It’s no secret the U.S. Supreme Court has often been a disappointment to libertarians. Whether the justices are giving the green light to eminent domain abuse, securing absolute immunity for dissolute prosecutors, or rubber-stamping the latest power grab from Washington, the Court routinely fails to live up to James Madison’s famous description of the judicial branch as “an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive.”
But that doesn’t mean the High Court always gets it wrong. Here, in no particular order, are 10 Supreme Court decisions still standing where the Court put individual liberty and limited government first.
10. Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925)
In 1922 the Ku Klux Klan and other anti-Catholic groups spearheaded an Oregon initiative designed to eliminate the state’s private schools, many of which were run by Catholic charities. Under the terms of the Compulsory Education Act, all children between the ages of eight and 16 were required to attend "a public school for the period of time a public school shall be held during the current year." The Society of Sisters, an Oregon corporation organized in 1880 to care for orphans and carry out various educational purposes, challenged the law in court, arguing that it violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, which forbids the states from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
The Supreme Court agreed. “The child is not the mere creature of the state,” declared Justice James McReynolds in a unanimous decision rejecting “any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.” Thus the right of parents and guardians to send their children to private school was secured.
Next: Antonin Scalia vs. Big Brother.