ACLU Summary of the 1998-1999 Supreme Court Term

June 24, 1999

June 24, 1999

Steven R. Shapiro
National Legal Director

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF AUTHORITIES
FIRST AMENDMENT
A. Freedom of Speech and Association
B. Commercial Speech
FOURTH AMENDMENT
FIFTH AMENDMENT
A. Self-incrimination
SIXTH AMENDMENT
A. Confrontation Clause
SEVENTH AMENDMENT
A. Trial By Jury
DEATH PENALTY
ELEVENTH AMENDMENT
FEDERALISM
EQUAL PROTECTION
DUE PROCESS
A. Procedural Due Process
B. Substantive Due Process
C. Vagueness
PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
STATE ACTION
PRISONERS' RIGHTS
VOTING RIGHTS
CENSUS
COMMERCE CLAUSE
SECTION 1983
SECTION 1985
STATUTORY DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS
A. Title VII
B. Title IX
C. Americans with Disabilities Act
D. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
E. Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act
IMMUNITIES
IMMIGRATION
HABEAS CORPUS
FEDERAL CRIMINAL LAW
FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE
CLASS ACTIONS
ATTORNEYS' FEES
JURISDICTION AND STANDING
REMOVAL
ARBITRATION

FIRST AMENDMENT

A. Freedom of Speech and Association

In Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, 67 U.S.L.W. 4043 (Jan. 12, 1999)(6-3), the Court struck down three provisions of Colorado law that attempted to regulate the ballot initiative process. The first compelled all petition circulators to wear a badge identifying themselves. The second provided that only registered voters could circulate petitions. And the third required initiative sponsors to file monthly reports listing the NAMEs of all paid circulators and the amount paid to each. The majority opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg, held that all three provisions imposed substantial burdens on speech and were not narrowly tailored to achieve the asserted state interests. In separate opinions, Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice O'Connor (joined by Justice Breyer) would have struck down the badge requirement but upheld the other two provisions. The ACLU filed an amicus brief arguing that all three provisions were unconstitutional.

In Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, 67 U.S.L.W. 4133 (Feb. 24, 1999), the Court held, by a 6-3 vote, that aliens facing deportation have no right to raise selective enforce-ment claims except in the "rare case" where the "alleged basis of discrimination is . . . outrageous." Id. at 4139. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia made it clear that plaintiffs' claim that they were singled out for deportation because of their political views did not rise to that level. By a separate 8-1 vote, the Court also held that the 1996 amendments to the Immigration Act deprived the district court of jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs' selective enforcement claim in any event. The ACLU was co-counsel for plaintiffs in this case.

 

B. Commercial Speech

In Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Ass'n v. United States, 67 U.S.L.W. 4451 (June 14, 1999)(9-0), the Court continued its recent trend of providing ever greater protection for commercial speech by unanimously striking down a federal statute that barred radio or television advertising by privately owned casinos. Applying the Central Hudson test for commercial speech, the majority emphasized the incomplete nature of the government's ban: it did not, for example, apply to Indian casinos, state casinos, or state lotteries. Under these circumstances, Justice Stevens wrote, the statute "and its attendant regulatory scheme [are] so pierced by exemptions and inconsistencies that the Government cannot hope to exonerate it." Id. at 4456. In addition, the majority again repudiated the Posadas rationale that the "greater" power to regulate casino gambling includes the "lesser" power to regulate speech about casino gambling. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief arguing that the federal statute was unconstitutional.

 

FOURTH AMENDMENT

In Minnesota v. Carter, 67 U.S.L.W. 4017 (Dec. 1, 1998)(6-3), the Court ruled that invited guests in a private home who do not stay overnight may not object to an unconstitutional search of the home. Emphasizing that defendants were present in the home to engage in a drug transaction, and not as social guests, the majority rejected their claim to a reasonable expectation of privacy. The majority therefore never reached the question of whether the police search in this case in fact violated the Fourth Amendment. The dissent noted, among other things, that the privacy rights of homeowners were also diminished by the Court's decision since "their invitations to others [now] increase[s] the risk of unwarranted governmental peering and prying into their dwelling places." The ACLU submitted an amicus brief supporting defendants' Fourth Amendment claim.

In Knowles v. Iowa, 67 U.S.L.W. 4027 (December 8, 1998)(9-0), a unanimous Court held that the police may not search the car of someone who has been issued a speeding ticket but not arrested. In an opinion by Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Court pointed out that a routine traffic stop poses less risk to the officer than an arrest, and therefore less justification for a full-scale search. The Court also noted that "[o]nce Knowles was stopped for speeding and issued a citation, all the evidence necessary to prosecute that offense had been obtained." Id. at 4028. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief supporting the defendant's Fourth Amendment claim.

In Wyoming v. Houghton, 67 U.S.L.W. 4225 (April 5, 1999)(6-3), the Court held that, once the police have probable cause to search a car for contraband, they may search any containers in the car, including (in this case) a passenger's purse. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia distinguished between a passenger's possessions, which may be searched without individualized suspicion, and a passenger's body or clothing, which can only be searched with individualized suspicion because of the heightened expectation of privacy. Justice Scalia's opinion also stressed the importance of history in judging reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment.

In Florida v. White, 67 U.S.L.W. 4311 (May 17, 1999)(7-2), the Court ruled that police, acting pursuant to the state's civil forfeiture law, did not need a warrant to seize a car parked in a public lot when they had probable cause to believe that the car had previously been used in a drug transaction. Justice Stevens and Ginsburg dissented noting, among other things, that the traditional automobile exception to the warrant requirement did not apply since the defendant had been arrested and thus there was little risk that the car would be driven away before a warrant could be obtained. Justices Souter and Breyer concurred in the judgment but nonetheless expressed concern about the "increasing ingenuity" of legislatures in enacting "novel forfeiture sanctions." Id. at 4313.

In Wilson v. Layne, 67 U.S.L.W. 4322 (May 24, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held that the police may not invite the press to accompany them into someone's home while they execute a warrant. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Rehnquist explained: "[T]he possibility of good public relations for the police is simply not enough, standing alone, to justify the ride-along intrusion into a private home. And even the need for accurate reporting on police issues in general bears no relation to the constitutional justification for the police intrusion into a home to execute a felony arrest warrant." Id. at 4324. However, by an 8-1 vote, the Court also held that the defendants in this case were entitled to qualified immunity because the privacy right announced by the Court was not clearly established at the time of the search. The ACLU represented the plaintiffs in asserting their privacy claim.

In Hanlon v. Berger, 67 U.S.L.W. 4329 (May 24,1999)(9-0), a companion case to Wilson, the Court held that the same principles of Fourth Amendment law and qualified immunity applied to the search of plaintiff's 75,000-acre ranch.

In Maryland v. Dyson, 67 U.S.L.W. 3770 (June 21, 1999)(8-1), the Court issued a per curiam summary reversal, reiterating that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not include an exigency requirement. Thus, as long as they have probable cause, the police may search a car without a warrant even if they had plenty of time to obtain a warrant prior to searching the car.

 

FIFTH AMENDMENT

A. Self-incrimination

In Mitchell v. United States, 67 U.S.L.W. 4230 (April 5, 1999)(5-4), the Court considered whether a criminal defendant who has pleaded guilty may nonetheless invoke the privilege against self-incrimination at sentencing and, if so, what the privilege means in this context. All nine Justices agreed that a guilty plea does not extinguish the privilege so long as the defendant still faces sentencing. All nine Justices also held that a defendant does not waive the privilege by discussing the crime with the judge during the Rule 11 colloquy prior to entering the plea. But the Court split, 5-4, on whether any adverse inferences can be drawn from the defendant's silence on an issue critical to sentencing -- in this case, the amount of drugs that were sold. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy ruled that the Fifth Amendment prohibits any adverse inferences from the defendant's silence, citing Griffin v. California, 380 U.S. 609 (1965), and refusing to distinguish between the sentencing context and the trial context. The four dissenters, in an opinion written by Justice Scalia, rejected the reasoning of Griffin. Other than Justice Thomas, they did not immediately seek to have it overruled; they were, however, unwilling to "extend" it. Id. at 4236.

 

SIXTH AMENDMENT

A. Confrontation Clause

In Lilly v. Virginia, 67 U.S.L.W. 4435 (June 10, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held that a murder defendant's Confrontation Clause rights were violated when the police were permitted to testify about an accomplice's confession inculpating the defendant. The Court divided on the reasoning, however. Writing for a four-member plurality, Justice Stevens argued that such statements are inadmissible as hearsay because they are per se untrustworthy (absent independent evidence of reliability), and their admission into evidence therefore also violates the Confrontation Clause. In a separate concurrence, Justice Breyer agreed that the Confrontation Clause and hearsay rules lead to the same result in this case, but also raised the possibility that the relationship between the two legal doctrines might need to be reexamined in a future case, a point also raised in the ACLU's amicus brief urging reversal of the conviction.

 

SEVENTH AMENDMENT

A. Trial By Jury

In City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes, 67 U.S.L.W. 4345 (May 24, 1999)(5-4), the Court ruled that a property owner who files a § 1983 suit seeking just compensation for an alleged regulatory taking is entitled to trial by jury on two questions: first, has the owner been deprived of the economically viable use of his property; and second, does the city's challenged decision substantially advance a legitimate purpose. The majority rested this jury trial right on the broad assertion that any action for damages under § 1983 is properly analogized to a tort action, and that tort actions are plainly covered by the Seventh Amendment's jury trial guarantee. A four-member plurality of the Court also concluded that the specific claim for just compensation in this case is most closely analogized to inverse condemnation claims at common law, which were tried before a jury. Concurring in part and dissenting in part, Justice Souter argued that the language of § 1983 could not itself answer the jury trial question since it authorized both suits at law and in equity. And, on the more specific claim, he disputed the majority's historical conclusion that just compensation claims would have been tried before a jury at common law.

 

DEATH PENALTY

In Calderon v. Coleman, 67 U.S.L.W. 3390 (Dec. 14, 1998) (5-4), the Court held that the Ninth Circuit had improperly failed to apply harmless error analysis in this death penalty case, and thus reversed the lower court's grant of a writ of habeas corpus.

In Jones v. United States, 67 U.S.L.W. 4508 (June 21, 1999) (5-4), the Court upheld the first death sentence ever imposed under the federal Death Penalty Act of 1994. Writing for the majority, Justice Thomas first ruled that the Eighth Amendment did not entitle the defendant to an instruction informing the jury that the judge was required to sentence the defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if they deadlocked on the death penalty. Justice Thomas then concluded that the instructions that were actually given did not mislead the jury into thinking that the judge could impose a lesser sentence, thereby increasing the pressure on the jury to agree on the death penalty. Finally, the majority held that the list of aggravating circumstances presented to the jury did not permit "double counting" and, if it did, any error was harmless. The dissent, written by Justice Ginsburg, focused its disagreement on the last two points.

Strickler v. Greene, 67 U.S.L.W. 4477 (June 17, 1999)(7-2) -- see summary.

 

ELEVENTH AMENDMENT

In South Central Bell Telephone Co. v. Alabama, 67 U.S.L.W. 4186 (March 23, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held that the Eleventh Amendment does not bar the Court's own exercise of appellate jurisdiction over state court judgments. Rather, the Court said, such review is "inherent in the constitutional plan." Id. at 4187.

Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board v. College Savings Bank, 67 U.S.L.W. 4580 (June 23, 1999)(5-4) -- see summary.

College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board, 67 U.S.L.W. 4590 (June 23, 1999)(5-4) -- see summary.

Alden v. Maine, 67 U.S.L.W. 4601 (June 23, 1999)(5-4) -- see summary.

 

FEDERALISM

In Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board v. College Savings Bank, 67 U.S.L.W. 4580 (June 23, 1999)(5-4), the Court ruled that Congress had exceeded its authority under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment when it amended the patent laws in 1992 to permit infringement suits against state entities. Accordingly, the Court struck down the challenged amendment as inconsistent with the Eleventh Amendment. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Rehnquist relied heavily on the Court's decision in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997), for the proposition that § 5 only authorizes "appropriate legislation" that is proportionately tailored to prevent or remedy actual violations of the Fourteenth Amendment. In this case, the majority concluded that those lines had been crossed for three reasons: (a) the legislative record contained only a few instances of alleged patent infringement by state entities; (b) the statute did not distinguish between intentional infringements, which may violate due process, and negligent infringements, which cannot; and (c) even intentional infringements do not violate due process if the states have provided adequate post-deprivation remedies, an issue Congress did not address. In dissent, Justice Stevens emphasized that Congress had made the decision to grant the federal courts exclusive jurisdiction over patent cases nearly 200 years ago. He then concluded his opinion with the observation that "this Court once again demonstrates itself to be the champion of States' rights." Id. at 4590.

In College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board, 67 U.S.L.W. 4590 (June 23, 1999)(5-4), the Court held that states cannot be sued in federal court for false advertising because the statute that purported to allow such suits exceeded congressional authority under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment and thus violated the Eleventh Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia concluded that the right to be protected against false advertising by a competitor, even when the competitor is the state, is not the kind of property interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The majority also rejected the claim that a state can be deemed to have constructively waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity by engaging in a commercial activity that Congress had indicated in advance would be regarded as a waiver of sovereign immunity. Overruling its prior decision in Parden v. Terminal R. Co. of Ala. Docks Dep't, 377 U.S. 184 (1964), the Court ruled that any waiver of sovereign immunity must be express and unequivocal, analogizing state sovereign immunity to other "constitutional rights," such as the right to a jury trial. The dissent, written by Justice Breyer, criticized the majority's view of federalism as incompatible with "today's world." Id. at 4600. The exchange between the majority and the dissent was particularly personal. Justice Scalia characterized the dissent's approach to federalism as sounding more like Robespierre than Madison. Justice Breyer characterized the majority's approach to federalism as sounding less like James Madison than James I.

In Alden v. Maine, 67 U.S.L.W. 4601 (June 23, 1999)(5-4), the Court held that the principle of sovereign immunity protects states against suits brought under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act in state court, just as the Eleventh Amendment shields states from such suits in federal court. Although the Constitution does not explicitly refer to sovereign immunity, and the Eleventh Amendment clearly applies only to federal court lawsuits, Justice Kennedy concluded for the majority that the concept of state sovereign immunity "inheres in the system of federalism established by the Constitution." Id. at 4608. Thus, Congress cannot rely on its Article I powers to override either state sovereign immunity or the Eleventh Amendment. Justice Souter's dissent challenges the majority's historical assumptions. Moreover, he wrote, "[t]he Court's history simply disparages the capacity of the Constitution to order relationships in a Republic that has changed since the founding." Id. at 4617.

 

EQUAL PROTECTION

In Central State University v. American Ass'n of University Professors, 67 U.S.L.W. 3583 (March 22, 1999)(8-1), the Court rejected an equal protection challenge to an Ohio statute that deprived state university teachers, but not other state employees, of the right to bargain collectively over workload requirements. In a per curiam opinion summarily reversing the decision below, the Court once again highlighted the limited nature of rational basis review. Specifically, the Court upheld the statute as a rational response to declining teaching loads even in the absence of any evidence that collective bargaining was in fact the cause of that decline.

 

DUE PROCESS

A. Procedural Due Process

In City of West Covina v. Perkins, 67 U.S.L.W. 4058 (Jan. 13, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously ruled that nothing in the Due Process Clause requires law enforcement officials to inform a homeowner of the available state law procedures for recovering property that was seized pursuant to a lawful search warrant. In reversing the Ninth Circuit, Justice Kennedy observed that its "far-reaching notice requirement not only lacks support in our precedent but also conflicts with the well-established practice of the States and the Federal Government," id. at 4060.

In Neder v. United States, 67 U.S.L.W. 4404 (June 10, 1999) (6-3), the Court affirmed a conviction for violation of the federal tax fraud statute even though the jury had not been charged on the issue of materiality, which is an essential element of the crime. In a majority opinion written by Chief Justice Rehnquist, five members of the Court ruled that failure to charge a jury on an essential element of the crime is subject to harmless error analysis, and that the error was harmless on the facts of this case. Justice Breyer concurred on other grounds. Justice Scalia dissented in a strongly worded opinion joined by Justices Souter and Ginsburg.

 

B. Substantive Due Process

In Conn v. Gabbert, 67 U.S.L.W. 4222 (April 5, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held that a criminal defense lawyer's substantive due process right to practice his profession was not abridged merely because he was searched (pursuant to a warrant) at the same time that his client was testifying before a grand jury, and he was therefore unavailable to advise his client when she sought his counsel. The Court did not reach the separate question of whether the search might be unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

 

C. Vagueness

In Chicago v. Morales, 67 U.S.L.W. 4415 (June 10, 1999)(6-3), the Court struck down a Chicago ordinance that made it a crime for two or more people to loiter in a public place with "no apparent purpose" after they were ordered to disperse by the police, and that authorized the police to issue a dispersal order if they reasonably believed that at least one of the people loitering was a criminal gang member. Six members of the Court held that the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague; all agreed that it failed to provide adequate guidelines for the police; several members of the majority further concluded that it failed to provide adequate notice of the conduct it prohibited. The plurality opinion, written by Justice Stevens and joined by Justices Souter and Ginsburg, also emphasized that the right to stand innocently on the streets is an aspect of personal liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The ACLU represented the respondents in their challenge to the ordinance.

 

PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES

In Saenz v. Roe, 67 U.S.L.W. 4291 (May 17, 1999)(7-2), the Court struck down California's two-tier welfare system under which residents who have lived in the state for less than 12 months receive welfare benefits at the rate of the state they left rather than at California's higher rate. As a result of the challenged statute, for example, a family of four that moved from Mississippi to California would receive $144 per month rather than $673 per month. Writing for the majority, Justice Stevens ruled that the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to ensure that citizens may choose their states but states may not "select their citizens." Id. at 4297. Thus, states may not treat new residents less favorably than old residents. Furthermore, the fact that Congress purported to authorize such discrimination in the 1996 welfare law is irrelevant, the Court held, because Congress cannot authorize a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The ACLU represented the plaintiffs in this case.

 

STATE ACTION

In American Manufacturer's Mutual Insurance Co. v. Sullivan, 67 U.S.L.W. 4158 (March 3, 1999), the Court ruled by a 7-2 vote that the decision of a private insurer to withhold workers' compensation benefits while contesting whether the employee's medical expenses are "reasonable and necessary" is not state action although the insurer is operating within a detailed statutory scheme created by the state. In what Justice Ginsburg described as an effort "to rein in" state action doctrine, Chief Justice Rehnquist's majority opinion emphasized that the decision to withhold benefits pending review is made by the private insurer and cannot be fairly attributed to the state. (Justice Ginsburg would not have reached the state action question; Justice Stevens thought it was misstated by the majority). The same 7-2 majority also concluded that the review scheme created by the state did not violate due process because there is no "entitlement" to reimbursement for medical expenses that exceed what is reasonable and necessary. In separate opinions, Justices Stevens and Ginsburg concluded that the statutory scheme in place when the lawsuit was filed violated due process, but agreed that its constitutional flaws had been corrected by subsequent amendments.

 

PRISONERS' RIGHTS

Martin v. Hadix, 67 U.S.L.W. 4500 (June 17, 1999)(9-0) -- see summary.

 

VOTING RIGHTS

In Lopez v. Monterey County, 67 U.S.L.W. 4076 (Jan. 20, 1999) (8-1), the Court held that Monterey County, as a "covered jurisdiction," must submit any electoral changes for preclearance pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, even if the county is merely implementing state law and California is not itself a "covered jurisdiction." Writing for the majority, Justice O'Connor also rejected any federalist objections to its interpretation of the Act. Specifically disagreeing with Justice Thomas' dissent, Justice O'Connor wrote: "[T]he Voting Rights Act, by its nature, intrudes on state sovereignty. The Fifteenth Amendment permits the intrusion, however. . . ." Id. at 4082.

In Hunt v. Cromartie, 67 U.S.L.W. 4306 (May 17, 1999)(9-0), the Court reviewed the boundaries of North Carolina's Twelfth Congressional District for the third time in six years and, this time around, unanimously concluded that the lower court erred in declaring the district lines unconstitutional on summary judgment without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing. Writing for the Court, Justice Thomas noted that the conflicting evidence presented by the parties did not clearly resolve whether the district boundaries were drawn predominantly on the basis of race, which would be impermissible, or for the political purpose of preserving a Democratic district, which would be allowed even if there is a correlation between race and voting patterns. The case was, therefore, remanded for further proceedings. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief urging reversal of the decision below.

 

CENSUS

In Dep't of Commerce v. U.S. House of Representatives, 67 U.S.L.W. 4090 (Jan. 25, 1999)(5-4), the Court ruled that the Census Act bars the use of statistical sampling to determine the national population for purposes of congressional apportionment (although not for other purposes, including state redistricting and the allocation of benefits). Given its statutory holding, Justice O'Connor's opinion for the Court did not reach the underlying constitutional question. Four Justices in the majority, however, expressed serious doubt about the constitutionality of statistical sampling in a concurring opinion written by Justice Scalia. In a dissenting opinion written by Justice Stevens, four other Justices concluded that neither the governing statute nor the Constitution prohibits the use of statistical sampling for apportionment purposes. Finally, all nine Justices agreed that an Indiana resident had standing to sue based on projections that Indiana would lose a congressional seat if statistical sampling were used in the 2000 census. (Only two members of the Court also found congressional standing; the rest of the Court declined to reach the issue.) The ACLU submitted an amicus brief {electronic copy unavailable} arguing that statistical sampling was an appropriate means to redress the historic undercount of minorities in the census.

 

COMMERCE CLAUSE

In South Central Bell Telephone Co. v. Alabama, 67 U.S.L.W. 3583 (March 23, 1999)(9-0), the Court struck down a state taxing scheme that discriminated against foreign corporations. Justice Breyer's opinion for the Court specifically rejected the state's claim that the additional tax burden on foreign corporations was offset by other taxes imposed on domestic corporations, holding that the two taxes were neither "roughly approximate" nor similar "in substance."

 

SECTION 1983

City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes, 67 U.S.L.W. 4345 (May 24, 1999)(5-4) -- see summary.

 

SECTION 1985

In Haddle v. Garrison, 67 U.S.L.W. 4029 (December 14, 1998) (9-0), a unanimous Court ruled that 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) prohibits an employer from firing an at-will employee who was subpoenaed to testify against the employer before the grand jury, and who was also scheduled to testify at trial. The employer had successfully argued below that § 1985(2) requires proof of an injury to person or property, and that at-will employment does not qualify as a property interest under the statute because it is not regarded as a property interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Rehnquist concluded instead that the proper analogy was to tort law, where unlawful interference with at-will employment relationships is compensable.

 

STATUTORY DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS

A. Title VII

In West v. Gibson, 67 U.S.L.W. 4462 (June 14, 1999)(5-4), the Court concluded that the EEOC may award compensatory damages against any employer, including the federal government, as a result of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Based on that conclusion, however, the Court also held that a civil rights plaintiff must first seek damages from the EEOC or risk having a subsequent lawsuit dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

In Kolstad v. American Dental Ass'n, 67 U.S.L.W. 4552 (June 22, 1999)(7-2), the Court held that a Title VII plaintiff is not required to show that an employer's discriminatory behavior was "egregious" in order to recover punitive damages. Rather, the critical issue is whether the defendant acted with "malice," which in this context means with knowledge that its behavior was illegal or with reckless indifference to that fact. As Justice O'Connor explained, "egregiousness" may be one way to show the requisite state of mind, but it is not the only way. By a separate 5-4 vote, the Court also held that an employer may not be held vicariously liable for punitive damages based on the acts of its agents if those acts were contrary to the employer's "good faith efforts to comply with Title VII." The ACLU submitted an amicus brief arguing that "egregriousness" was not the proper standard for punitive damages under Title VII.

B. Title IX

In National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Smith, 67 U.S.L.W. 4130 (Feb. 23, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held, in an opinion by Justice Ginsburg, that the NCAA could not be sued for sex discrimination under Title IX merely because it was supported by dues from member colleges that were themselves recipients of federal funding. At the same time, the Court refused to consider several alternative theories of liability that, in its view, had not been fully considered below. Thus, the ultimate question of whether Title IX applies to the NCAA remains unresolved. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief urging the Court to enforce Title IX against the NCAA, in part for reasons that the Court did not reach.

In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 67 U.S.L.W. 4329 (May 24, 1999)(5-4), the Court ruled that school districts can be held liable for damages under Title IX if they are deliberately indifferent in the face of actual knowledge of student-to-student harassment on the basis of gender. The majority opinion, written by Justice O'Connor, emphasized that the harassment must be "severe, pervasive and objectively offensive," id. at 4335, specifically distinguishing "simple acts of teasing and NAME-calling among school children." Id. Justice O'Connor also stressed that school officials have wide discretion in choosing an appropriate remedial response. Justice Kennedy's strongly worded dissent centered on his observation that "[i]n the final analysis, this case is about federalism." Id. at 4345. The ACLU filed an amicus brief supporting plaintiff's right to sue under Title IX.

C. Americans with Disabilities Act

In Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., 67 U.S.L.W. 4375 (May 24, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held that a disabled employee who has sought Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) on the theory that her disability makes her unable to work is not foreclosed from also pursuing a claim of employment discrimination under the ADA, which necessarily presumes an ability to work. The difference between the two statutes, Justice Breyer pointed out, is that SSDI does not take the possibility of "reasonable accommodations into account," while the ADA requires them. Thus, a disabled employee who could continue working with "reasonable accommodations" may be entitled to relief on both claims.

In Sutton v. United Air Lines, 67 U.S.L.W. 4537 (June 22, 1999)(7-2), the Court held that the determination of whether someone is "disabled," and thus protected against discrimination by the ADA, depends on whether that person's physical impairment, even when corrected through treatment or medication, still "substantially impairs . . . a major life activity." Applying that test to these facts, the Court concluded that two sisters who were denied employment as airline pilots because of their nearsightedness were nevertheless not disabled within the meaning of the ADA so long as they could do other jobs while wearing glasses. Furthermore, the Court rejected the claim that the employer in this case had improperly "regarded" the two sisters as disabled when it rejected them for employment because of their eyesight. Being an airline pilot is not "a major life activity," the Court held, and plaintiffs had not shown that they were foreclosed from other employment opportunities. In short, plaintiffs' eyesight was bad enough to cost them their jobs, but not bad enough to qualify them as disabled and require the employer to justify its decision not to hire them. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief supporting plaintiffs' right to pursue their ADA claim.

In Murphy v. United Parcel Service, 67 U.S.L.W. 4549 (June 22, 1999)(7-2), the Court relied on Sutton to hold: (a) that a mechanic whose high blood pressure was controlled by medication did not qualify as disabled under the ADA; and (b) plaintiff was not "substantially limit[ed] ... in a major life activity" merely because his high blood pressure made him ineligible to receive the government certification required for the particular job he sought.

In Albertsons, Inc. v. Kirkingburg, 67 U.S.L.W. 4560 (June 22, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously ruled that the employer in this case was not required to hire a truck driver with monocular vision, in violation of federal safety standards, even though the driver had obtained a waiver of those standards from the federal government. Writing for the Court, Justice Souter emphasized that the somewhat unusual waiver program did not represent a reevaluation of the government's safety standards; rather, it was "an experiment with safety," id. at 4566, designed to help the government decide whether its standards should be reevaluated.

In Olmstead v. L.C., 67 U.S.L.W. 4567 (June 22, 1999)(6-3), the Court held that the unnecessary institutionalization of people with mental disabilities who could more appropriately be treated in community placements is a form of discrimination prohibited by the ADA. The Court also held, however, that a state need not "fundamentally alter" its mental health program to accommodate immediately the individual needs of particular patients. Thus, Justice Ginsburg wrote, a state is entitled to maintain an array of mental health services even if the price of maintaining that array is that some patients may have to wait longer for appropriate community placements. On the other hand, a state cannot unreasonably delay a patient's community placement simply because it wants to keep its institutions full. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief urging the Court to hold that the ADA's antidiscrimination provisions barred unnecessary institutionalization.

D. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

In Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F., 67 U.S.L.W. 4165 (March 3, 1999)(7-2), the Court reaffirmed that the IDEA requires school districts to provide disabled children with a free and appropriate education, including "related services designed to meet their unique needs," subject only to a narrow exception for medical services, which the Court once again held means services provided by a physician. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the plaintiff in this case, a wheelchair-bound and ventilator-dependent student, was entitled to a full-time attendant during school hours at state expense. Any "undue burden" argument, the Court added, should be addressed to Congress.

E. Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act

In Roberts v. Galen of Virginia, Inc., 67 U.S.L.W. 4062 (Jan. 13, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held, in a per curiam opinion, that the EMTALA forbids a hospital from transferring a patient who arrives with an emergency medical condition to another hospital until the patient's condition is stabilized, and that a patient transferred in violation of this prohibition is entitled to damages regardless of whether the transferring hospital acted with an "improper motive." The ACLU filed an amicus brief supporting the patient's right to sue under these circumstances.

 

IMMUNITIES

Wilson v. Layne, 67 U.S.L.W. 4322 (May 24, 1999)(9-0) -- see summary.

Hanlon v. Berger, 67 U.S.L.W. 4329 (May 24,1999)(9-0) -- see summary.

 

IMMIGRATION

In INS v. Aguirre-Aguirre, 67 U.S.L.W. 4270 (May 3, 1999) (9-0), a unanimous Court ruled that the standards adopted by the Board of Immigration Appeals for determining whether to deny withholding of deportation because the applicant has committed a serious nonpolitical offense are entitled to Chevron deference. In light of that deference, the Court then reversed the Ninth Circuit and upheld the BIA's conclusion that: (a) the seriousness of the crime need not be balanced against the likelihood of persecution if the alien is returned; (b) a crime need not be "atrocious" to be "serious" if the means are grossly disproportionate to the ends; (c) it is unnecessary to consider the "political necessity" of the alien's crimes. Although noting that some of these conclusions were contrary to U.N. guidelines on the treatment of refugees, the Court observed: "The U.N. Handbook may be a useful interpretative guide, but it is not binding on the Attorney General, the BIA, or United States courts." Id. at 4273.

Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, 67 U.S.L.W. 4133 (Feb. 24, 1999) -- see summary.

 

HABEAS CORPUS

In Peguero v. United States, 67 U.S.L.W. 4154 (March 2, 1999) (9-0), the Court unanimously held that a federal defendant who is aware of his right to appeal his sentence is not entitled to habeas relief merely because the sentencing judge failed to inform him of that right, as required by Rule 32(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In a separate concurring opinion, four members of the Court expressed their view that a defendant who is both uninformed and unaware of his right to appeal is, by contrast, entitled to habeas relief without also having to show that he has a meritorious appeal.

In O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 67 U.S.L.W. 4389 (June 7, 1999)(6-3), the Court held that a state prisoner cannot seek federal habeas relief until the prisoner has exhausted all available state remedies, including the possibility of discretionary review from the state's highest court. At the same time, the Court recognized that a prisoner does not have to exhaust remedies that have been effectivly declared unavailable by a state rule barring discetionary review in certain kinds of cases. The disagreement between the majority and dissent primarily centered on whether or not Illiniois had such a rule that applied to this case. The majority said no; the dissent said yes.

In Strickler v. Greene, 67 U.S.L.W. 4477 (June 17, 1999)(7-2), the Court upheld a death sentence despite the prosecution's failure to disclose exculpatory material that significantly impeached the trial testimony of a key prosecution witness. After reviewing the evidence in detail, Justice Stevens concluded for the majority that the defendant had only established a "reasonable possibility," rather than a "reasonable probability," that the outcome would have been different had the exculpatory evidence been disclosed to his trial counsel. A "reasonable possibility" of an improper verdict, the Court then concluded, was insufficient to show the "prejudice" required by Brady itself, and also to justify considering the Brady claim for the first time in federal habeas proceedings. In an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, Justices Souter and Kennedy joined the Court in affirming the conviction but disagreed with the majority's decision to uphold the death sentence.

Calderon v. Coleman, 67 U.S.L.W. 3390 (Dec. 14, 1998) (5-4) -- see summary.

 

FEDERAL CRIMINAL LAW

In Holloway v. United States, 67 U.S.L.W. 4148 (March 2, 1999) (7-2), the Court ruled that the language of the federal carjacking statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2119, which applies when a defendant takes a car from its driver "with the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm," applies even if that intent is conditional -- i.e., the defendant only intends to use force if the driver refuses to turn over the keys. Writing for the majority, Justice Stevens described the Court's holding as a "commonsense reading" of the statute. Id. at 4149.

In Jones v. United States, 67 U.S.L.W. 4204 (March 24, 1999) (5-4), the Court construed the terms of the federal carjacking statute, which provides increased penalties depending on the extent of the victim's injury. Writing for the majority, Justice Souter concluded that the extent of the victim's injury is an element of the offense rather than a sentencing factor as the government claimed and, thus, must be charged in the indictment and proved at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. As support for its statutory interpretation, the Court noted that the government's contrary view would raise serious constitutional questions. Invoking both the due process clause and the Sixth Amendment jury trial right, Justice Souter broadly asserted that "any fact (other than prior conviction) that increases the maximum penalty for a crime" must be treated as an element of the offense.

In United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers, 67 U.S.L.W. 4265 (April 27, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously rejected the government's contention that conviction under the "illegal gratuity statute," 18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(1)(A), merely requires a showing that the donor gave the recipient a gift because of the recipient's official position. In essence, the Court held that the federal bribery statute requires proof that a gift was given for the purpose of influencing an official decision, while the illegal gratuity statute requires proof that a gift was given to reward a public official for a decision that has already been made (even if it has not been implemented). The case arose out of the Independent Counsel's investigation of Mike Espy, the former Secretary of Agriculture.

In Richardson v. United States, 67 U.S.L.W. 4381 (June 1, 1999)(6-3), the Court held that the federal "continuing criminal enterprise statute," 21 U.S.C. § 848(a), which provides a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison for anyone who violates the drug laws "as part of a continuing series of violations," requires a unanimous jury verdict on each of the individual violations that allegedly make up the continuing series.

 

FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE

In Kumho Tire Company, Ltd. v. Carmichael, 67 U.S.L.W. 4179 (March 23, 1999)(9-0), a unanimous Court reaffirmed the broad "gatekeeper" role of federal district court judges in assessing the reliability and relevance of expert testimony under Rule 702. Writing for the Court, Justice Breyer first held that the same standards apply for assessing the admissibility of expert testimony regardless of whether the testimony is characterized as scientific or technical. He then noted that the Daubert test for assessing expert testimony is a flexible one, and the criteria set out in Daubert were meant to be illustrative only. Finally, he ruled that a trial court's judgment on the admissibility of expert witness testimony should be upheld unless it is an abuse of discretion.

 

CLASS ACTIONS

In Ortiz v. Fireboard Corp., 67 U.S.L.W. 4632 (June 23, 1999)(7-2), the Court once again showed its discomfort with the use of settlement classes under Rule 23 in mass tort litigation. This time, the Court invalidated a settlement of $1.535 billion that was intended to settle approximately 18,500 potential claims against a single asbestos manufacturer. Writing for the majority, Justice Souter concluded that the district court had been too quick to accept the "limited fund" negotiated by the parties without adequately investigating whether additional funds might have been available to pay future judgments, and too quick to dismiss possible conflicts of interest within the certified class, as well as with those excluded from its coverage. In a separate opinion, Chief Justice Rehnquist concurred in the judgment under "existing law," but added that the underlying problem of how to handle all the asbestos cases would not go away and "cries out for a legislative solution." Id. at 4646.

 

ATTORNEYS' FEES

In Martin v. Hadix, 67 U.S.L.W. 4500 (June 17, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held that the fee provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act -- which cap the fees available to counsel in prison conditions cases -- do not apply to work performed prior to passage of the PLRA in April 1996. By a 7-2 vote, however, the Court also held that PLRA's cap on fees does apply to work after April 1996, even if the underlying case was filed long before PLRA's enactment. The ACLU filed an amicus brief arguing that the cap on fees should only apply to post-PLRA cases.

 

JURISDICTION AND STANDING

In Cunningham v. Hamilton County, 67 U.S.L.W. 4458 (June 14, 1999)(9-0), a unanimous Court ruled that a trial court order imposing sanctions against an attorney is not immediately appealable, even if the attorney is no longer involved in the case. On the one hand, the Court explained, such orders do not represent a "final decision" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291. On the other hand, they do not fit within the rule permitting interlocutory appeals of "collateral orders" since a "sanctions order often will be inextricably intertwined with the merits of the action." Id. at 4460.

In Grupo Mexicano de Desarollo v. Alliance Bond Fund, 67 U.S.L.W. 4490 (June 17, 1999)(5-4), the Court held that a federal court lacks jurisdiction to issue a preliminary injunction barring a debtor from transferring unsecured assets pending a final judgment on the creditor's underlying claim. Beyond its importance to the commercial world, the decision is potentially significant because of the differing views it offers on the scope of a federal court's equity jurisdiction. The majority opinion, written by Justice Scalia, holds that the equitable power of the federal courts is tied to the equitable powers of the English Chancery Court in 1787. If the Chancery Court could not have issued the requested injunction in 1787, the federal courts cannot issue it today. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the dissent, argued that the principles of eighteenth century equity are more relevant than its precise practices, and that one of the bedrock principles of equity is that it can be adapted to do justice in light of changing conditions.

 

REMOVAL

In Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 67 U.S.L.W. 4315 (May 17, 1999)(9-0), the Court unanimously held that, although a removal court should generally decide subject matter jurisdiction issues before personal jurisdiction issues, there is no "absolute priority," id. at 4316, and the latter may be decided first if the question of personal jurisdiction is relatively "straightforward," as it was in this case. Id. at 4319. At the same time, the Court reaffirmed its holding in Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83 (1998), that a removal court should not reach the merits until jurisdiction has been clearly established.

 

ARBITRATION

In Wright v. Universal Maritime Service, 67 U.S.L.W. 4013 (Nov. 16, 1998)(9-0), the Court unanimously held that the arbitration clause of a collective bargaining agreement must be explicit if it is intended to bar an employee's statutory right to sue for discrimination under the federal civil rights laws. Because the collective bargaining agreement in this case did not contain such "a clear and unmistakable waiver," id. at 4016, the Court held that plaintiff's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act had been improperly dismissed. The Court expressly reserved judgment, however, on whether a collective bargaining agreement with an explicit waiver of rights in its arbitration clause would be enforceable. The ACLU filed an amicus brief supporting the employee's right to sue.

 


TABLE OF AUTHORITIES

Albertsons, Inc. v. Kirkingburg,
67 U.S.L.W. 4560 (June 22, 1999)

Alden v. Maine,
67 U.S.L.W. 4601 (June 23, 1999)

American Manufacturer's Mutual Insurance Co. v. Sullivan,
67 U.S.L.W. 4158 (March 3, 1999)

Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation,
67 U.S.L.W. 4043 (Jan. 12, 1999)

Calderon v. Coleman,
67 U.S.L.W. 3390 (Dec. 14, 1998)

Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F.,
67 U.S.L.W. 4165 (March 3, 1999)

Central State University v. American Ass'n of University Professors,
67 U.S.L.W. 3583 (March 22, 1999)

Chicago v. Morales,
67 U.S.L.W. 4415 (June 10, 1999)

City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes,
67 U.S.L.W. 4345 (May 24, 1999)

City of West Covina v. Perkins,
67 U.S.L.W. 4058 (Jan. 13, 1999)

Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp.,
67 U.S.L.W. 4375 (May 24, 1999)

College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board,
67 U.S.L.W. 4590 (June 23, 1999)

Conn v. Gabbert,
67 U.S.L.W. 4222 (April 5, 1999)

Cunningham v. Hamilton County,
67 U.S.L.W. 4458 (June 14, 1999)

Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education,
67 U.S.L.W. 4329 (May 24, 1999)

Dep't of Commerce v. U.S. House of Representatives,
67 U.S.L.W. 4090 (Jan. 25, 1999)

Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board v. College Savings Bank,
67 U.S.L.W. 4580 (June 23, 1999)

Florida v. White,
67 U.S.L.W. 4311 (May 17, 1999)

Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Ass'n v. United States,
67 U.S.L.W. 4451 (June 14, 1999)

Grupo Mexicano de Desarollo v. Alliance Bond Fund,
67 U.S.L.W. 4490 (June 17, 1999)

Haddle v. Garrison,
67 U.S.L.W. 4029 (December 14, 1998)

Hanlon v. Berger,
67 U.S.L.W. 4329 (May 24,1999)

Holloway v. United States,
67 U.S.L.W. 4148 (March 2, 1999)

Hunt v. Cromartie,
67 U.S.L.W. 4306 (May 17, 1999)

INS v. Aguirre-Aguirre,
67 U.S.L.W. 4270 (May 3, 1999)

Jones v. United States,
67 U.S.L.W. 4204 (March 24, 1999)

Jones v. United States,
67 U.S.L.W. 4508 (June 21, 1999)

Knowles v. Iowa,
67 U.S.L.W. 4027 (Dec. 8, 1998)

Kolstad v. American Dental Ass'n,
67 U.S.L.W. 4552 (June 22, 1999)

Kumho Tire Company, Ltd. v. Carmichael,
67 U.S.L.W. 4179 (March 23, 1999)

Lilly v. Virginia,
67 U.S.L.W. 4435 (June 10, 1999)

Lopez v. Monterey County,
67 U.S.L.W. 4076 (Jan. 20, 1999)

Martin v. Hadix,
67 U.S.L.W. 4500 (June 17, 1999)

Maryland v. Dyson,
67 U.S.L.W. 3770 (June 21, 1999)

Minnesota v. Carter,
67 U.S.L.W. 4017 (Dec. 1, 1998)

Mitchell v. United States,
67 U.S.L.W. 4230 (April 5, 1999)

Murphy v. United Parcel Service,
67 U.S.L.W. 4549 (June 22, 1999)

National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Smith,
67 U.S.L.W. 4130 (Feb. 23, 1999)

Neder v. United States,
67 U.S.L.W. 4404 (June 10, 1999)

O'Sullivan v. Boerckel,
67 U.S.L.W. 4389 (June 7, 1999)

Olmstead v. L.C.,
67 U.S.L.W. 4567 (June 22, 1999)

Ortiz v. Fireboard Corp.,
67 U.S.L.W. 4632 (June 23, 1999)

Peguero v. United States,
67 U.S.L.W. 4154 (March 2, 1999)

Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee,
67 U.S.L.W. 4133 (Feb. 24, 1999)

Richardson v. United States,
67 U.S.L.W. 4381 (June 1, 1999)

Roberts v. Galen of Virginia, Inc.,
67 U.S.L.W. 4062 (Jan. 13, 1999)

Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co.,
67 U.S.L.W. 4315 (May 17, 1999)

Saenz v. Roe,
67 U.S.L.W. 4291 (May 17, 1999)

South Central Bell Telephone Co. v. Alabama,
67 U.S.L.W. 3583 (March 23, 1999)

South Central Bell Telephone Co. v. Alabama,
67 U.S.L.W. 4186 (March 23, 1999)

Strickler v. Greene,
67 U.S.L.W. 4477 (June 17, 1999)

Sutton v. United Air Lines,
67 U.S.L.W. 4537 (June 22, 1999)

United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers,
67 U.S.L.W. 4265 (April 27, 1999)

West v. Gibson,
67 U.S.L.W. 4462 (June 14, 1999)

Wilson v. Layne,
67 U.S.L.W. 4322 (May 24, 1999)

Wright v. Universal Maritime Service,
67 U.S.L.W. 4013 (Nov. 16, 1998)

Wyoming v. Houghton,
67 U.S.L.W. 4225 (April 5, 1999

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