Overview of the 2011 Supreme Court Term


The Supreme Court virtually guaranteed that it will be an issue in the upcoming presidential election by upholding both the key provision of President Obama’s health care law and the key provision of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law.

Read a summary of all the Court's major civil liberties-related cases from this term >>

Supreme Court Cases

U.S. v. Jones Decided

Search and Seizure

7/18/2012 - Whether the government needs a search warrant before placing a GPS device on a car and tracking the car's movements for a month.

Arizona v. United States Decided

Immigrants' Rights

4/25/2012 - Whether Arizona's effort to enforce federal immigration law by creating its own rules for the interrogation, arrest and detention of undocumented persons is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause.

Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals Decided


3/22/2012 - Whether states can be sued under the "self-care" provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for failing to provide employees with twelve weeks unpaid leave to deal with their own medical needs.

Reichle v. Howards Decided

Free Speech

2/23/2012 - Whether law enforcement officials can ever be sued for money damages when they have probable cause to arrest someone but choose to make the arrest based on the person’s constitutionally protected speech or views.

Dorsey v. United States and Hill v. United States Decided

Criminal Justice

1/30/2012 - Whether the federal Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1, applies to defendants who committed their offenses before the Act was passed but were sentenced after the Act’s passage.

Magner v. Gallagher (Dismissed)


1/27/2012 - Whether housing policies that have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities and women violate the anti-discrimination provision of the federal Fair Housing Act.

U.S. v. Alvarez Decided

Free Speech

1/20/2012 - Whether the government can make it a crime to intentionally lie about receiving a military honor, regardless of the circumstances in which the statement is made.

Dep't of Health and Human Services v. Florida Decided

Health Care

1/13/2012 - Whether the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as the individual mandate, is constitutional.

FCC v. Fox Television Decided

Free Speech

11/10/2011 - Whether the FCC's censorship of "indecent" speech on broadcast radio and television is unconstitutional?

Messerschmidt v. Millender Decided

Criminal Justice

10/21/2011 - Whether a police officer can be held liable for executing a search warrant when it is objectively unreasonable to believe that the warrant is supported by probable cause.

Golan v. Holder Decided

Free Speech

10/7/2011 - Whether the government may extend copyright protection to expressive material — including books, music, and movies — that was previously available in the public domain.

Minneci v. Pollard Decided

Private Prisons

9/19/2011 - Whether private prison officials can be sued for violating the constitutional rights of federal prisoners?

Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories Decided

Free Speech

9/8/2011 - Whether the challenged patents in this case violate both patent law and the First Amendment because they reach abstract ideas and pure thought.

Douglas v. Independent Living Center Decided

Access to Justice

8/10/2011 - Whether private individuals may raise a claim that California has failed to comply with federal Medicaid requirements by suing directly under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Decided

Discrimination, Religious Freedom

8/9/2011 - Whether the Americans with Disabilities Act may be constitutionally applied to a religious school's retaliatory firing of a teacher terminated for reasons unrelated to religion.

Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye Decided

Criminal Justice

7/22/2011 - Whether a criminal defendant who forgoes a plea bargain because of ineffective assistance of counsel is entitled to relief if he subsequently receives a longer sentence after conviction than the prosecutor initially offered.

Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington Decided

Search and Seizure

6/27/2011 - Whether a jail policy of strip searching every new detainee violates the Fourth Amendment.

Maples v. Thomas Decided

Death Penalty

5/25/2011 - Whether the defendant’s failure to file a timely appeal in state court should bar all subsequent federal court review of his death sentence when the reason for the missed deadline was that Alabama officials made no effort to inform him of an adverse decision from the state courts after it was returned unopened by his lawyers' former law firm.

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