Excerpted from the TIME special edition The Supreme Court: Decisions That Changed America. Pick up your copy in stores today. Digital edition available at TimeSpecials.com
Ah, the glorious life of a Supreme being. For one thing, the nine justices on the Supreme Court never have to worry that their verdicts might be reversed by a higher court—there isn’t one. But that doesn’t mean that the court’s decisions aren’t regularly critiqued by hundreds of constitutional law professors nationwide. As this book was being prepared, TIME reached out by email to a number of leading law professors and asked them to identify their choices for the best and worst Supreme Court decisions since 1960. We sent our admittedly unscientific survey invitation to more than 50 such scholars and garnered 34 responses. Our respondents were asked either to reply to our invitation anonymously or to share their thoughts for attribution in these pages.
Among the decisions repeatedly praised by the law-school professors were those that championed civil and individual liberties, as well as those that made democracy more participatory. Decisions that were often mentioned included Loving v. Virginia (1967), which found restrictions on interracial marriage unconstitutional; New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), which protected freedom of the press in the realm of political reporting and libel; Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), which established the one-person, one-vote concept in legislative apportionment; and Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 same-sex-marriage ruling.
On the negative side, many professors were critical of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), which removed campaign-spending limits on corporations and unions, as well as Bush v. Gore (2000), which resulted in George W. Bush’s winning the presidential election. It’s no surprise that the ever-controversial decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) appeared on the lists of both the best and worst decisions.
Here’s a sampling of the opinions generated when we asked court-watchers to put the best decisions of the past 55 years on the scales. Click here to see what they thought the worst decisions were.