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Supreme Court Cases Practice Quiz
Multiple Choice: Choose the name of the Supreme Court Case that is described by each of the
"Great Cases" below.
1. During World War I, an anti-war protestor produced and distributed a pamphlet maintaining
that the military draft was illegal, and was convicted under the Espionage Act of attempting to
cause insubordination in the military and to obstruct recruiting. He and his attorney maintained
in their argument before the Supreme Court that, under the First Amendment, he had the right
to this freedom of speech. The Court’s ruling, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, rejected
the argument that the pamphlet was protected by First Amendment guarantees of freedom of
speech, and stated that speech may be suppressed by the government if it creates a clear and
present danger to the people of the U.S.
A. Brandenburg v. Ohio, 1969
B. Escobedo v. Illinois, 1964
C. Holmes v. Warren, 1945
D. U.S. v. Nixon, 1974
E. Schenck v. United States, 1919
2. A man was arrested in connection with a murder and brought to the police station. He
repeatedly asked to see his lawyer, but was never allowed out of the interrogation room. His
lawyer even went so far as to come to the police station in search of him, but was denied
access. The accused then confessed while under interrogation to firing the shot that killed the
victim. As a result, he was soon convicted. He and his attorney appealed to the Supreme Court
and it overturned the conviction. The Court ruled that “when a suspect has been taken into
custody...the suspect has requested...his lawyer, and the police have not... warned him of his
right to remain silent, the accused has been denied...counsel in violation of the Sixth
A. Escobedo v. Illinois, 1964
B. Engle v. Vitale, 1962
C. Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963
D. Reynolds v. Sims, 1964
E. Miranda v. Arizona, 1966
3. A resident of the state of Louisiana who was 1/8th black challenged that state’s “Jim Crow”
law requiring blacks and whites to ride in separate coaches on trains (this was a “test case”
challenging all such laws). In order to do this, he got himself arrested on purpose by refusing to
give up his seat in a first class “whites only” railroad coach. At the Supreme Court hearing, his
attorney argued that the 14th Amendment guaranteed equal protection and due process under
the law. The Court ruled that segregation under state law was constitutional as long as public
facilities provided for blacks and whites were “equal,” and that any discrimination existed only in
the mind of the black community. This ruling established the precedent of “separate but equal”
that protected states’ segregation laws for the next 60 years.
A. Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 1997
B. Barron v. Baltimore
C. Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 1988
D. Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
E. Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1857
4. First Supreme Court decision to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional; it established
the Court’s power of “judicial review.” A president’s last-minute appointment of a political
supporter as a federal judge was rejected by the newly-elected president, when the papers
arrived after his inaugural. The appointee then sued to get his judgeship, to force the Secretary
of State to give him his job. The power to force a president to give such commissions was
granted by the Judiciary Act of 1789, part of which was declared unconstitutional by the
Supreme Court; the appointee did not end up getting his federal judgeship.
A. Barron v. Baltimore, 1833
B. Marbury v. Madison, 1803
C. Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824
D. Fletcher v. Peck, 1810
E. McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819
5. A slave from Missouri sued for his freedom, arguing that since his master traveled with him to
“free” territories (in the old Northwest Territories where slavery was banned), he should have
been released. The Supreme Court ruled that blacks, whether free or slave, could not become
citizens because they were not considered citizens by Constitution; that Missouri Compromise’s
ban against slavery in newly-gained territories was unconstitutional; and that slavery was a
matter of state law and could not be protected or banned by either the Congress or the
A. Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1857
B. Schenck v. United States, 1919
C. Barron v. Baltimore, 1833
D. Weeks v. United States, 1914
E. Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
6. A drifter from Missouri was charged in Florida with breaking into a pool hall and stealing a
small amount of cash and beverages. Denied a court-appointed attorney during his trial, he was
convicted of felony burglary and sentenced to five years in prison. He wrote his own appeal to
the Florida Supreme Court and later the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the trial court's
refusal to appoint legal counsel for him denied him rights "guaranteed by the Constitution and
the Bill of Rights.” The Court agreed with the prisoner’s attorney’s statement that “the right to
counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is
in ours.” He was granted a new trial with a lawyer appointed for him, was found not guilty, and
set free. Since that time, all states’ justice systems have provided attorneys for poor defendants.
A. Stack v. Boyle, 1951
B. Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963
C. Feiner v. New York, 1951
D. Miranda v. Arizona, 1966
E. Denis v. United States, 1951
7. Numerous states had allowed an imbalance in the population of legislative districts to occur,
usually resulting in urban (often ethnic minority) residents being under-represented in Congress
and state legislatures. After hearing the case, the Court ruled that seats in the U.S. House of
Representatives and in both houses of state legislatures must be apportioned on the basis of
“one person, one vote.” In his written opinion for the majority, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:
"The right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic
society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government."
A. Korematsu v. United States, 1944
B. Reynolds v. Sims, 1964
C. Roe v. Wade, 1973
D. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 1978
E. Gideon v. Wainright, 1963
8. Federal laws take priority over state laws in regulating commerce among and between the
states, in this case involving a monopoly granted by the state of New York to a steamship
company. The ruling by the Court established that the Constitution defines federal power to
regulate commerce and no part of such power can be exercised by a state. Finally, the decision
by the Court further established the supremacy of the national government over the states.
A. Marbury v. Madison, 1803
B. Kramer v. Kramer, 1982
C. Munn v. Illinois, 1877
D. United States v. Nixon, 1974
E. Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824
9. This case centered around an American citizen of Japanese ancestry who was arrested and
convicted for not reporting to a re-location center for Americans of Japanese ancestry during
World War II. He and his attorney argued that his civil rights had been violated, that the relocation program was not based on a reasonable fear of sabotage and/or espionage during
wartime – that it was based on discrimination against a particular racial group, and thus was
unconstitutional. The Court’s ruling sustained the legality of the order to re-locate this large
groups of people (including the defendant), stating that the government’s actions were “an
exercise of the power of the government to take steps necessary to prevent espionage and
sabotage in an area threatened by Japanese attack…”
A. Mineta v. Busch, 1942
B. Sulu v. Kirk, 1968
C. Gitlow v. New York, 1925
D. Korematsu v. U.S., 1944
E. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 1978
10. Public schools cannot require students to recite prayers. In New York, the state Board of
Regents had prepared a "non-denominational" prayer for use in the public schools, trying to
avoid anything that might offend one particular religious group or another. But in one school
district a group of parents challenged the prayer as "contrary to the beliefs, religions, or religious
practices of both themselves and their children." The state's highest court upheld the use of the
prayer, on the grounds that state law did not force any student to join in the prayer over a
parent's objections. The parents appealed. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled
against state-sponsored prayers, stating that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
rests upon the belief that "a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and
degrade religion."
A. Wesberry v. Sanders, 1964
B. Reynolds v. Sims, 1964
C. Engel v. Vitale, 1962
D. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg County Schools, 1971
E. Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965
11. A man was arrested and taken directly to the police station. A victim of rape and kidnapping
identified him as the perpetrator. The police then brought the accused into the interrogation
room, questioned him for two hours, and received a signed confession. The police had never
advised him of his right to an attorney or the fact that anything he said could be used against
him in a court of law. The Court ruled that "the defendant's confession was inadmissible
because he was not in any way [informed] of his right to council nor was his privilege against
self-incrimination effectively protected in any other manner." He was granted a new trial, this
time without use of the signed confession, and was again found guilty and sentenced to prison.
A. Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965
B. Katz v. United States, 1967
C. Tinker v. Des Moines, 1969
D. Miranda v. Arizona, 1966
E. Reynolds v. Sims, 1964
12. The Court ruled that the states may regulate privately owned businesses in the interest of
the public. A partner in a Chicago warehouse firm had been found guilty by an Illinois court of
violating the state laws providing for the fixing of maximum charges for storage of grain. He
appealed, contending that the fixing of maximum rates constituted a taking of property without
due process of law. The Supreme Court ruled that government regulations on business
practices were constitutional; that the principle of public regulation of private businesses
involved in serving the public interest was also constitutional.
A. Weeks v. United States, 1914
B. Munn v. Illinois, 1877
C. Feiner v. New York, 1951
D. Near v. Minnesota, 1931
E. Powell v. Alabama, 1932
13. This ruling by the Court allowed a broad interpretation of the Constitution in determining the
federal government’s implied powers. The Chief Justice wrote, “The power to tax involves the
power to destroy,” therefore states are not allowed under the Constitution to destroy the national
government, and therefore they (states) would not be allowed the power to tax a branch of the
Bank of the United States.
A. U.S. v. Nixon, 1974
B. McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819
C. Brown v. Board of Education, 1954
D. Roe v. Wade, 1973
E. Marbury v. Madison, 1803
14. A medical student had twice been rejected by the medical school of his choice, even though
he had a higher grade point average than a number of minority candidates who were admitted.
He sued the university system, claiming “reverse discrimination.” As a result of the decision, he
was admitted to the medical school and eventually graduated. This had a chilling effect on
affirmative action in college admissions programs. Due to the Court’s ruling, race could be one
of the factors considered in choosing a diverse student body in university admissions decisions,
but the use of quotas in such affirmative action programs was not permissible.
A. Cantwell v. Connecticut, 1940
B. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 1978
C. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg County Schools, 1971
D. Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 1989
E. Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health, 1990
15. An elementary student was refused admission to her neighborhood’s “white” elementary
school because the local school district followed rules that segregated the races in different
schools. A “test case” taken on by the NAACP attorneys, they charged that (in this case and ten
others) segregated schools violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The
Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and against the practice of segregating public school
students by race. The justices concluded that “in the field of public education the doctrine of
‘separate but equal’ has no place… separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
A. Engel v. Vitale, 1962
B. Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
C. Ford v. Shevvy, 1906
D. Brown v. board of Education, 1954
E. Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1857
16. This case resulted in legalized abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. The Court’s
decision, based on the right of privacy, struck down dozens of state anti-abortion statutes. It was
based on two cases that of an unmarried woman from Texas, where abortion was illegal unless
the mother's life was at risk, and that of a poor, married mother of three from Georgia, where
state law required permission for an abortion from a panel of doctors and hospital officials.
While establishing the right to an abortion, this decision gave states the right to intervene in the
second and third trimesters of pregnancy to protect the woman and the “potential” life of the
unborn child.
A. Furman v. Georgia, 1972
B. Mapp v. Ohio, 1961
C. Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 1989
D. Roe v. Wade, 1973
E. Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health, 1990