Government Documents, perhaps the stodgiest, driest and dustiest collection in the library, but arguably the most important to a democratic society, is perhaps benefitting the most from adjustments due to the pandemic. Access to oral arguments at the Federal Supreme Court has been at a premium. Multitudes want to be present at the proceedings, but seating has always been extremely limited, and television has never been allowed, nor any other form of photographic presentation of the events. But, did you know you can listen to the recordings of the proceedings?
While television still has not breached the threshold, the nation’s legal sanctorum has finally shown signs of advancing into the twenty-first century. The Court’s website provides live-streaming of the arguments heard in the current term plus audio recordings of their previous arguments beginning with the October 2010 term. You can also download the Supreme Court’s recordings. To do so you will need RealPlayer software or Windows Media Player. Get Windows Media Player for: Windows or Mac. Mac users also can use Windows Media Components for QuickTime.
Still, more than 225 years of Supreme Court decisions and more than 35,000 cases that were published in the printed bound editions of United States Reports dating to the court’s first decision in 1791 and earlier courts that preceded the Supreme Court, are also online. Here are some landmark cases with which you may already be familiar:
Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803)
Marbury v. Madison establishes the right of Supreme Court to ensure that acts passed by Congress are constitutional.
The Court’s decision affirms that the first amendment ensures a free press, therefore a state cannot stop a person from publishing or expressing a thought.
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
After hearing four appeals, the justices of the Court unanimously decide that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional, marking the beginning of the end of separate but equal laws era that started with a previous Supreme Court case, Plessy v Ferguson.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)
The Court rules that the guilty verdict against Ernesto Miranda be struck down on grounds that he was not informed of his 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination. As a result, Miranda Rights are given to all US citizens before they are arrested.
Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969)
The Court concludes that school dress codes do not violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of expression.
United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974)
The Court unanimously rejects President Richard Nixon’s plea for unqualified immunity, deciding it is an unconstitutional abuse of power. President Nixon sought unqualified immunity rather than relinquishing the famous White House tapes during the Watergate scandal.
Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)
The Court determines the Constitution protects desecration of the flag as a form of symbolic speech.
Want to find more information related to the Supreme Court? Here are a few books to get you started:
In the tradition of Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History of the United States, Peter Irons looks at the US Supreme Court from the perspective of the people whose legal grievances led to landmark decisions. He takes a sample of 85 cases ranging from the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to recent rulings on free speech, racial segregation, abortion, and gay rights, setting them in the social, economic, and cultural context of the time.
A definitive history of the U.S. Supreme Court detailing the evolution of the Court from the early days to the present, offering profiles of the justices, the Court’s years under each Chief Justice, demonstrating how the justices have shaped the law, and how the Court has shaped our nation.
Legal scholar Melvin L. Urofsky examines the history of the Court from the perspective of its dissenting opinions. Urofsky analyzes the historical context at the time of the decisions and later, when the dissenting opinions held sway and formed the basis for later judgment in the opposite direction.
The only reference guide to Supreme Court cases organized both topically and chronologically within chapters so that readers understand how cases fit into a historical context, the 17th edition has been updated with 20 new cases, including landmark decisions on such topics as campaign finance, Obamacare, gay marriage, and the First Amendment.
Just in time for the 2008 presidential election—where the future of the Court will be at stake—Toobin reveals an institution at a moment of transition. Drawing on exclusive interviews with the Supreme Court justices and other insiders, a behind-the-scenes look at the powerful, often secretive world of the Supreme Court offers profiles of each justice and how their individual styles affect the way in which they wield their power and discusses how the Court operates, the recent appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and the Court’s influence on American life.
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