The Most Important Supreme Court Cases You’ve Never Heard Of


Thanks to Gerald Torres, Elk v. Wilkins makes the list:

Gerald Torres, professor, University of Texas School of Law

In 1879, John Elk renounced his allegiance to his American Indian tribe to go live among the citizens of Omaha. But when he tried to register to vote, the registrar claimed that he was not a citizen. No one disputed that Elk was born within the territorial limits of the United States, but in 1884’s Elk v. Wilkins, the Court ruled that the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to Elk or others like him. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 changed this, but the case remains relevant to today’s birthright debate. Some suggest that the children of undocumented immigrants have no more claim to citizenship than Elk did. They are wrong.

One thought on “ The Most Important Supreme Court Cases You’ve Never Heard Of

  1. Jeffrey Shulman April 26, 2013 / 8:44 am

    How many people have heard of Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925)? Yet many legal scholars consider it the Court’s most important contribution both to religious freedom and parental rights.

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