Supreme Court decisions can lead to more nightmares than a Wes Craven film. Masked mass murderers and razor-gloved villains may be frightening, but bad SCOTUS opinions wreak decades of havoc in the real world.
In honor of Halloween, we're looking back at five Supreme Court decisions that are so bad, they're scary.
- Plessy v. Ferguson. The infamous 1896 "separate, but equal" case, Plessy validated segregation. The Court rejected Homer Plessy's argument that desegregation was necessary for equality, finding "If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other's merits, and a voluntary consent of individuals." The Court abandoned the "separate but equal" doctrine in 1954's Brown v. Board of Education.
- Bradwell v. State of Illinois. The Court ruled in 1872 that the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause did not require that the Illinois bar to admit women to practice law.
- Berghuis v. Thompkins. In this 2010 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a suspect must break his silence to affirmatively invoke his right to silence, because sitting wordless through three hours of interrogation doesn't clearly convey to police that a suspect wishes to remain silent.
- Wickard v. Filburn. In true no-man-is-an-island fashion, the Supreme Court found that a single farmer's wheat production for on-farm consumption affected interstate commerce, and could be regulated by the government. The basis of their theory? If every farmer followed Filburn's lead, there would be a serious impact on interstate commerce. This decision used an informal fallacy to expand the power of the Commerce Clause.
- Kelo v. New London. In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could use eminent domain to transfer property between private owners for the purpose of economic development. In the six years since SCOTUS issued the opinion, we have yet to find anyone who admits to agreeing with it. The economic development project that started it all never happened, but city officials allowed residents to use the space as a dump for storm debris following Hurricane Irene. At least the land isn't completely empty.
There you have it: our picks for the scariest Supreme Court cases. What do you think are the best of the worst from the Bench?
- Unlikely Pairing: Top 4 Supreme Court Halloween Connections (FindLaw's Supreme Court blog)
- Justice Ginsburg Rights the Past at Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference (FindLaw's Supreme Court blog)
- The Supreme Court Holds That Responding to Police Interrogation Waives The Right to Remain Silent (FindLaw)
- Justice Stevens Adds Fuel to the Fire Over the New London Eminent Domain Case (FindLaw)