Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Worst Supreme Court Decisions (Part I)

In breaking down the worst Supreme Court decisions, they have be categorized into groups: civil rights, substantive due process, elections, commerce clause, taxes, first amendment, privileges and immunities clause, diversity, contracts clause, and eminent domain (takers clause). Many of these cases have already been discussed in detail in prior articles over the years.

Civil Rights

No question that Dred Scott (1857) and Plessy (1896) are two of the worst decisions in Supreme Court history. But the good news is each of these decisions have been overruled by the Court in cases such as Brown v. School Board (1954). However, there are many civil rights cases that have never been overruled such as Korematsu v. United States (1944) which allowed the internment of 120 thousand Japanese during WWII. Buck v. Bell (1927) ruled it acceptable to sterilize adults with learning disabilities. Chae Chan Ping v. United States (1889) ruled the Chinese Exclusion Act was constitutional and Congress could control our immigration system anyone they see fit even if it is discriminatory. Miranda v. Arizona (1967) provided additional liberties to criminals, but fails to consider the liberties of the victims and future victims by allowing criminals to walk on technicalities.

Substantive Due Process

The Court, in many cases, used its imagination to read our Forefathers intent into the Constitution if they believed the issue at hand was “deep-rooted in American history”. Many believe Lochner v. New York was a bad decision but the liberty of contract was deep rooted in American history. The Court’s rulings using substantive due process in: Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) to view gay marriage as a right, Roe v. Wade (1973) to view abortion as a right, and Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) to view privacy as a right are all dangerous rulings because they set bad precedent. Griswold opened the door for Roe. Roe opened the door for Obergefell. The correct ruling in Griswold would have been to limit the government’s reach instead of making up a right that is not in the Constitution. None of the rights in Griswold, Obergefell, or Roe are deep-rooted in American history. The constitution explicitly defines those rights to privacy that are protected – not all rights to privacy.


Most view Gore v. Bush (2000) as the worst Court decision on elections, but it is not even close. There is no question that the standard’s being used to count votes in the Florida recount were broad, arbitrary, and inconsistent. Besides, the Miami Herald ran a piece that the outcome of the election was correct after investigating the state election count of 61,000 under-vote ballots (using the liberal intent definition – dimple chad, mark chad, etc.). In fact, Bush would have won by over 1600 votes instead of the 537 initially tallied. So the decision is Gore v Bush would not have changed history. However, in Baker v. Carr (1962) the Court ruled “one person, one vote” applies to the states even though our Constitution does not apply that principle to Senate or Presidential races. This ruling has changed history and provided more rights and liberties to urban dwellers over farmers and people living in less populated areas of any state.

Commerce Clause

The commerce clause interpretation during the FDR years expanded immensely. There were many cases yielding bad decisions during this era regarding the commerce clause, but the worst ruling was in Wickard v. Filburn (1942). The Court ruled in favor of Congress’s Agriculture Adjustment Act that placed quota limits on farmer production, and farmers could not go over the quota even if the excess was going to be used to feed the farmers family. This provided the government a great deal of power to not only control interstate commerce, but now intrastate commerce which is not listed in Constitution.

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