the state.

In Dartmouth College v. Woodward, the Court rules that the Contract Clause of the Constitution protects the corporate charter granted to Dartmouth from interference by New Hampshire's Republican-controlled state legislature.

An illustration of Georgia State Senator James Jackson destroying records.
An illustration of Georgia State Senator James Jackson destroying records connecting him to the corrupt Yazoo land sale. In 1810, the Court ruled that Georgia did not have the constitutional authority to revoke the sale.

Reproduction courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society
In a victory for proponents of a strong national government, the Court invalidates a New York law that had granted an exclusive license for steam navigation in interstate waters between New York and New Jersey. The decision in Gibbons v. Ogden defines congressional powers in broad terms, leaving no doubt about the meaning of the Supremacy Clause of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

In Worcester v. Georgia (one of the two Cherokee cases), the Court rules that Native American tribes are "dependent domestic nations" that maintain the legal right to all land they do not voluntarily cede to the United States. In defiance of the decision and in violation of numerous treaties between the federal government and various Indian nations, President Andrew Jackson sends troops to remove Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw tribes from their lands. This removal leads to death of many Cherokee in what became known as the "Trail of Tears."

President Andrew Jackson vetoes legislation to recharter the Second Bank of the United States, claiming the bank is unconstitutional. In his Veto Message, Jackson claims that even though the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of the bank, as president he retains an executive right to veto the bill on constitutional grounds.