Overview of the 2009 Supreme Court Term

Supreme Court Concludes Term with Major Decisions on Gun Control, Discrimination, Separation of Powers and Patents

From a civil liberties perspective, this was a Term dominated by the First Amendment. Most prominently, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court went out of its way to hold that restrictions on corporate campaign expenditures are unconstitutional.
Read a summary of all the Court's major civil liberties-related cases from this Term >>

Supreme Court Concludes a Term Focused on First Amendment As Justice Stevens Steps Down Ending Historic Career >>

ACLU Report on the Nomination of Elena Kagan

Whenever a Supreme Court nominee is sent to the Senate, the ACLU prepares a report for use by the Senate, the press and the public in evaluating the nominee. The report examines the nominee's record with respect to civil liberties.
Read our report on Elena Kagan >>

Supreme Court Cases

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez Decided


6/28/2010 - Whether a public university may require a student club to comply with the university’s non-discrimination policy in order to receive official recognition and university funding.

Holland v. Florida Decided

Criminal Justice

6/15/2010 - Whether, and under what circumstances, the one-year statute of limitations for filing a federal habeas corpus petition is subject to equitable tolling.

Hui v. Castaneda Decided

Civil Rights

5/3/2010 - Whether a lawsuit seeking damages for the unconstitutional denial of medical care can be brought against Public Health Service doctors working in immigration detention facilities.

Salazar v. Buono Decided

Religious Freedom

4/28/2010 - Whether a congressional statute transferring a small parcel of land in the Mojave Desert National Preserve to private owners satisfies the government's obligation to cure the Establishment Clause violation created by a Latin cross on public land, when the government also designates the cross as a national memorial and retains a reversionary interest in the land.

City of Ontario v. Quon Decided


3/24/2010 - Whether a government employee has any privacy rights in personal text messages sent on a government cell phone or pager?

Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project Decided

Free Speech

2/22/2010 - Whether the federal law criminalizing material support for terrorism is unconstitutionally vague because it is unclear whether it extends even to speech opposing terrorism so long as it is directed at designated terrorist organizations and, if so, whether the law violates the First Amendment as applied to such advocacy.

Berghuis v. Thompkins Decided

Criminal Justice

1/27/2010 - Whether the police can continue to interrogate a suspect who has been read his Miranda rights but never waived them for several hours when the suspect refuses to respond to any initial questioning and thus effectively asserts his right to remain silent.

Barber v. Thomas Decided

Criminal Justice

1/21/2010 - Whether the Bureau of Prisoners is improperly denying federal prisoners good time credits, and thus prolonging the prison sentences, by misinterpreting the relevant congressional statute.

Berghuis v. Smith Decided

Criminal Justice

12/28/2009 - Whether the right to an impartial jury guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment includes the right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held and, if so, how the fair cross-section requirement should be measured and enforced.

Kiyemba v. Obama (Vacated and Remanded)

Due Process

12/11/2009 - Whether federal habeas courts have the authority to order the release of Guantanamo detainees who are being illegally detained, including an order releasing them into the United States if no other alternative is available.

Lewis v. City of Chicago Decided


12/11/2009 - Whether the 300 day deadline for filing a disparate impact complaint with the EEOC runs from the date the challenged practice is adopted by the employer or from the date that it is applied against the complaining employee.

Pottawattamie County v. McGhee (Voluntarily Dismissed)

Criminal Justice

9/21/2009 - Whether a prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity from damages for fabricating evidence during a criminal investigation when the same prosecutor later uses that evidence at trial to convict.

Perdue v. Kenny A. Decided

Attorneys' Fees

8/28/2009 - Whether a district court may award enhanced attorney’s fees to a prevailing plaintiff in a civil rights action based on extraordinary performance and exceptional results.

Alvarez v. Smith (Vacated as Moot)

Due Process

8/7/2009 - Whether a state must provide some sort of preliminary hearing when it allows cars and other property to be seized and held for six months or more pending final forfeiture proceedings.

Wood v. Allen Decided

Criminal Justice

8/6/2009 - Whether the federal courts properly reviewed the state court findings in this habeas corpus proceeding to determine the constitutionality of the petitioner's death sentence.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Decided

Free Speech

7/29/2009 - Whether a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which bars unions and corporations (both for-profit and non-profit) from engaging in "electioneering communications," violates the First Amendment and should be struck down as facially unconstitutional.

United States v. Stevens Decided

Free Speech

7/27/2009 - Whether the First Amendment permits the government to criminalize the interstate sale or possession of any depiction of animal cruelty that is illegal where the depiction is created, sold or possessed, unless the depiction has serious value.

Kucana v. Holder Decided

Immigrants' Rights

7/20/2009 - Whether a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals denying a motion for reconsideration in an asylum case is subject to judicial review.

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