The 7 Most Ridiculous Supreme Court Cases Ever

They can’t all be landmark cases
The 7 Most Ridiculous Supreme Court Cases Ever

The Supreme Court, which, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t simply a court with sour cream, is a primary pillar of American government. The highest court in the land is saddled with giving the final word on any legal issue deemed to require a ruling from the best and brightest legal minds our country has to offer. That doesnt mean, however, that they never have to weigh in on anything weird. All that some strange case really has to do is get sufficiently tangled up in the Constitution to make it all the way up the escalator, and suddenly, the Supreme Court Justices are hearing about chicken coops.

Here are seven of the weirdest Supreme Court cases ever…

United States v. Causby


The big metal bird is back. Time to freak out and bust my own head open.

The case of the United States versus Thomas Lee Causby, at its core, was a case of one flying thing terrorizing another. Causby owned a chicken farm, and as you can imagine, a viable chicken farm requires chickens that are alive and well. Unfortunately, the health and welfare of his chickens was under attack by the U.S. military, in that they regularly flew planes out of a nearby airport, passing only 70 feet above the farm. This would scare the chickens so badly that they would, no exaggeration, panic, fly into the walls of their coop and kill themselves. The question this raised was: When you own land, how far up does that go? The Supreme Court declined to give a specific measurement, but ruled in Causby's favor, while also affirming that ownership of land doesnt extend infinitely into the sky.

Astrue v. Capato

Within Social Security benefits, something nobody in my generation probably needs to bother learning about, theres something called “survivor's benefits,” which can be paid out to the family on event of death. Karen Capato wanted these Social Security benefits paid out to their twins, which seems simple enough. The wrinkle was that those twins were conceived, and born, after her husband Robert had already died, through in-vitro fertilization of his preserved sperm. Something that wasnt made clear in any of the legal literature, since, at the time it was written, this was some sci-fi shit. The case rose through the courts thanks to flip-flopping rulings, but the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the twins were not eligible.

Nix v. Hedden


“Your honor, would a vegetable look so nice and pretty in a bowl?”

Today, the debate over whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable is mostly something pulled out of someones ass because a conversation is well and truly dead. Most people are familiar with it, and most people truly dont care. It certainly doesnt seem like a disagreement that the Supreme Court would ever have to rule on, but they did, and their decision: Sorry, trivia lovers, but legally, tomatoes are vegetables. The ruling came about because of tariffs. John Nix, a New York wholesaler, was importing tomatoes, and noticed hed been charged a 10-percent vegetable import tariff. To which he went botanical on their asses, explaining that theyre actually a fruit, which was important because imported fruits had no tariffs. The argument made its way to the Supreme Court, which basically said, “We all know theyre vegetables dude, pay up.”

Church of Lukumi-Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah

The Constitution gives all Americans the right to practice the religion of their choice freely. Lately, the most youll hear about it is related to baking gay couple wedding cakes, and its most often weaponized by fundamental Christians. That might contribute to the fact that it doesnt often feel like its there to protect, well, stranger religions. A fun, if a little aggressively Reddit-y reminder of this pops up every once in a while when somebody wears a pasta strainer on their head in a DMV photo out of respect for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. A little ickier one goes back to 1993, when the Church of Lukumi-Babalu Aye planned to build a center in Hialeah, Florida. The church in question practiced Santeria, and the religion in question includes ritual animal sacrifice. Hialeah quickly acted to outlaw animal sacrifice, but the Church fought back, and eventually the Supreme Court ruled that they had to be allowed to sacrifice animals as part of their religion. A big part of it was that, under further review, the law was very clearly targeted at Santeria in particular, still allowing other religious animal slaughter, like kosher butchering.

Employment Division v. Smith

The next case works nicely as a counterpoint, showing that just because your religion tells you to do something, doesnt mean its automatically legal. Alfred Smith and Galen Black were Native American men who were fired from their jobs and denied unemployment benefits because they failed a drug test. The specific drug that popped on said test? Peyote, which theyd imbibed as part of a Native American religious ceremony. Here, the Supreme Court didnt back them up and ruled on the side of the employers. It was a controversial ruling that was based in the “Free Exercise Clause,” which, in part, says that religious practices can't violate “compelling governmental interest.”

United States v. 95 Barrels, More or Less, Alleged Apple Cider Vinegar


Imagine one side of the court filled with these guys. Pretty fun, right?

First, let me assure you, I have done no editorializing or paraphrasing of this court case name for comedic effect. This is, letter for letter, word for word, the name of the case as it exists. The defendant in this case was indeed, approximately 95 barrels of a liquid alleged to be apple cider vinegar. The barrels had been seized and ruled as mislabeled, because they were produced from dried apples, instead of fresh apples. The Supreme Court ruled that the barrels were labeled misleadingly for consumers, ignoring the arguments made that the quality was equal to fresh apple cider vinegar.

Mapp v. Ohio

For the last case, lets look at a case that was both a little strange and hugely important. In fact, you could argue that one womans bravery in being nationally embarrassed resulted in a landmark ruling for citizens rights. Dollree Mapp, a woman in Ohio, found police at her door looking for a bombing suspect, who they thought was in the home. Eager for the possible collar, they tricked her with a false warrant and searched her house. There was, though, no bombing suspect. What they did find was a trunk in her basement filled with pornography. Because this was 1914, they then charged her with the possession of “lewd and lascivious” material. At first, she argued this was simply “freedom of expression,” but Mapp and the ACLU then pivoted successfully to arguing that no evidence seized during an unlawful search was admissible in court. They also, hopefully, gave her back her porn.

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