On June 24, 2022, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization resulted in the overruling of Roe v. Wade (1973). This decision has caused a political earthquake akin to the one caused by the decision it overruled. Supporters of Roe would emphasize how it was “settled” law despite an opposition that would never read the memo. Roe is quite far from the first seemingly “settled” law for the Supreme Court to overrule. In fact, over three hundred Supreme Court decisions have been overruled. The first case to ever be overruled was Rose v. Himely (1808) in Hudson v. Guestier (1810). It would take too long to go into any detail on all decisions overruled in American history, but here’s a list of some interesting cases.
Original: Pace v. Alabama (1883).
Decision: Alabama’s anti-miscegenation law is constitutional as it applies equally to whites and blacks.
Overruled by: McLaughlin v. Florida (1964); Loving v. Virginia (1967)
Vote: Unanimous; Unanimous
Decision: Florida’s cohabitation law under its anti-miscegenation statute is unconstitutional; laws banning interracial marriage violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment.
Original: Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918)
Decision: The Keating-Owen Act, prohibiting the sale of any merchandise in interstate commerce that had been made by children under the age of 14 or children under the age of 16 who had worked more than 60 hours a week ruled unconstitutional. The court found Congress had no power to regulate labor conditions under the Commerce Clause.
Overruled by: United States v. Darby Lumber Co. (1941)
Decision: Congress has the power to regulate labor conditions, upholds the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Original: Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (1923)
Decision: A minimum wage for women in Washington D.C. was unconstitutional per right to contract freely.
Overruled by: West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937)
Decision: Washington’s minimum wage law for women is constitutional, state has a sufficient legitimate interest to regulate right to contract freely. This decision effectively ends the Lochner era of the Supreme Court.
Original: Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
Decision: Segregation is constitutional under the 14th Amendment as long as facilities are equal in quality.
Overruled by: Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
Impact: Segregation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, even if facilities are equal in quality.
Decision: Colegrove v. Green (1946)
Decision: State legislative reapportionment is out of the court’s reach, for it is strictly a “political question”. Whether states had acted appropriately could only be determined by the U.S. Congress.
Overruled by: Baker v. Carr (1962), Wesberry v. Sanders (1964), and Reynolds v. Sims (1964)
Vote: 6-2; 6-3; 8-1
Decision: Baker finds that state legislative reapportionment, if it constitutes “malapportionment”, is in the court’s reach. This decision is the one that Chief Justice Earl Warren regards as the most important of his entire career. Wesberry and Reynolds rule that state legislative districts must be roughly equal in population, hence the “one man, one vote” rule.
Original: Betts v. Brady (1942)
Decision: Due process of law does not require the state of Maryland to give counsel to defendants who cannot afford attorneys.
Overruled by: Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
Decision: Due process of law requires the states to provide attorneys to defendants who otherwise cannot afford them.
Original: Crooker v. California (1958)
Decision: The Fifth Amendment allows for a criminal suspect’s confession during pre-trial interrogation to be used as evidence, even if refused the right to an attorney if the suspect is well-educated, and when the trial is not proven to have been conducted unjustly and unfairly.
Overruled by: Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
Decision: Defendants, regardless of their level of education, must be informed of their right to an attorney and their right to remain silent per the Fifth Amendment before being interrogated by the police.
Original: Breedlove v. Suttles (1937)
Decision: The poll tax in state elections is constitutional and does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Overruled by: Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966)
Decision: The poll tax in state elections is unconstitutional, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Whitney v. California (1927)
Decision: A conviction for membership in the Communist Party is legal since states have the right to prohibit speech that tends to incite crime, disturb the peace, or threaten the illegal overthrow of the government.
Overruled by: Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)
Decision: A conviction of Ohio Klan leader Clarence Brandenburg for advocating violence in his speech is overturned, court finds that an abstract advocacy of violence is insufficient to warrant a constitutional conviction, raises bar for prohibited speech to incitement for imminent lawless action.
Original: Bowers v. Hardwick (1986)
Decision: Georgia’s law prohibiting oral and anal sex among consenting adults is constitutional.
Overruled by: Lawrence v. Texas (2003)
Decision: Texas’ law prohibiting sodomy is unconstitutional, reaffirms “right to privacy”.
Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990); McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003)
Vote: 6-3; 5-4
Impact: Austin found that a Michigan law prohibiting corporations from using their money to support or oppose candidates was in violation of neither the 1st nor 14th Amendments. In McConnell, most of the McCain-Feingold Act is upheld as constitutional, including a provision prohibiting corporations and unions from funding cable and satellite advertisements clearly endorsing a candidate 30 days before a primary and 60 days before an election.
Overruled by: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)
Impact: Austin is entirely, and McConnell is partly overruled by this decision, which rules unconstitutional the time restriction on corporations and unions on First Amendment grounds.
Baker v. Nelson (1972)
Decision: Dismisses appeal from the Minnesota Supreme Court with a single sentence the claim that prohibitions on same-sex marriage are in violation of the 1st, 8th, 9th, and 14th Amendments.
Overruled by: Obergefell v. United States (2015)
Decision: State prohibitions on same-sex marriage unconstitutional per the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
106 U.S. 583 (1883).
163 U.S. 537 (1896).
247 U.S. 251 (1918).
261 U.S. 525 (1923).
274 U.S. 357 (1927).
302 U.S. 277 (1937).
312 U.S. 100 (1941).
316 U.S. 455 (1942).
328 U.S. 549 (1946).
347 U.S. 483 (1954).
357 U.S. 433 (1958).
369 U.S. 186 (1962).
372 U.S. 335 (1963).
376 U.S. 1 (1964).
377 U.S. 533 (1964).
379 U.S. 184 (1964).
383 U.S. 663 (1966).
384 U.S. 436 (1966).
388 U.S. 1 (1967).
395 U.S. 444 (1969).
409 U.S. 810 (1972).
478 U.S. 186 (1986).
494 U.S. 652 (1990).
539 U.S. 558 (2003).
540 U.S. 93 (2003).
558 U.S. 310 (2010).
576 U.S. 644 (2015).
Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decisions. Constitution Annotated.