An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the NAACP challenged the constitutionality of school segregation laws in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. Brown was initially argued in December 1952, but the Justices could not reach a decision. The case was then scheduled for reargument the following year.

The decision to have the case reargued likely changed its fate. Chief Justice Fred Vinson died in September 1953. President Eisenhower filled that vacancy with Earl Warren, the Republican governor of California. With his political leadership experience, Warren was able to cajole his colleagues to reach a unanimous, though narrow, decision: school segregation laws violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice Warren’s majority decision had three major parts.

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