U.S. Supreme Court Opinions by Chief Justice and Year
Browse Justia’s free collection of U.S. Supreme Court opinions by year, organized by Chief Justice, or browse opinions by volume.
The Roberts Court (2005 – Present)
Appointed by President George W. Bush, Chief Justice John Roberts first presided over the Court on October 3, 2005. Some decisions of the Roberts Court have expanded constitutional rights, such as the right of LGBTQ+ couples to marry. However, recent years have seen the Roberts Court grow increasingly conservative following the appointments of several Republican-nominated Justices. Notable cases from the Roberts Court include Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (abortion), National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (health care), Citizens United v. FEC (free speech and elections), District of Columbia v. Heller (gun rights), and Obergefell v. Hodges (LGBTQ+ rights).
The Rehnquist Court (1986 – 2005)
William Rehnquist began his tenure at the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice in 1972. Upon the retirement of Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Justice Rehnquist to replace Burger as Chief Justice. Ideologically, Rehnquist was known for a view of federalism that emphasized states’ rights. Notable cases from the Rehnquist Court include U.S. v. Lopez (Congressional power), Bush v. Gore (elections), Lawrence v. Texas (LGBTQ+ rights), Grutter v. Bollinger (equal protection), and Crawford v. Washington (criminal trials).
The Burger Court (1969 – 1986)
Warren Burger succeeded Earl Warren as Chief Justice when the latter retired in 1969. Appointed by President Richard Nixon, Burger was conservative but inherited a relatively liberal Court. Often described as a “transitional” court, the Burger Court bridged the more liberal Warren Court with the more conservative Rehnquist Court that followed. Notable cases from the Burger Court include Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. NRDC (government agencies), Roe v. Wade (abortion), U.S. v. Nixon (separation of powers), and McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green (labor and employment).
The Warren Court (1953 – 1969)
Formerly the Governor of California, Earl Warren was appointed to Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 after the sudden death of Chief Justice Fred Vinson. The Warren Court was notably liberal in its ideology, issuing some landmark decisions affecting civil rights, separation of church and state, and police arrest procedures. Notable cases from the Warren Court include Brown v. Board of Education (equal protection), Gideon v. Wainwright (criminal trials), Reynolds v. Sims (elections), and Miranda v. Arizona (Miranda rights).
The Vinson Court (1946 – 1953)
President Harry S. Truman appointed Fred Vinson to the position of Chief Justice in 1946, as the successor of Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, who died in office. This Court witnessed a battle between the ideologies of activism and restraint, of which the latter eventually prevailed. Notable cases from the Vinson Court include Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (separation of powers), Dennis v. U.S. (free speech), and Sweatt v. Painter (equal protection).
The Stone Court (1941 – 1946)
Nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harlan F. Stone succeeded Chief Justice Hughes in 1941 after the latter retired from office. The Stone Court essentially coincided with the Second World War, and one of its Justices participated in the Nuremberg Trials. Notable cases from the Stone Court include Korematsu v. U.S. (national security), International Shoe Co. v. Washington (legal procedures), and Wickard v. Filburn (Congressional power).
The Hughes Courts (1930 – 1941)
Charles Hughes was nominated to be the 11th Chief Justice by President Herbert Hoover in 1930. Chief Justice Hughes had been the Republican nominee for the 1916 presidential election, and he had also served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court from 1910 to 1916. This era witnessed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s failed attempt to pack the Court in 1937 via the Judiciary Reorganization Bill. Notable cases from the Hughes Court include Near v. Minnesota (free speech), A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. U.S. (separation of powers), and West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (labor and employment).
The Taft Court (1921 – 1930)
Appointed by President Warren G. Harding, Chief Justice William H. Taft is the only person to have served as both the President of the United States (1909–1913) and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1921–1930). Two of the Associate Justices on his Court were appointed by Taft when he was President. Notable cases from the Taft Court include Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co. (Congressional power), Meyer v. Nebraska (due process), and Gitlow v. New York (free speech).
The White Court (1910 – 1921)
Edward Douglas White was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1910 by President William Taft after the death of Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller. Chief Justice White is best known for establishing the rule of reason standard used in antitrust law. Notable cases from the White Court include Weeks v. U.S. (search and seizure), Schenck v. U.S. (free speech), and Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. U.S. (antitrust).
The Fuller Court (1888 – 1910)
Appointed by President Grover Cleveland, Melville Fuller served as the eighth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court until his death in 1910. The Fuller Court generally took a pro-business perspective in cases involving economic regulations. It also was responsible for the infamous “separate but equal” doctrine that justified racial segregation. Notable cases from the Fuller Court include Plessy v. Ferguson (equal protection), Lochner v. New York (labor and employment), and Chae Chan Ping v. U.S. (immigration).
The Waite Court (1874 – 1888)
Morrison Waite was nominated as Chief Justice by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1874 after the death of Chief Justice Salmon Chase. The Waite Court was known for interpreting the Reconstruction Amendments (the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments) narrowly. Some of its Justices played a role in deciding the 1876 presidential election, which ended Reconstruction. Notable cases from the Waite Court include the Civil Rights Cases (due process and equal protection), Pennoyer v. Neff (legal procedures), and Reynolds v. U.S. (religion).
The Chase Court (1864 – 1874)
Salmon P. Chase was nominated to the position of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Chief Justice Chase presided at the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Many of this Court’s cases confronted the aftermath of the Civil War. Notable cases from the Chase Court include U.S. v. Klein (separation of powers), Ex parte Milligan (role of courts), and Slaughterhouse Cases (Fourteenth Amendment).
The Taney Court (1836 – 1864)
Nominated by President Andrew Jackson, Roger Taney succeeded John Marshall as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court after Marshall’s death in 1835. It was during Taney’s tenure that the Court issued its infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, ruling that slaves were property and that African-Americans were not U.S. citizens. Other notable cases from the Taney Court include Luther v. Borden (role of courts) and Cooley v. Board of Wardens (Congressional power).
The Marshall Court (1801 – 1835)
John Marshall was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President John Adams in 1801. To date, Chief Justice Marshall is the longest-serving Chief Justice in the Supreme Court’s history. The Marshall Court is responsible for establishing the principle of judicial review, whereby the federal courts are empowered to strike down laws that violate the Constitution. Notable cases from the Marshall Court include Marbury v. Madison (role of courts), McCulloch v. Maryland (Congressional power), and Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh (property rights).
The Ellsworth Court (1796–1800)
One of the drafters of the Constitution, Oliver Ellsworth was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President George Washington. He ran for President while serving as Chief Justice, receiving 11 electoral votes. The Supreme Court decided a dispute between states for the first time during the Ellsworth Court. Notable cases from the Ellsworth Court include Hollingsworth v. Virginia and Calder v. Bull, each of which discussed the role of courts.
The Rutledge Court (1795)
John Rutledge was appointed as Chief Justice by President George Washington when the Senate was in recess. Rutledge previously served as an Associate Justice in 1790-1791. He exited the Chief Justice position after just 138 days when the Senate refused to confirm him. The Rutledge Court issued only two decisions.
The Jay Court (1789-1795)
Nominated by President George Washington, John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court first met in February 1790 and issued its first decision in August 1791. During this era, the Court consisted of only six Justices. Notable cases from the Jay Court include Hayburn's Case and Chisholm v. Georgia, each of which discussed the role of courts.
Pennsylvania Cases (1759 – 1789)
Although the U.S. Supreme Court was established in 1789, the first four volumes of U.S. Reports contained cases from several courts in Pennsylvania, dating back to the colonial era. This was because Alexander Dallas, the first Supreme Court reporter, was a Pennsylvania attorney who also collected records of these cases. When exploring the Pennsylvania cases, note that they do not carry the precedential weight of Supreme Court cases.