AP US Government : Notable Court Cases

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US Government

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Court Cases

Which court case was not decided by the Warren Court?

Possible Answers:

Baker v. Carr, which ordered that state legislative districts should be as close as possible in terms of population

Gideon v. Wainwright, in which it was decided that the defendant in a felony trial must be given a lawyer free of charge if he of she could not afford one on his or her own

Mapp v. Ohio, in which it was decided that illegally obtained evidence could not be used in court.

Brown v. Board of Education, in which the precedent of "separate but equal," which was established by the "Plessy v. Ferguson," was determined unconstitutional 

Roe v. Wade, which officially decriminalized abortion

Correct answer:

Roe v. Wade, which officially decriminalized abortion

Explanation:

The Warren Court did establish the right to privacy through its 1965 decision in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, but Warren had retired by 1973 when the court, led by Chief Justice Warren Burger, made the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Example Question #1 : Notable Court Cases

In which landmark case did the Supreme Court rule that Congress has implied powers under the Necessary and Proper Clause?

Possible Answers:

McCulloch v. Maryland

Brown v. Board of Education

Miranda v. Arizona

Plessy v. Ferguson

Marbury v. Madison

Correct answer:

McCulloch v. Maryland

Explanation:

In 1816, Congress wanted to create a national bank in the United States. However, many states disagreed with this decision because creating a national bank led to economic depression. Thus, Maryland passed laws placing a tax on the bank, but a cashier with the bank (James McCulloch) refused to pay the tax. When this case reached the Supreme Court, the Court decided that although the Constitution did not explicitly allow Congress to create a national bank, it did allow Congress to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers," a clause found in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. This is known as the "necessary and proper" clause, allowing the federal government to create the bank.

Marbury v. Madison created judicial review. Miranda v. Arizona created Miranda rights. Both Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education involved the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Example Question #3 : Court Cases

The Supreme Court Case of Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) held that there was a Constitutional right for 

Possible Answers:

defendants to be able to profit from their crimes.

defendants to have adequate legal counsel provided by the states.

defendants to appeal to federal courts in state cases.

defendants to be allowed to face any accusing witness.

defendants to have their specific rights read upon arrest.

Correct answer:

defendants to have adequate legal counsel provided by the states.

Explanation:

Clarence Gideon was charged by the State of Florida with grand larceny, but was specifically denied an attorney by the court. Gideon appealed to the Supreme Court on his own from prison with a pencil and prison stationary, and the Supreme Court appointed him an attorney so that his case could be heard. The Supreme Court held that under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, all states must provide counsel to those who could not afford it in all such criminal cases.

Example Question #4 : Court Cases

The Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, relates to which constitutional amendment?

Possible Answers:

The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment

The Second Amendment

The First Amendment

The Nineteenth Amendment

Correct answer:

The Second Amendment

Explanation:

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) relates to the Second Amendment’s protection of an American citizen's’ right to carry a firearm. The Court ruled that the Second Amendment allows an American citizen to carry a firearm in a Federal enclave, or in his or her own private property.

Example Question #5 : Court Cases

Which Supreme Court Chief Justice presided over the landmark Dred Scott v. Sandford case?

Possible Answers:

John Jay

John Marshall

Earl Warren

Salmon Chase

Roger Taney

Correct answer:

Roger Taney

Explanation:

The Supreme Court case, Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), was an extremely important case in the build-up to the Civil War. It was presided over by Chief Justice Roger Taney, who delivered the verdict that not only could Scott not sue in a Federal court, due to his being black and thus not being a citizen, but also that the government had no right to regulate the extension of slavery into the territories. Not surprisingly, the verdict inspired widespread outrage among abolitionist parties in the North and furthered the divide between the North and the South.

Example Question #6 : Court Cases

Which twentieth-century Supreme Court case centered around the rights to individual and marital privacy?

Possible Answers:

Griswold v. Connecticut

Miranda v. Arizona

Roe v. Wade

Lemon v. Kurtzman

Buckley v. Valeo

Correct answer:

Griswold v. Connecticut

Explanation:

The Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), centered around a Connecticut law that prevented anyone from using any drug to prevent conception. The Supreme Court ruled against the state of Connecticut and decided that the government had no right to regulate contraception because it violated the rights to individual and marital privacy—a right not explicitly stated in the Constitution, but one the Court inferred from other protections established in the Constitution.

Example Question #4 : Court Cases

Which Supreme Court case held that the States are bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court and cannot nullify the decisions of the Federal courts even if they disagree with them?

Possible Answers:

Terry v. Ohio

Texas v. Johnson

Mapp v. Ohio

Roe v. Wade

Cooper v. Aaron

Correct answer:

Cooper v. Aaron

Explanation:

The Supreme Court case of Cooper v. Ohio (1958) revolved around the issue of segregation in the South, particularly the attempts by some Southern authorities to continue segregation even after the landmark ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. In Cooper v. Aaron, the Supreme Court ruled that the States were bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court and could not nullify the decisions of the Federal courts.

Example Question #2 : Notable Court Cases

The Supreme Court cases Barron v. Baltimore and Gitlow vs. New York both relate to __________.

Possible Answers:

the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s

mandatory federal funding being set aside for encouraging higher education in the individual states

the extension of voting rights to additional members of the population

female contraception and birth control rights

the application of the Bill of Rights to State governments

Correct answer:

the application of the Bill of Rights to State governments

Explanation:

The Supreme Court case Barron v. Baltimore (1833) stated that the Bill of Rights does not specifically apply to the State governments and that the Court can find no constitutional reason to make it so. However, the Supreme Court case Gitlow v. New York (1925) held that the First Amendment applies equally to the State and Federal governments.

Example Question #9 : Court Cases

Which of these Supreme Court cases most clearly relates to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution?

Possible Answers:

New York Times v. Sullivan

Mapp v. Ohio

District of Columbia v. Heller

Griswold v. Connecticut

Grutter v. Bollinger

Correct answer:

District of Columbia v. Heller

Explanation:

The Second Amendment protects the right of Americans to carry guns, so you have to determine which of these cases is related to gun rights. The Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), reaffirmed that an individual has the right to carry a weapon for self defense in their home, stating also that an individual has the right to carry a weapon in a federal enclave so long as it is within the law for them to do so.

Example Question #3 : Notable Court Cases

Which of these Courts is most famous for its liberal decisions?

Possible Answers:

The Warren Court

The Rehnquist Court

The Taney Court

The Marshall Court

The Burger Court

Correct answer:

The Warren Court

Explanation:

All of these Courts are named after the Supreme Court Justice who was in charge at the time (as is the custom). The Warren Court, under Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953–1969) is generally considered to be the most famous for its liberal decisions. It was the Court during the Civil Rights Era and was active in the promotion of civil liberties and the extension of civil rights.

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