To understand how the judicial branch works
To see how past judicial decisions have affected the law
To see how past court cases have affected your everyday life, and your individual rights
To predict how past decisions will be applied to current cases and issues
What is a landmark case?
A landmark case is a court case that is studied because it has historical and legal significance. The most significant cases are those that have had a lasting effect on the application of a certain law, often concerning your individual rights and liberties.
How do courts cases affect law?
Though the judicial branch doesn’t directly make laws, the courts interpret laws through the cases brought before them. The American legal system is a Common Law system, which means that judges base their decisions on previous court rulings in similar cases. Therefore, previous decisions by a higher court are binding, and become part of the law.
- For the most part, courts will try to stay consistent in deciding similar issues. This is called stare decisis, which is Latin for “let the decision stand.”
- Decisions of the highest courts – The U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals - must be followed by the federal trial courts. This is called following precedent.
What landmark cases will we study?
Use the links at the right to learn more about the Landmark Cases.
- Your 1st Amendment Rights
- Your 4th Amendment Rights
- Civil Rights and Equal Protection
- The Power of Judicial Review
- Cases from Missouri