Jeffrey Higginbotham, Esq.,
Note: the cases reported below may be
found at either of the following two websites:
I. Criminal Procedure
City of Indianapolis v. Edmund (11/28/00) (J. O'Connor)
The Indianapolis Police Department conducted six drug checkpoints from August to November, 1998. Each site was selected in advance with consideration given to crime statistics and traffic flow. A sign was placed ahead of each checkpoint which read, "NARCOTICS CHECKPOINT __ MILE AHEAD, NARCOTICS K-9 IN USE, BE PREPARED TO STOP." Thirty officers were assigned to each checkpoint. A predetermined number of cars were stopped and an officer was assigned to approach each driver, notify him/her of the purpose of the stop, ask for driver's license and vehicle registration, look for signs of impairment, and conduct an open view examination of the car's interior. A drug dog walked around the outside of the car. The stops typically lasted 2-3 minutes, and never more than 5 minutes. Unless reasonable suspicion or probable cause was developed, the car was allowed to move on. A total of 1161 cars were stopped; 55 arrests were made for drugs and 49 arrests were made for other reasons. The Supreme Court ruled, "Because the primary purpose of the Indianapolis narcotics checkpoint program is to uncover evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing, the program contravenes the Fourth Amendment." The Court distinguished narcotics checkpoints from sobriety checkpoints, license and registration checkpoints, and illegal immigrant checkpoints, all of which had a primary purposes other than generalized law enforcement. A narcotics checkpoint has an insufficient connection to highway safety to survive a Fourth Amendment challenge. In dicta, the Court noted that police could establish a roadblock to "thwart an imminent terrorist attack or to catch a dangerous criminal who is likely to flee by way of a particular route" because of the emergency conditions that are absent in general narcotics checkpoints.
Ferguson v. City of Charleston (3/21/01) (J. Stevens)
To stem the use of cocaine by pregnant women, a hospital and prosecutor established a policy of urinalysis drug testing if the woman met certain criteria. Under the policy, a positive test required referral for treatment and counseling and an arrest for a second positive test or failure to complete counseling and treatment. A positive test at less than 27 weeks of pregnancy resulted in a simple possession charge; at 28 weeks or beyond, the charge was possession and distribution to a minor; and a positive test at delivery added a charge of neglect of a child. The Supreme Court found this policy violative of the Fourth Amendment. According to the Court, "[t]he reasonable expectation of privacy enjoyed by the typical patient undergoing diagnostic tests in a hospital is that the results of those test will not be shared with nonmedical personnel without her consent." Here, the government intruded into that expectation of privacy without justification. "While the ultimate goal of the program may well have been to get the women in question into substance abuse treatment and off of drugs, the immediate objective of the searches was to generate evidence for law enforcement purposes in order to reach that goal...While state hospital employees, like other citizens, may have a duty to provide the police with evidence of criminal conduct that they inadvertently acquire in the course of routine treatment, when they undertake to obtain such evidence from their patients for the specific purpose of incriminating those patients, they have a special obligation to make sure that the patients are fully informed about their constitutional rights, as standards of knowing waivers require." (Emphasis in original.)
Illinois v. McArthur (2/20/01) (J. Breyer)
Police accompanied a woman to her home at her request so she could peaceably remove her belongings. The two police officers remained outside. When the woman left, she told the police that her husband, inside the trailer, had some "dope" and she had seen him hide some under the couch. One officer knocked on the door and asked for, but was refused consent to search. Thereafter, the second officer left to obtain a search warrant while the first officer told the husband, who had come outside on the porch, he could not reenter the trailer unless accompanied by a police officer. Within 2 hours, a search warrant was obtained and thereafter executed. The husband was charged with two misdemeanor drug charges. A motion to suppress on the ground that the defendant was excluded from his own home was successful in the lower courts. The Supreme Court reversed, since the seizure of the defendant "involves a plausible claim of a specially pressing or urgent law enforcement need...Moreover, the restraint at issue was tailored to that need, being limited in time and scope...and avoiding significant intrusion into the home itself...We conclude that the restriction at issue was reasonable, and hence lawful, in light of the following circumstances, which we consider in combination..." (1) the police acted upon probable cause, (2) the police had valid reason to fear destruction of evidence if the defendant were allowed reentry to the trailer, (3) the police balanced their interests in law enforcement with the defendant's privacy by leaving the home and belongings intact until a search warrant was obtained, and (4) the restraint was for a limited period of time (2 hours).
Texas v. Cobb (4/2/01) (J. Rehnquist)
Based on an anonymous tip, in 12/93 Cobb was questioned about a home burglary and disappearance of a mother and infant from the home. He denied involvement. In 7/94, while under arrest for an unrelated offense, Cobb was again questioned about the burglary and confessed, though he continued to deny involvement in the disappearance of the mother and child. Cobb was indicted for burglary and was appointed counsel. In 8/94 and 9/94, with counsel's permission, Cobb was again interviewed but denied involvement in the disappearance of the mother and child. In 11/95, while out on bond, Cobb admitted to his father he had killed the mother and child. Cobb's father contacted the police and Cobb was subsequently arrested for murder. After being advised of his Miranda rights and waiving them, Cobb confessed to murder. His murder confession was suppressed in the courts below on the ground that the murder case was factually related to the burglary charge, and thus Cobb's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated. The Supreme Court reversed. The "Constitution does not negate society's interest in the ability of police to talk to witnesses and suspects, even those who have been charged with other offenses...We see no constitutional difference between the meaning of the term "offense" in the context of double jeopardy and of the right to counsel. Accordingly, we hold that when the Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches, it does encompass offenses that, even if not formally charged, would be considered the same offense under the Blockburger test [-- whether each offense requires proof of a fact which the other does not.]"
Atwater v. City of Lago Vista (4/24/01) (J. Souter)
A police officer observed Atwater driving her pickup with her two minor children, none of whom were wearing seatbelts. The officer pulled the truck over and thereafter arrested Atwater, charging her with the seatbelt violations and failure to possess proof of insurance and a drivers license. She was transported to jail, and placed in a jail cell for one hour. She posted a $310 bond and was released. Atwater pleaded no contest to the seatbelt violation; the other charges were dismissed. Thereafter, Atwater filed suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging her arrest for non-jailable misdemeanors was an unreasonable seizure. The Court refused to sustain Atwater's civil liability claim. It looked to the common law of England and found historical inconsistency regarding a police officer's authority to make a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor offense. Likewise, the early history of the United States did not support the notion that police officers could not make custodial arrests for non-felony offenses: "...[A]s originally understood, [the Fourth Amendment did not] forbade peace officers to arrest without a warrant for misdemeanors not amounting to or involving breach of the peace." In addition, "...both the legislative tradition of granting warrantless misdemeanor arrest authority and the judicial tradition of sustaining such statutes against constitutional attack are buttressed by legal commentary that, for more than a century now, has almost uniformly recognized the constitutionality of extending warrantless arrest power to misdemeanors without limitation to breaches of the peace." Moreover, the Court rejected Atwater's invitation to establish a new rule denying the police authority to make custodial arrests for nonjailable offenses, finding that such a rule lacking in specificity and clarity. The Court thought that solution was better left to the legislatures. Ultimately, the Court concluded that the arrest met constitutional standards: it was based on probable cause and not "made in an extraordinary manner, unusually harmful to her privacy or physical interests." Note: The Court was very critical of the officer's decision making: "In [Atwater's] case, the physical incidents of arrest were merely gratuitous humiliations imposed by a police officer who was (at best) exercising extremely poor judgment."
Kyllo v. United States (6/11/01) (J. Scalia)
Federal law enforcement officials investigating the indoor cultivation of marijuana used an Agema Thermovision 210 thermal imager to scan the defendant’s residence. The scan showed excessive heat over the garage roof and one wall of the home. A search warrant was obtained, relying in part on the thermal imaging information, and 100 marijuana plants were discovered. The Supreme Court ruled the use of the thermal imager violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court was concerned about the impact of technology on privacy: “The question we confront today is what limits there are upon this power of technology to shrink the realm of guaranteed privacy.” It announced a rule that it believes will be applicable to all present and future technology–“We think that obtaining by sense-enhancing technology any information regarding the interior of the home that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area...constitutes a search at least where (as here) the technology in question is not in general public use. This assures preservation of that degree of privacy against government that existed when the Fourth Amendment was adopted. On the basis of this criterion, the information obtained by the thermal imager in this case was the product of a search.” The Court refused to consider the quantity or quality of information gathered, concluding that “In the home, our cases show, all details are intimate details, because the entire area is held safe from prying government eyes.” Thus, the Court held, “Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a search and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.”
Ohio v. Reiner (3/19/01) (Per Curiam)
A man charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of his 2-month old son raised a defense that implicated the babysitter. The prosecution intended to call the babysitter to refute the defense. The babysitter demanded and received transactional immunity before she testified at trial that she had nothing to do with the baby’s death. The defendant’s conviction was overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court on the ground that the babysitter’s transactional immunity was improperly granted since a person who denies all culpability does not have a valid Fifth Amendment claim. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. The Court held that “the privilege protects the innocent as well as the guilty,” and where, as here, the witness “ had a reasonable cause to apprehend danger from a direct answer,” her claim of the privilege was justified.
Arkansas v. Sullivan (5/29/01) (Per Curiam)
Police stopped the defendant for speeding and improperly tinted windows. When the defendant opened the car door while searching for his proof of insurance, the police officer observed a roofing hatchet. The defendant was arrested for speeding, driving without registration and proof of insurance, carrying a weapon (the roof hatchet) and improperly tinted windows. An inventory search of the car produced illegal drugs. The state court granted a motion to suppress the drugs, finding that the officer’s stop of defendant for the traffic violations was a pretext for the officer’s intent to conduct a search. The state court refused to follow Wren v. United States on the basis that most of its was dicta. The Supreme Court reversed and reaffirmed that Wren instructed that the “ulterior motives of police officers are irrelevant so long as there is probable cause for the traffic stop.” The Court also rebuked the Arkansas court’s belief that it could interpret the U.S. Constitution to provide greater protection than the Supreme Court’s own interpretation of the federal Constitution. The Court noted that it had decided in Oregon v. Hass that a state court “may not impose greater restrictions as a matter of federal constitutional law when this Court specifically refrains from imposing them.”
II. Criminal Law
United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative (5/14/01) (J. Thomas)
A 1996 California law permitting medical marijuana use by seriously ill patients is null because of the federal statute prohibiting such use. The federal Controlled Substances Act is structured, through its schedules, to make it clear that courts may not infer a medical necessity exception to the broad prohibition on marijuana manufacturing and distribution. “It is clear from the text of the Act that Congress has made a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception. The statute expressly contemplates that many drugs have a useful and legitimate medical purpose and are necessary to maintain the health and general welfare of the American people...but it includes no exception at all for any medical use of marijuana. Unwilling to view this omission as an accident, and unable in any event to override a legislative determination manifest in a statute, we reject the Cooperative’s argument.” Note Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsberg, concurring: “Because necessity was raised in this case as a defense to distribution, the court need not venture an opinion on whether the defense is available to anyone other than distributors. Most notably, whether the defense might be available to a seriously ill patient for whom there is no alternative means of avoiding starvation or extraordinary suffering...”
Alabama v. Bozeman (6/11/01) (J. Breyer)
Under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, a prisoner involuntarily transferred from one state to another must have the trial begin within 120 days of arrival, and cannot be transferred back to the sending state before trial. Here, Bozeman was serving a federal sentence in Florida and was transferred approximately 80 miles to Alabama to be arraigned on state charges. He spent one night in jail, appeared in court and was appointed counsel the next morning, and was returned to Florida that evening. His motion to dismiss the charges was upheld by the Supreme Court based on the obligatory wording of the Agreement that requires charges to be dismissed with prejudice when a prisoner is returned to the sending state before the trial is held. There is no exception to this anti-shuttling provision, nor did the Court believe such an exception was established by the governments’ arguments that the return actually furthered the prisoner’s rehabilitation.
III. First Amendment
Shaw v. Murphy (4/18/01) (J. Thomas)
Murphy was a prison inmate assigned to act as a law clerk. His letter to a fellow inmate volunteering legal assistance to defend against a charge of assaulting a correctional officer was intercepted, and led to disciplinary charges against Murphy for insolence and interfering with due process hearings. Murphy challenged the discipline as a violation of his First Amendment rights to provide legal assistance to fellow inmates. The Supreme Court ruled that "...the constitutional rights that prisoners possess are more limited in scope than the constitutional rights held by individuals in society at large. In the First Amendment context, for instance, some rights are simply inconsistent with the status of a prisoner or with the legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system... [Accordingly,] when a prison regulation impinges an inmate's constitutional rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." To determine the reasonableness of a regulation, four factors are relevant: (a) the existence of a valid, rational connection between the prison regulation and the legitimate and neutral government interest put forth to justify it; (b) the existence of alternative means of exercising the right available to inmates; (c) the impact of accommodation on guards and other inmates and the general allocation of prison resources; and (d) the absence of ready alternatives available to the prison for achieving the governmental objectives. This test does not countenance an analysis that includes the content of the speech, including legal advice and assistance among inmates. So long as the regulation served legitimate prison-administration objectives, it is valid. Moreover, a protesting inmate bears the burden of overcoming the presumption that prison officials acted within their broad discretion.
Bartnicki v. Vopper (5/21/01) (J. Stevens)
18 U.S.C. §2511(c) proscribes the disclosure of illegally intercepted conversations. But, it cannot be applied to disclosures that are protected speech under the First Amendment. Application of the statute would not serve to deter the interception of conversations when the person disclosing its contents is not the person who engaged in the unlawful interception. Moreover, “privacy concerns give way when balanced against the interest in publishing matters of public importance...The right of privacy does not prohibit any publication of matter which is of public or general interest...One of the costs associated with participation in public affairs in an attendant loss of privacy.” Thus, an illegally recorded cellular phone conversation between the head of a teacher’s union and his chief negotiator that innocently fell into the hands of local media outlets could be broadcast without suffering the penalties of the federal and state wiretap statutes. Note: The Court did “not decide whether that interest is strong enough to justify the application of 2511(c) to disclosures of trade secrets or domestic gossip or other information of purely private concern.”
Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett, (2/21/01) (J. Rehnquist)
A state hospital nurse who had to take a lower paid position following her cancer surgery and treatment, and a security guard with asthma and sleep apnea who was denied requested reasonable accommodations of minimal exposure to carbon monoxide and cigarette smoke and day shift assignments, filed suits alleging violations of Title I of the ADA. The Supreme Court found the money damages provisions of the ADA as applied to State employers violated the Constitution. The Court reemphasized that "[t]he ultimate guarantee of the Eleventh Amendment is that nonconsenting States may not be sued by private individuals in federal court...Congress may abrogate the State's Eleventh Amendment immunity when it both unequivocally intends to do so and acts pursuant to a valid grant of constitutional authority...Congress may not, of course, base its abrogation of the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity upon the powers enumerated in Article I... Congress may subject nonconsenting States to suit in federal court when it does so pursuant to a valid exercise of its [Fourteenth Amendment,] §5 powers...Accordingly, the ADA can apply to the States only to the extent that the statute is appropriate §5 legislation...[and exhibits] congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end...Congress' §5 authority is appropriately exercised only in response to state transgressions...The legislative record of the ADA, however, simply fails to show that Congress did in fact identify a pattern of irrational state discrimination in employment against the disabled...Congress is the final authority as to desirable public policy, but in order to authorize private individuals to recover money damages against the States, there must be a pattern of discrimination by the States which violates the Fourteenth Amendment and the remedy imposed by Congress must be congruent and proportional to the targeted violation." (Emphasis added.) See, also, J. Kennedy concurring: "It must be noted, however, that what is in question is not whether Congress, acting pursuant to a power granted to it by the Constitution, can compel the States to act. What is involved is only the question whether the States can be subjected to liability in suits brought not by the Federal Government...but by private persons seeking to collect money from the state treasury without the consent of the State." (Emphasis added.)
PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin (5/29/01) (J. Stevens)
Golf: “[T]he essence of the game has been shot-making using clubs to cause a ball to progress from the teeing ground to a hole some distance away with as few strokes as possible.” Effort: “[T]he calories expended in walking a golf course (about five miles) [is] approximately 500 calories, nutritionally less than a Big Mac.” Walking: “The goal of the highest-level competitive athletics is to assess and compare the performance of different competitors, a task that is meaningful only if the competitors are subject to identical substantive rules...The walking rule is one such rule...because its purpose is to inject the element of fatigue into the skill of shot-making.” The PGA Tour is an enterprise that falls within the meaning of public accommodation governed by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, both because of the clients/spectators and entertainers/players. As such, it has a duty to engage in an individualized inquiry to determine if a player’s disability can be reasonably accommodated without fundamentally altering the nature of the game. Here, the PGA failed to engage in that individualized determination. Even so, Martin’s condition subjects him to comparable fatigue and stresses as walking players. The use of a golf cart does not give him an advantage that fundamentally alters the essence of the game.
Pollard v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (6/4/01) (J. Thomas)
Pollard successfully sued her employer for co-worker sexual harassment of which her supervisors were aware but did not stop. She was awarded $107,364 in backpay and benefits, $252,997 in attorneys fees and $300,000 in compensatory damages. She appealed on the ground that front pay should not be included in the statutory cap on compensatory damages enacted in 1991. The Supreme Court agreed, finding that when Congress enacted the provision allowing for compensatory and punitive damages, albeit with monetary caps, it did not intend to include within those remedies, any other remedy already permitted. Front pay is one of those remedies that was already and historically available to courts when discrimination was found to exist. Thus, front pay is separately compensable, whether it is to address the period of time between judgment and reinstatement, or to be in lieu of reinstatement, and is not subject to the statutory caps created in 1991.
V. Labor Relations
Eastern Associated Coal Corporation v. United Mine Workers of America (11/28/00) (J. Breyer)
The parties' collective bargaining agreement required an arbitrator to find just cause to support the dismissal of an employee. On two occasions, the arbitrator ordered less than dismissal for a heavy equipment operator who tested positive for marijuana. The employer sued to overturn the arbitrator's award on the ground that it violated public policy. The Supreme Court noted that the arbitrator's award is presumed to be a valid interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement and may be overturned only if the public policy is found to be "explicit," "well-defined," "dominant," and "ascertained by reference to the laws and legal precedents and not from general considerations of supposed public interests." The employer argued that illegal drug use is inconsistent with public policy because of the regulatory scheme promulgated by the Department of Transportation as it applied to heavy equipment and truck operators. The Court acknowledge the regulations pertaining to drug testing, but also noted they permitted and encouraged rehabilitation as a remedy. Since the regulations did not require dismissal of an offending employee, an employer and union could bargain a contract that could be interpreted by an arbitrator to require less than dismissal. Thus, the arbitrator's award and his interpretation of the labor contract could not be said to be contrary to public policy.
Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams (3/21/01) (J. Kennedy)
Adams was hired as a sales counselor after signing an agreement to "...settle any and all previously unasserted claims, disputes or controversies arising out of or relating to my...employment and/or cessation of employment with Circuit City, exclusively by final and binding arbitration...such claims include claims under federal, state, and local statutory or common law, such as the [ADEA, Title VII, ADA], the law of contract and the law of tort." Two years later, Adams filed a state employment discrimination lawsuit which Circuit City asked the federal court to enjoin. The issue before the Supreme Court was the enforceability of the arbitration agreement. In 1925 Congress enacted the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), requiring judicial enforcement of a wide range of written arbitration agreements and preempting state laws that were often hostile to arbitration. The FAA, however, exempts from judicial enforcement "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce." The Court applied the maxim of ejusdem generis (where general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words). Accordingly, the Court concluded that Congress intended to require broad enforcement of arbitration agreements, exempting only seamen, railroad workers and persons involved in transportation. Thus, Adams' state suit was improper and he was required to submit his claim to arbitration, where he could still assert his claims, but "...in an arbitral, rather than judicial, forum."
VI. Civil Liability
Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, (2/20/01) (J. Souter)
The TSSAA is a not-for-profit corporation organized to regulate interscholastic sport among the public and private high schools that belong. It was sued by Brentwood Academy after TSSAA issued sanctions for improper recruiting of athletes that Brentwood Academy believed to be protected speech. The Supreme Court held that even an ostensibly private organization could be a state actor for purposes of constitutional tort litigation where there was substantial entwinement of the organization with traditional state entities. "[T]he character of a legal entity is determined neither by its expressly private characterization in statutory law, nor by the failure of the law to acknowledge the entity's inseparability from recognized government officials or agencies...The nominally private character of the Association is overborne by the pervasive entwinement of public institutions and public officials in its composition and working, and there is no substantial reason to claim unfairness in applying constitutional standards to it...Entwinement will support a conclusion that an ostensibly private organization ought to be charged with a public character and judged by constitutional standards..."
Alexander v. Sandoval (4/24/01) (J. Scalia)
Because it accepts financial assistance from the United States, the Alabama Department of Public Safety is subject to the restrictions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which broadly prohibit exclusion from participation, denial of benefits, or any intentional discrimination under any program or activity covered by Title VI. When Alabama amended its Constitution in 1990 to make English the state's official language, the DPS decided to administer its drivers license examinations only in English. Suit was brought to contest the English-only rule. The only question, however, before the Court was "whether private individuals may sue to enforce disparate-impact regulations promulgated under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Title VI expressly prohibits only intentional discrimination (which may be privately enforced); in regulations promulgated pursuant to Title VI, disparate impact discrimination is also proscribed. The Court held that those regulations, assumed to be lawful, do not permit private causes of action to seek remedies created though regulation. "[W]hen a statute has provided a general authorization for private enforcement of regulations, it may perhaps be correct that the intent displayed in each regulation can determine whether or not it is privately enforceable. But it is most certainly incorrect to say that language in a regulation can conjure up a private cause of action that has not been authorized by Congress. Agencies may play the sorcerer's apprentice but not the sorcerer himself."
United States v. Mead Corporation (6/18/01) (J. Souter)
The United States Custom Service issues tariff ruling letters to establish the duty on certain imported goods. The letters may be issued by any of its 46 field offices. Annually about 10,000-15,000 letter rulings are issued. The letter rulings are “applied only with respect to transactions involving articles identical to the sample submitted with the ruling request or to articles whose description is identical to the description set forth in the ruling letter...As a general matter, such a letter is subject to modification or revocation without notice to any person, except the person to whom the letter was addressed...and the regulations consequently provide that no other person should rely on the ruling letter or assume that the principles of that ruling will be applied in connection with any transaction other than the one described in the letter...” The issue before the Court was the amount of judicial deference the ruling letters were entitled to receive. The Court noted that when “Congress has explicitly left a gap for an agency to fill, there is an express delegation of authority to an agency to elucidate a specific provision of the statute by regulation...and any ensuing regulation is binding in the courts unless procedurally defective, arbitrary, or capricious in substance or manifestly contrary to the statute.” However, in determining whether such regulations receive deference under this test, the Court applied a number of factors: notice-and-comment rulemaking, formal adjudication, congressional intent (express or implied) of delegation, and agency practice. Here, the congressional intent was not clear and the agency practice that did not include notice-and-comment rulemaking or form binding precedent for third parties rendered the ruling letters null with respect to the amount of judicial deference to be expected. “Any suggestion that ruling intended to have the force of law are being churned out at a rate of 10,000 a year at an agency’s 46 scattered offices is simply self-refuting.” Thus, the ruling letters are entitled only to “respect proportional to its power to persuade” based on “the merit of its writer’s thoroughness, logic and expertness, its fit with prior interpretations, and any other sources of weight.”
Saucier v. Katz (6/18/01) (J. Souter)
Katz was arrested as he began his animal rights protests at a speech given by then-Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. in a national park. Saucier, a military police officer, made the arrest, and with a fellow officer removed Katz from the scene by half-walking and half-dragging him to a nearby van. At the van, Katz was shoved inside. Though he sustained no injury, Katz sued under Bivens, alleging excessive force. The lower courts concluded that the law governing excessive force was clearly established and that in excessive force suits, of an officer’s entitlement to qualified immunity merged with the factual issue of excessive force. Thus, Saucier’s claim of qualified immunity was denied. The Court disagreed with the lower courts’ conclusion that excessive force claims are factually indistinguishable from the issue of qualified immunity. The Supreme Court reemphasized that “[q]ualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation...The privilege is an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability; and like an absolute immunity it is effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.” The Court instructed that lower courts dealing with a plea of qualified immunity are faced a two-fold analysis: (1) “Taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer’s conduct violated a constitutional right?” (2) “The qualified immunity inquiry, on the other hand, has a further dimension. The concern of the immunity inquiry is to acknowledge that reasonable mistakes can be made as to the legal constraints on particular police conduct. It is sometimes difficult for an officer to determine how the relevant legal doctrine, here excessive force, will apply to the factual situation the officer confronts. An officer might correctly perceive all of the relevant facts but have a mistaken understanding as to whether a particular amount of force is legal in those circumstances. If the officer’s mistake as to what the law requires is reasonable, however, the officer is entitled to the immunity defense.” Trial courts must first determine if a constitutional violation occurred, i.e., was the amount of force used excessive under clearly established law. Then, the trial court must determine whether the officer could have reasonably concluded he had “legitimate justification under the law for acting as he did.” The case was sent back to the lower courts for application of this two-part analysis before the case can be considered for a jury trial.
Cases Granted Certiorari
I. Criminal Procedure
United States v. Arvizu
Whether the court of appeals erroneously departed from the totality-of-the-circumstances test that governs reasonable-suspicion determinations under the Fourth Amendment by holding that seven facts observed by a law enforcement officer were entitled to no weight and could not be considered as a matter of law. Whether, under the totality-of-the-circumstances test, the Border Patrol agent in this case had reasonable suspicion that justified a stop of a vehicle near the Mexican border.
United States v. Knights
Whether respondent's agreement to a term of probation that authorized any law enforcement officer to search his person or premises with or without a warrant, and with or without individualized suspicion of wrongdoing, constituted a valid consent to a search by a law enforcement officer investigating crimes.
McKune v. Lile
Whether a prison can condition an inmate’s acceptance into a treatment program on the inmate’s admission of past criminal conduct.
United States v. Vonn
Whether a district court's failure to advise a counseled defendant at his guilty plea hearing that he has the right to the assistance of counsel at trial, as required by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(3), is subject to plain-error, rather than harmless-error, review on appeal when the defendant fails to preserve the claim of error in the district court. Whether, in determining if a defendant's substantial rights were affected by a district court's deviation from the requirements of FRCrP 11(c)(3), the court of appeals may review only the transcript of the guilty plea colloquy, or whether it may also consider other parts of the official record.
EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc.
Whether an employee's agreement to arbitrate employment-related disputes with an employer bars the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as plaintiff in an enforcement action against the employer, from obtaining victim-specific remedies for discrimination against the employee, such as backpay, reinstatement, and damages.
Postal Service v. Gregory
Whether a federal agency, when disciplining or removing an employee for misconduct pursuant to the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 may take account of prior disciplinary actions that are the subject of pending grievance proceedings.
Ragsdale v. Wolverine Worldwide, Inc.
Whether the Secretary has acted permissibly in providing by regulation that (with certain exceptions) employer-provided leave does not count against the Act's 12-week entitlement until the employer notifies the employee of its designation as FMLA leave.
Edelman v. Lynchburg College
Whether an allegation of discrimination that is not properly verified until after the period of time allowed for the filing of complaints can nonetheless be accepted because of an EEOC regulation which allows for technical corrections after the expiration of the period.
US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett
Whether collective bargaining provisions allowing seniority bumping violate the reasonable accommodation obligations of the ADA. Whether an employer is obligated under the ADA to engage in an interactive dialogue with employees as part of the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA.
National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan
Whether lower court properly applied the law pertaining to claims of continuing discrimination to allow evidence of acts that would otherwise be outside the actionable period of time governing Title VII claims.
Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams
Whether an impairment that limits an individual’s ability to perform particular job-related manual tasks can constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, even if there has been no finding that the plaintiff has been excluded from a class of jobs or a sufficiently broad range of jobs to establish a substantial limitation of the major life activity of working, and no finding that the plaintiff’s impairment substantially impairs her ability to perform manual tasks outside of work.
III. Civil Liability
Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko
Whether a private corporation operating a Community Corrections Center that houses and provides services to federal prisoners under a contract with the Bureau of Prisons is subject to suit under the implied damages action this Court recognized in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
Porter v. Nussle
Whether the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 which requires prisoners to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing a §1983 claim encompasses claims for assault or excessive use of physical force under the Eighth Amendment.
IV. First Amendment
Thomas and Windy City Hemp Development Board v. Chicago Park District
Whether an ordinance requiring persons to obtain a permit before conducting “events involving more than fifty individuals” in a municipal park violates the First Amendment because it grants too much discretion to the permit-granting authority, and whether the ordinance must ensure a final judicial decision within a fixed time in the case of the denial of a permit.