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Supreme Court Developments
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Click on a date to learn more about Supreme Court developments during a specific time period.
1787 1794 1810 1833 1857 1866 1874 1883 1896 1910 1918 1930 1935 1941 1954 1963 1966 1973 1981 1989 1995 2000 2005
Turbulent Times
1966
The Court issues its decision in the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona, holding that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is not limited to courtroom testimony but also applies when a suspect is taken into police custody for questioning. The decision states that before questioning a suspect, police must explain that he or she retains the right to remain silent, that any statements he or she makes may be used as evidence against him or her in court, and that he or she has the right to an attorney, who will be appointed if the suspect cannot otherwise afford one. Any evidence obtained before a suspect has been read his or her so-called "Miranda rights" is thereafter inadmissible in court.

1969
President Richard Nixon appoints Warren Burger Chief Justice.

1969
The Court upholds the right of a group of students to wear black armbands to their public school in protest of the Vietnam War. The decision in Tinker v. Des Moines states that the wearing of the armbands is an act "closely akin to 'pure speech'" and is therefore protected by the First Amendment.

1969
Justice Abe Fortas resigns from the Court after an article in LIFE magazine reveals that he had accepted a $20,000 honorarium for consulting work he had done for a charitable organization run by a former client.

A mugshot photo of Ernesto Miranda.
A mugshot of Ernesto Miranda, the plaintiff in the landmark 1966 Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona. As a direct result of the decision, police must inform criminal suspectes of their rights before they begin an interrogation.

Reproduction courtesy of Corbis Images
1971
The Court hears an expedited appeal from THE NEW YORK TIMES after a lower court issues an injunction to prevent the paper from continuing to publish the so-called "Pentagon Papers" -- a 7,000-page classified document concerning United States military involvement in Vietnam, leaked to the paper by a disillusioned former Pentagon employee. The Court's opinion in New York Times Co. v. United States upholds the right of the paper to proceed with publication, stating the government failed to show such action would cause it to suffer "grave and irreparable" harm.

1971
In McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, the Court holds that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial does not apply to juveniles if they are tried in juvenile court.

1971
The Twenty-sixth Amendment lowers the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. Prior to the enactment of the amendment in the midst of the Vietnam War, men not yet old enough to vote had been drafted and sent to fight in the war.

1972
Issuing its opinion in three consolidated cases known collectively as Furman v. Georgia, the Court finds provisions contained in the death penalty statutes of 41 states unconstitutional. The Court rules that capital punishment statutes allowing juries to have complete sentencing discretion are producing unconstitutionally arbitrary and discriminatory sentences. In the following years, 35 states draft new capital punishment laws that address the decision by establishing sentencing guidelines for judges and juries, listing crimes that carry a mandatory sentence of capital punishment, and/or creating lists of "aggravating" and "mitigating" factors for juries to consider in deciding a sentence.