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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
Revisiting Precedents
In Texas v. Johnson, a narrow 5-4 majority holds that burning the American flag is a form of "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice William Brennan states, "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." The defendant, Gregory Lee Johnson, had set fire to a flag outside the Dallas County Courthouse as a means of protesting Reagan administration policies.

A narrow 5-4 majority holds that the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process does not permit the parents of an incapacitated woman to refuse life-sustaining treatment for her. The decision in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health states that although the Fourteenth Amendment does normally allow citizens to reject life-support systems, the right does not extend to persons who have been incapacitated and are therefore not competent to make such a decision.

Photo of a pro-choice protester.
In 1992, the Supreme Court revisited its landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. The decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood upheld the earlier precedent but allowed restrictions on abortion as long as they did not place an "undue burden" on a woman's right to access the procedure.

Reproduction courtesy of TIME-LIFE images
The Twenty-seventh Amendment is enacted, banning Congressional pay raises from going into effect until after the next election. James Madison had first proposed this amendment in 1789, at which time it had been ratified by some states -- though not enough for enactment. The amendment then lay dormant until 1982, when public outcry over a large congressional salary boost prompted a graduate student at the University of Texas to spearhead a campaign to revive the ratification process. By the time Michigan becomes the final state to ratify the amendment in 1992, more than 200 years have passed since the first states had signed on.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court upholds a woman's right to an abortion but devises a new legal standard to test whether a state restriction on that right is constitutional. The decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood holds that states may restrict access to abortion as long as the restriction does not impose an "undue burden" -- defined as a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability" -- on a woman seeking to end her pregnancy. Applying the test, the Court strikes a Pennsylvania provision that requires a wife to notify her husband prior to obtaining an abortion, but upholds a 24-hour waiting period as well as a requirement that minors obtain parental permission to have an abortion.