February 05, 2004

Supreme Court Canon

I'm just a commercial lawyer. I almost never have to think of Constitutional Law, unlike the esteemed Tim Sandefur, who makes his living as a real life Constitutional litigator for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

So it's hard for me to even think of ten Supreme Court opinions, much less the ten that every American ought to read.

But here are the "top five" I would nominate:

1. Wickard v. Filburn. Ordinary people should understand just how radically the Court stretched the commerce clause during the New Deal ("What? You mean I can't grow corn on my own land for my own consumption???"). I remember being outraged at federal overreach when I read this case in law school. I would hope ordinary people would be equally outraged today.

2. Miranda v. Arizona. We all know the warnings from cop shows. We should read the original case to find out where they came from. Then, read the fourth and fifth amendments and decide where the court found the rule.

3. Marbury v. Madison. Why does the Supreme Court get the last word?

4. Roe v. Wade. Most people with an opinion on abortion talk about this case as though they understand what it means. Have they even read it?

5. Dred Scott v. Sandford. When the talking heads were running around three years ago yammering about the Court losing its "legitimacy" in the wake of Bush v. Gore, they evidently had no sense of history. This is arguably the lowest point in the Court's history, and one that gravely undermined the Court's (and much of the early Republic's) legitimacy.

Posted by JohnL at February 5, 2004 09:55 PM
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