This page organizes the landmark cases by key legal concepts and links to more information on each of the concepts. 


Federalism

Federalism is a system of government that divides power between the state governments and the national government.

Learn more about federalism in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


Separation of Powers / Checks and Balances

Separation of powers refers to the idea that the three branches of government must have separate powers to work correctly.

Learn more about separation of powers in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.   


National Supremacy

The idea that the federal constitution and law take precedence over state constitutions and law. The Supremacy Clause can be found in Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution. 

Learn more about the Supremacy Clause in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.   


Necessary and Proper Clause

The part of the Constitution that grants Congress the power to pass laws that are needed to carry out the powers specifically given to them in the Constitution. The Necessary and Proper Clause can be found in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Learn more about the Necessary and Proper Clause in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.  


Judicial Review

This is the power of the courts to decide whether a law or decision by the government conflicts with the Constitution.

Learn more about judicial review in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


Commerce Clause

This is the part of the Constitution that says Congress has the power to pass laws about the buying and selling of goods and services between the states

Learn more about the Commerce Clause in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


Due Process

The rule that the government cannot take someone’s life, freedom, or property without a trial. Due process appears in the Fifth Amendment and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

Learn more about due process in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


Self-Incrimination

This is when a person does or says something that shows they might be guilty of a crime. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against self-incrimination. 

Learn more about self-incrimination in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


Right to Counsel

This is the right of a criminal defendant to have a lawyer help in their defense, even if they cannot afford a lawyer. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees right to counsel. 

Learn more about the right to counsel in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


Equal Protection

This is the idea that people who are in the same situation must be treated the same by the government. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that individuals are treated equally regardless of their race, gender, religion, nationality, or other characteristics.

Learn more about equal protection in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


First Amendment

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference.

Freedom of Speech

This is the freedom of an individual or a community to speak or express opinions and ideas without fear.

Freedom of Press

This is the right of the media to report news without being controlled or punished by the government.

Freedom of Religion

This is the right to freely exercise one’s religion and to be protected from government-sponsored religion.

Learn more about the First Amendment in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


Search and Seizure

This refers to 1) when the government carefully looks over a person or their property in order to find something and 2) when the government takes someone’s property, often to use it as evidence in a criminal trial. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures. 

Learn more about the search and seizure and the Fourth Amendment in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. 


Right to Privacy

This refers to a person’s freedom from unauthorized intrusion into their life.

Learn more about the right to privacy in Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.