Overview of the 2012 Supreme Court Term


The Supreme Court transformed America's civil rights landscape in the final week of its 2012 term with a series of landmark decisions heading in opposite directions.

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

Supreme Court Cases

Windsor v. United States Decided

Lesbian and Gay Rights

4/25/2014 - Whether the Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection by denying married gay couples recognition under federal law.

Shelby County v. Holder Decided

Voting Rights

1/16/2014 - The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one of our nation’s most critical federal civil rights statutes. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is a key element of the Act, requires certain jurisdictions that have a history of discriminatory voting practices to get advance approval from the federal government before changing their election laws.

Hollingsworth v. Perry Decided

Lesbian and Gay Rights

6/26/2013 - Whether California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman, violates equal protection.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin Decided

Racial Equality

6/25/2013 - Whether it is constitutional for the admissions program at the University of Texas to consider race as one factor, among many, in attempting to create a diverse educational experience for its students.

Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Decided

Voting Rights

6/17/2013 - Whether Arizona may require proof of citizenship before registering to vote in federal elections when federal law does not.

Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Decided

Gene Patents

6/13/2013 - Whether human genes can be patented.

Maryland v. King Decided

Search and Seizure

6/3/2013 - Whether collecting and analyzing DNA samples from arrestees without a warrant or consent violates the Fourth Amendment.

Missouri v. McNeely Decided

Search and Seizure

4/17/2013 - Whether every person arrested for drunk driving can be forced to submit to a blood test without consent and without a warrant.

Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International Decided

First Amendment

4/2/2013 - Whether organizations can be required to submit a pledge to oppose prostitution in order to participate in a federal program designed to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria internationally.

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl Decided

Native American Rights

3/28/2013 - Whether the Indian Child Welfare Act was properly applied under the facts of this case.

Salinas v. Texas Decided

Criminal Justice

2/28/2013 - Whether the Fifth Amendment prohibits the prosecution from commenting at trial on a defendant’s silence when questioned by the police prior to Miranda warnings.

McBurney v. Young Decided

Freedom of Information Act

1/3/2013 - Whether a state may limit access to its public records by allowing only its own citizens to use the state’s freedom of information law.

Alleyne v. United States Decided

Criminal Justice

12/12/2012 - Whether the quantity of drugs involved in a crime must be decided by the jury before it can be the basis for a mandatory minimum sentence.

Clapper v. Amnesty International Decided

National Security

9/17/2012 - Whether a federal statute that broadly expanded the government’s surveillance powers can be challenged by lawyers, journalists, and human rights organizations who face a reasonable likelihood that their international communications will be monitored under the statute and have taken prudent (and, in some cases, ethically compelled) steps to safeguard against that risk.

Florida v. Harris Decided

Search and Seizure

9/4/2012 - Whether the police may conduct a warrantless search for drugs based solely on an alert by a drug-sniffing dog without any other evidence of the dog’s reliability so long as the dog has been “trained” or “certified.”

Bailey v. United States Decided

Search and Seizure

8/21/2012 - Whether someone who has left the immediate vicinity of a house that is about to be searched may be seized by the police without probable cause.

Ryan v. Gonzales and Tibbals v. Carter Decided

Death Penalty

7/26/2012 - Whether death row inmates who have been found incompetent are entitled to a stay of their federal habeas corpus proceedings.

Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. Decided

Human Rights

6/12/2012 - Whether aliens who suffered severe human rights abuses abroad can sue those responsible for the abuses in federal court under the Alien Tort Statute.

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