Primary Sources for Student Research
Educators, do you and your students need primary source materials on current controversial social, scientific, health, historic, economic, political, and global issues? Then turn to SIRS Knowledge Source's U.S. Supreme Court feature. SIRS editors hand-select Supreme Court decisions based on their relevance to student research and support of SIRS Leading Issues. Users can access Supreme Court cases via the Supreme Court feature
in the Government Reporter product, or in the Advanced Search feature in SIRS Knowledge Source
by choosing the Primary Sources tab in article results (All available primary sources will appear in the search results).
The Court's most recent term, which concluded the last week of June, saw the confirmation and swearing-in of a new justice, as well as the retirement of another. Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by President Donald Trump after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on April 10, 2018. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch once served as a clerk, led him through the oath
at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. On June 27, shortly after the Court adjourned for the summer, Justice Kennedy
announced that he would retire effective July 31, after serving 30 years on the Court. On July 9, in a prime-time address from the White House East Room, President Trump announced his second nominee to the Nation's highest court would be Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh
After an extremely contentious confirmation process, Kavanagh was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 50-48
on October 6. Just hours later, he was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who he is replacing. On Tuesday, October 9, the new associate justice took the bench
for his first oral arguments. Kavanaugh's elevation means that the Supreme Court is likely to move to the right
, perhaps significantly, for years if not decades to come.
The Court issued decisions involving abortion, business ethics, capital punishment, civil rights, consumer privacy, digital media, elections, freedom of speech, gambling, human rights, illegal immigration, labor unions, LGBT rights, race discrimination, same-sex marriage, sports, terrorism, voting fraud, water use and workplace discrimination. Below we highlight some of the decisions from this term, and their relevance to SIRS Leading Issues topics.
DIGITAL REALTY TRUST, INC. v. SOMERS
(Feb 21, 2018) The Court held that the anti-retaliation provision for "whistleblowers" in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 applies only to individuals who fall within the act's specific definition of "whistleblower," that is, those who disclose allegedly unlawful activity to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
(Related Leading Issues: Consumer Privacy, Business Ethics, Workplace Discrimination
JENNINGS v. RODRIGUEZ
(Feb 27, 2018) Sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act require that noncitizens who are determined to be inadmissible to the United States must be detained during removal proceedings, though some may be released on bond if they can demonstrate that they are not a flight risk or a danger to the community. The Court decided that non-citizens who are subject to mandatory detention under this Act do not require periodic bond hearings nor do they impose time limits on detention.
(Related Leading Issues: Illegal Immigration, Criminal Justice
KISELA v. HUGHES
(Apr 2, 2018) The Court ruled that an Arizona police officer is entitled to qualified immunity, shielding him from a lawsuit brought against him by a woman who claimed that he used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
(Related Leading Issues: Civil Rights, Criminal Justice
SESSIONS v. DIMAYA
(Apr 17, 2018)
The Court struck down the Immigration and Nationality Act's "crime of violence" provision as unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
(Related Leading Issues: Criminal Justice, Illegal Immigration
JESNER v. ARAB BANK, PLC
(Apr 24, 2018) A case in which the Court held that the Alien Tort Statute does not permit lawsuits against corporations. The Court ruled that foreign corporations may not be defendants in suits brought under the Alien Tort Statute, which is strictly jurisdictional and does not provide or define a cause of action for international law violations.
(Related Leading Issues: Human Rights, Terrorism, Business Ethics
BYRD v. UNITED STATES
(May 14, 2018) In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that drivers in lawful possession of a rental car have a reasonable expectation of privacy from police searches even if their names aren't on the rental agreement.
(Related Leading Issues: Consumer Privacy, Criminal Justice, Right of Privacy
McCOY v. LOUISIANA
(May 14, 2018) The Court held that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that counsel refrain from admitting guilt. Therefore, a defense attorney in a capital case cannot concede a defendant's guilt to the jury over the defendant’s explicit objection.
(Related Leading Issues: Criminal justice, Capital punishment)
MURPHY v. NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
(May 14, 2018) The Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which banned sports betting with a few exceptions. The Court ruled that Congress does not have the authority under the Constitution to force states to enforce federal laws. The decision gives states the choice to legalize sports gambling.
(Related Leading Issues: Gambling, Sports, Sports Betting
EPIC SYSTEMS CORP. v. LEWIS
(May 21, 2018) The Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act requires that arbitration agreements providing for individualized proceedings be enforced. The decision gave businesses the power to block employees from joining together to file claims for wage theft and other work-related violations, upholding employer-written rules requiring that each case be limited to a single employee.
(Related Leading Issue: Labor Unions
COLLINS v. VIRGINIA
(May 29, 2018) The Court ruled that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches does not allow police to search vehicles parked adjacent to private homes without a warrant.
(Related Leading Issues: Criminal Justice, Right of Privacy, Property Rights
MASTERPIECE CAKESHOP, LTD. v. COLORADO CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION
(Jun 4, 2018) The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission unjustly punished a baker who refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
(Related Leading Issues: Civil Rights, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, LGBT Rights, Religious Freedom Laws, Same-Sex Marriage
HUSTED v. A. PHILIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE
(Jun 11, 2018) The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to one of the practices used by Ohio to remove voters from the state’s voter rolls. The Court ruled that the practice under question--which cancels the registration of voters who do not go to the polls and who then fail to respond to a notice--does not violate federal laws governing voter registration, namely the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
(Related Leading Issues: Government Ethics, Elections, Voting Fraud
MINNESOTA VOTERS ALLIANCE v. MANSKY
(Jun 14, 2018) The Supreme Court struck down a Minnesota law that prohibited voters from wearing political apparel and buttons in polling stations, ruling that the law violated the First Amendment.
(Related Leading Issues: Elections, Freedom of Speech
CARPENTER v. UNITED STATES
(Jun 22, 2018) The Court held that the warrantless seizure and search of cell phone records revealing the location and movements of a cell phone user over the course of 127 days violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
(Related Leading Issues: Privacy, Criminal justice, Digital Media
ABBOTT v. PEREZ
(Jun 25, 2018) The Court rejected a district court's conclusion that a 2013 Texas redistricting plan was tainted by the bias of a previous legislature and that certain districts were invalid as having the effect of depriving Latinos of the equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice.
(Related Leading Issues: Elections, Racial Discrimination
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF FAMILY AND LIFE ADVOCATES v. BECERRA
(Jun 26, 2018) The Supreme Court ruled that faith-based crisis pregnancy centers in California do not have to notify patients that subsidized abortions are offered by the state.
(Related Leading Issues: Abortion, Parental Consent for Abortion, Freedom of Speech)
TRUMP v. HAWAII
(Jun 26, 2018) The Court decided that President Trump does have the authority to prohibit travelers from certain countries from entering the United States if he thinks it is necessary to protect the nation, ruling that Trump's travel ban falls within the president's authority.
(Related Leading Issues: Immigration, Freedom of Religion, National Security and Privacy)
JANUS v. STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES
(Jun 27, 2018) The Supreme Court ruled that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining. Because forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable raises serious First Amendment concerns, States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees.
(Related Leading Issues: Labor unions, Freedom of Speech
FLORIDA v. GEORGIA
(Jun 27, 2018) The Court decided that Florida is entitled to equitable apportionment of the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin (ACF Basin) and appropriate injunctive relief against Georgia to sustain an adequate flow of fresh water into the Apalachicola Region.
(Related Leading Issue: Water use
Each case in SIRS Knowledge Source's U.S. Supreme Court feature
includes a full-text PDF version of the opinion, as well as a concise and easy-to-understand summary explaining the question before the Court and its decision. Cases can be browsed by subject heading, topic, by Constitutional Article and Amendment, or alphabetically. You can also find biographical information on current and past justices, a reference article that explains the role of the Supreme Court and its history, a full-text version of the U.S. Constitution with amendments and historical notes, a list of supplementary references for students and educators, and more.
The Supreme Court's new term for 2018-2019
began on October 1, and the justices have already agreed to hear over 40 cases.
The Court will hear cases
involving employee rights, capital punishment, taxation on retirement benefits, copyright law, child protection laws, endangered species, workplace discrimination, treatment of prisoners, capital punishment, government ethics, prison reform, illegal immigration, taxation, indigenous peoples, property rights, copyright law and conservation of natural resources, among others.
Stay tuned for decisions in these important cases, and keep SIRS Knowledge Source in mind when you need easy access to primary source material for lesson plans or student research.
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