Supreme Court Cases Quiz

Our free Supreme Court cases quiz will test your knowledge on 28 landmark Supreme Court cases. It is important for every government and politics student to be familiar with each of these important Supreme Court cases. These cases involve individual rights, criminal law, federalism, first amendment rights, and more. This Supreme Court quiz will help you review and memorize these important decisions.

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Question 1
Which Supreme Court case held that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional?

A
Dred Scott v. Sandford
B
Brown v. Board of Education
C
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District
D
Plessy v. Ferguson
Question 1 Explanation: 
Brown v. Board of Education was a unanimous ruling issued in 1954. It overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, which had upheld state segregation laws for public facilities under the “separate but equal” doctrine. The Brown v. Board decision concluded that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and the Court held that segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Question 2
Which Supreme Court case defined the First Amendment rights of public school students?

A
Everson v. Board of Education
B
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
C
Abington School District v. Schempp
D
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District
Question 2 Explanation: 
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District was a 7–2 decision issued in 1969. The Tinkers were public school students who wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. School policy disallowed such apparel, but the Supreme Court overturned this policy. The Court held that the First Amendment applies to public schools, and that if the school administration wishes to suppress free speech, they must demonstrate that the speech in question will “materially and substantially interfere” with the operation of the school.
Question 3
Which Supreme Court case reaffirmed that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment, and also redefined the Constitutional test for determining what constitutes obscene material?

A
Hustler Magazine v. Falwell
B
Reynolds v. United States
C
Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire
D
Roth v. United States
Question 3 Explanation: 
Roth v. United States was a 6–3 ruling made in 1957. The Court reaffirmed that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and went on to define obscenity more strictly, working from the metric of the “average person, applying contemporary community standards.”
Question 4
Which Supreme Court case held that the government, through the use of eminent domain, can claim and pass on privately owned land to another private owner if doing so results in economic development?

A
Kelo v. City of New London
B
Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.
C
Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co.
D
Lochner v. New York
Question 4 Explanation: 
Kelo v. City of New London was decided in 2005 in a 5–4 ruling. The Supreme Court held that the benefits that a community accrues from economic growth, including job creation, increased tax revenues, etc., make private redevelopment an allowable "public use" as per the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Question 5
Which Supreme Court case held that the Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to regulate any aspect of commerce that crosses state lines, including modes of transportation?

A
Gibbons v. Ogden
B
Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith
C
Marbury v. Madison
D
Fletcher v. Peck
Question 5 Explanation: 
Gibbons v. Ogden was an 1824 case regarding the regulation of steamboat navigation in New York. The Court ruled that under Article I’s Commerce Clause, Congress has the power to regulate any aspect of commerce that crosses state lines, including modes of transportation. It furthermore declared that such regulation preempts conflicting regulation by the states. Since Gibbons, the Commerce Clause has provided the basis for sweeping congressional power over a multitude of national issues.
Question 6
Which Supreme Court case established that police must advise criminal suspects of their Constitutional rights before questioning them?

A
Mapp v. Ohio
B
Miranda v. Arizona
C
Michigan v. Jackson
D
Escobedo v. Illinois
Question 6 Explanation: 
Miranda v. Arizona was a 5–4 decision made in 1966. The Court held that statements made in response to police interrogation are admissible at trial only if the prosecution: can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before, and during the questioning, and was also informed of the right against self-incrimination. For the statements to be admissible, the defendant must have learned, understood, and voluntarily waived these rights.
Question 7
Which Supreme Court case held that the act of burning a flag is protected “speech” under the First Amendment?

A
Griswold v. Connecticut
B
Cohen v. California
C
Texas v. Johnson
D
Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire
Question 7 Explanation: 
Texas v. Johnson was a 5–4 ruling issued in 1989. The Court held that Johnson's burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct and permitted him to invoke the First Amendment in defense. This decision invalidated the laws against desecrating the American flag that were in place in 48 of the 50 states.
Question 8
Which Supreme Court case established that evidence obtained through unreasonable searches and seizures, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, may not be used in state courts for state law criminal prosecutions?

A
Katz v. United States
B
Gideon v. Wainwright
C
Mapp v. Ohio
D
Miranda v. Arizona
Question 8 Explanation: 
Mapp v. Ohio was decided in 1961 in a 6–3 ruling. Based on the exclusionary rule, the evidence obtained in violation of Mapp’s rights could not be used in a federal prosecution. In this case, the Court held that the exclusionary rule, through a principle known as selective incorporation, also applies to the states. Selective incorporation interprets the Fourteenth Amendment to “incorporate” most portions of the Bill of Rights.
Question 9
Which Supreme Court case established the basis for the exercise of judicial review under Article III of the Constitution?

A
McCulloch v. Maryland
B
Gibbons v. Ogden
C
Fletcher v. Peck
D
Marbury v. Madison
Question 9 Explanation: 
Marbury v. Madison was a unanimous decision issued by the Supreme Court in 1803. The Court held that Congress cannot pass laws that oppose declarations in the Constitution. It also decided that it is the role of the judicial system to interpret the scope of the Constitution. This established the principle of judicial review.
Question 10
Which Supreme Court case invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage?

A
Obergefell v. Hodges
B
Loving v. Virginia
C
Bolling v. Sharpe
D
Plessy v. Ferguson
Question 10 Explanation: 
Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967 with a unanimous ruling. The Supreme Court held that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, which outlawed interracial marriage, violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Question 11
Which Supreme Court case upheld state laws requiring racial segregation at public facilities under the “separate but equal” doctrine?

A
Loving v. Virginia
B
Plessy v. Ferguson
C
Dred Scott v. Sandford
D
Brown v. Board of Education
Question 11 Explanation: 
Plessy v. Ferguson was decided in 1896 in a 7–1 ruling, with only Justice John Marshall Harlan dissenting. The ruling legitimized state laws that established racial segregation in the South, and paved the way for further segregation laws. Achievements from the Reconstruction Era were lost with the "separate but equal" doctrine.
Question 12
Which Supreme Court case held that the President cannot use executive privilege to withhold evidence that is relevant in a criminal trial?

A
Bush v. Gore
B
Rasul v. Bush
C
Clinton v. Jones
D
United States v. Nixon
Question 12 Explanation: 
United States v. Nixon was a 1974 decision that resulted in an 8–0 ruling against President Richard Nixon. Nixon was attempting to use executive privilege to withhold evidence during the Watergate scandal. The Court held that no person is above the law and that executive privilege cannot be used to withhold evidence that is demonstrably relevant in a criminal trial.
Question 13
Which Supreme Court case invalidated a state law prohibiting the use of contraceptives on the grounds that the law violated the right to marital privacy?

A
Washington v. Glucksberg
B
Planned Parenthood v. Casey
C
Griswold v. Connecticut
D
Roe v. Wade
Question 13 Explanation: 
Griswold v. Connecticut was a 7–2 decision issued in 1965. The Court invoked a right to marital privacy in order to overturn a Connecticut law that prohibited contraceptives. While the Bill of Rights doesn't explicitly mention privacy, the Court held that this right could be found in the “penumbras” and “emanations” of other constitutional protections. Later decisions by the Court, including Roe v. Wade, extended these principles of privacy.
Question 14
Which Supreme Court case upheld the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II?

A
Dred Scott v. Sandford
B
Korematsu v. United States
C
Cohen v. California
D
Schenck v. United States
Question 14 Explanation: 
Korematsu v. United States was a 6–3 ruling issued in 1944. The Court held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed the individual rights of Americans of Japanese descent.
Question 15
Which Supreme Court case held that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples?

A
Loving v. Virginia
B
Lawrence v. Texas
C
Obergefell v. Hodges
D
Romer v. Evans
Question 15 Explanation: 
Obergefell v. Hodges was decided in 2015 by a 5–4 ruling. The Court held that the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment require states to license marriages between two people of the same sex, and to recognize same-sex marriages that were licensed in other states.
Question 16
Which Supreme Court case struck down state funding for religious schools?

A
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
B
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District
C
Lemon v. Kurtzman
D
Engel v. Vitale
Question 16 Explanation: 
The 1968 Lemon v. Kurtzman ruling regarded the uncertain constitutionality of Pennsylvania's Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which allowed the Superintendent of Public Schools to reimburse private schools for the salaries of teachers in these schools (most of which were Catholic schools). In an 8–1 ruling, the Supreme Court found this Act to be an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Question 17
Which Supreme Court case held that abortion is a fundamental right under the United States Constitution?

A
Gibbons v. Ogden
B
Roe v. Wade
C
Griswold v. Connecticut
D
Gonzales v. Carhart
Question 17 Explanation: 
In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Court ruled 7–2 that abortion is a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. The Court held that state laws criminalizing abortion violate a right to privacy that is implied by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The ruling also established a balance between a woman’s privacy and the state’s obligation to protect the woman and the potentiality of human life by granting states with the power to regulate pregnancies in the third trimester.
Question 18
Which Supreme Court case established that the Constitution grants implied powers to Congress which can be used to implement the Constitution's express powers?

A
Texas v. Johnson
B
Gibbons v. Ogden
C
Cohens v. Virginia
D
McCulloch v. Maryland
Question 18 Explanation: 
In 1816 Congress chartered the Second Bank of the United States, and in 1818 Maryland passed legislation to impose taxes on this bank. McCulloch v. Maryland was decided unanimously by the Court in 1819, and established two important principles in constitutional law: (1) The Constitution grants implied powers to Congress for implementing the Constitution's express powers. These implied powers are an integral component of a functional national government. As a result, Congress has the power to establish a bank as an instrument of the government in order to facilitate the collection and disbursement of revenue. (2) Federal laws have supremacy over state laws; consequently, Maryland did not have the power to interfere with a federal bank by taxing it.
Question 19
Which Supreme Court case held that state courts are required by the Fourteenth Amendment to provide counsel to defendants in criminal cases, extending this Sixth Amendment federal requirement to the states?

A
Reid v. Covert
B
Gideon v. Wainwright
C
Miranda v. Arizona
D
Weeks v. United States
Question 19 Explanation: 
Gideon v. Wainwright was a unanimous ruling issued in 1963. The Court held that the assistance of counsel is: a fundamental right under the Constitution, binding on the states, and essential for a fair trial and due process of law.
Question 20
Which Supreme Court case upheld the individual health insurance mandate included in the Affordable Care Act?

A
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
B
McDonnell v. United States
C
National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius
D
Zubik v. Burwell
Question 20 Explanation: 
NFIB v. Sebelius was a 5–4 decision issued in 2012. The Court upheld Congress's power to enact most provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Court decided that the financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Accordingly, this individual mandate was held to be a constitutional exercise of Congress's power to tax.
Question 21
Which Supreme Court case held that religious duty is not a legitimate defense to a criminal indictment?

A
McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union
B
Reynolds v. United States
C
Gideon v. Wainwright
D
Abington School District v. Schempp
Question 21 Explanation: 
George Reynolds was a member of the LDS Church and who, after marrying his second wife while still married to his first wife, was charged with bigamy as per the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. In the unanimous 1878 Reynolds v. United States ruling, the Supreme Court held that religious duty is not a defense for criminal indictment.
Question 22
Which Supreme Court case held that it is unconstitutional for state officials to write an official school prayer and to encourage students to recite it?

A
Engel v. Vitale
B
Reynolds v. United States
C
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
D
Lemon v. Kurtzman
Question 22 Explanation: 
Engel v. Vitale was a 6–1 ruling issued in 1962. The Supreme Court ruled that government-written prayers could not be recited in public schools because such prayers violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court held that the promotion of a religion violates the First Amendment, even if the promotion is not coercive.
Question 23
Which Supreme Court case established that a public official suing for defamation must prove that the statement was made with “actual malice?”

A
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
B
New York Times v. Sullivan
C
Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union
D
Texas v. Johnson
Question 23 Explanation: 
New York Times v. Sullivan was a landmark freedom of the press case from 1964. The Southern states had taken many libel actions against news organizations over critical coverage of civil rights issues. This case established the actual malice standard which has to be met for news stories about public officials to be considered as defamation and libel. Actual malice means that the publisher knew that the statement was false, or acted in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity.
Question 24
Which Supreme Court case held that the First Amendment right to free speech doesn't protect speech that presents a “clear and present danger?”

A
Miller v. California
B
Roth v. United States
C
Schenck v. United States
D
New York Times v. Sullivan
Question 24 Explanation: 
Schenck v. United States was a case concerning the enforcement of the Espionage Act of 1917 during World War I. Schenck was distributing leaflets that urged men to boycott the draft. The Court held that criticism of the draft was not protected by the First Amendment, because it created a “clear and present danger” to the U.S. armed forces during a state of war. This case helped to define the modern understanding of the First Amendment, and the opinion included the well know statement that, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”
Question 25
Which Supreme Court case held that race-based quota systems in education violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution?

A
Plessy v. Ferguson
B
Brown v. Board of Education
C
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
D
McCollum v. Board of Education
Question 25 Explanation: 
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke was decided in 1978. The case split the Court on many issues, with the 9 justices issuing a total of 6 opinions. The ruling upheld affirmative action by declaring that race can serve as one of several factors used in college admissions; however, it also stated that specific racial quotas could not be used.
Question 26
Which Supreme Court case held that the government cannot restrict independent political expenditures by corporations?

A
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
B
Schenck v. United States
C
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan
D
Buckley v. Valeo
Question 26 Explanation: 
Citizens United v. FEC was a 5–4 ruling issued in 2010. The dispute involved a conservative non-profit corporation interested in broadcasting a film critical of Hillary Clinton. Doing so violated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which prohibited such corporate or union expenditures. The Court held that, “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” The ruling enabled unlimited election spending by corporations and by groups known as super PACs.
Question 27
Which Supreme Court case held that a narrowly tailored use of race in student admission decisions is permissible in order to obtain the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body?

A
Griswold v. Connecticut
B
Grutter v. Bollinger
C
Plessy v. Ferguson
D
Loving v. Virginia
Question 27 Explanation: 
Grutter v. Bollinger was a 5–4 decision issued in 2003. The case involved the University of Michigan Law School admissions program, which gave special consideration to certain minority groups when considering university acceptance. The Court held that this affirmative action policy did not violate the 14th Amendment because the law school had a compelling interest in promoting class diversity.
Question 28
Which Supreme Court case held that people of African descent who were brought to the U.S. and held as slaves (and their descendants) were not U.S. citizens and were not protected by the Constitution?

A
Texas v. Johnson
B
Grutter v. Bollinger
C
Dred Scott v. Sandford
D
Plessy v. Ferguson
Question 28 Explanation: 
Dred Scott was a slave who attempted to sue for his freedom. Dred Scott v. Sandford was a 7–2 ruling issued in 1857. The Court held that people of African descent lacked citizenship according to the Constitution, so Scott did not have standing to file his suit. This ruling overturned the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had restricted slavery to certain U.S. territories.
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