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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
Expanding Constitutional Rights
In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Court holds that states must provide an attorney for any defendant who cannot afford one. The requirement has been in place for federal courts since 1938.

The process of urbanization has left rural districts in many states wielding disproportionate political power. In Reynolds v. Sims, the Court holds all districts within state legislative bodies must be apportioned to accurately reflect the basic democratic principle of "one person, one vote" -- i.e, they must represent roughly the same number of voters. The decision prompts the reapportionment of numerous state legislatures.

The Twenty-fourth Amendment prohibits poll taxes, making it illegal to charge any voter for the right to vote in federal elections. In 1966, the Court extends the ban to states with its decision in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections.

The Court recognizes for the first time a general right to privacy in the case Griswold v. Connecticut. The landmark case overturns a Connecticut law prohibiting married couples from purchasing contraceptives. Citing provisions in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth amendments, the decision states that despite the Constitution's lack of explicit provision of this right, the framers intended for citizens to enjoy a "zone of privacy."

A mugshot photo of Clarence Earl Gideon.
A mugshot of Clarence Earl Gideon, whose wrongful conviction led to a landmark Supreme Court decision. In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Court held that states must provide a free attorney to all indigent criminal defendants.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment clarifies the rules of succession for the presidency: if the office of vice president is vacated mid-term, the president will appoint a new vice president, subject to a vote of approval in both houses of Congress. The amendment also clarifies what will happen in the event of the death, resignation, or temporary incapacity of the president -- he or she will notify Congress if he or she needs to temporarily cede power to the vice president, as in the case of serious illness.