In Cooper v. Aaron (358 U.S. 1 (1958)) the governor or Arkansas failed to comply with a district court order requiring desegregation (as required per the US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483 (1954))). The State argued that desegregation would lead to undue violence and disorder. They also argued that Arkansas was not a party in Marbury v. Madison(5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803)) and therefore they were not bound by the decision. Therefore, they felt that Arkansas State Courts were not bound by precedent set by the US Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court disagreed.

  • US Supreme Court found that since the Supremacy Clause of Article VI made the Constitution the supreme law of the land, and because Marbury v. Madison gave the Supreme Court the power of judicial review, then the precedent set forth in Brown is the supreme law of the land, and is therefore binding on all the States, regardless of any State laws contradicting it.
  • Also, since public officials are required to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution (as per Article VI, Clause 3), for these same officials to ignore the Court’s precedents is equal to a violation of that oath. Even though education is the responsibility of the state government, that responsibility must be carried out in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Constitution, particularly the 14th Amendment.