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U.S. Supreme Court

Adoption, Foster Care

Adoption, Indian Children

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S. Ct. 2552 (2013). Indian father never had physical custody of child under state law. Thus, since child was born out of wedlock, an ICWA provision requiring active efforts to prevent the breakup of an Indian family and provision requiring evidence that continued custody would seriously harm child, did not bar termination. CLP Summary

Hogan v. Kaltag Tribal Council, 131 S. Ct. 66 (2010). The Court declined to hear the state's appeal, effectively ending the case and reinforcing the rule that tribal courts have authority to initiate and fully adjudicate domestic matters of their own or member children.

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30 (1989). Indian Child Welfare Act governs adoptions of Indian children. Tribal courts have jurisdiction over state courts, regardless of where the child was born or if the parents lived on a reservation.

Foster Home Removal

Smith v. Organization of Foster Families for Equality and Reform et al., 431 U.S. 816 (1977). Removal procedures did not violate constitutional rights of foster parents who had cared for children for over one year.  Removal procedures provided sufficient due process protections to any liberty interests involved.

Reasonable Efforts Enforcement

Suter v. Artist M., 503 U.S. 347 (1992). “Reasonable efforts” clause of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 does not confer a private right by child beneficiaries enforceable through a Section 1983 action.

Child Custody

International Child Custody

Chafin v. Chafin, No. 11–1347 (U.S., Feb. 19 2013). The return of a child to a foreign country pursuant to an order under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction does not render an appeal of that order moot. CLP Summary

Child Sexual Abuse

Confinement of Sex Offenders

Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002). The Constitution requires, before committing the type of dangerous sexual offender considered in Kansas v. Hendricks, a determination that the offender lacks self control not only that the person has a mental abnormality of personality disroder.

Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997). Act setting forth procedures for the involuntary confinement of sex offenders based on a mental abnormality of personality disorder was constitutional. Act limited confinement to people who were unable to control their dangerousness, and Act did not violate Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy or the ban on ex post facto law. (See Kansas v. Crane, expanding burden of proof).


Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003). Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act’s retroactive application requirements did not violate Ex Post Facto Clause since Act was nonpunitive.

Children's Rights

LGBTQ Youth, Protected Status

Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996). An amendment to the Colorado Constitution preventing protected status under the law for homosexuals or bisexuals was struck down because it was not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.

Evidence in Abuse Cases


Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). When determining the admissibility of hearsay statements under the Confrontation Clause in criminal cases, cross-examination is required when assessing the reliability of prior testimonial statements of an unavailable witness.

Tome v. United States, 513 U.S. 150 (1995). Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(B), which treats prior consistent statements of a testifying witness offered to rebut an implied or express charge of fabrication, only applies to statements made before the charged fabrication or alleged improper influence or motive arose.

Idaho v. Wright, 497 U.S. 805 (1990). To admit a hearsay statement under the residual hearsay exception and use it to convict a criminal defendant, the statement must be reliable by virtue of its inherent trustworthiness, not by reference to corroborating evidence at trial. Without indicia of reliability, the admission of such a statement violates the defendant’s rights guaranteed by the Confrontation Clause

Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56 (1980). Preliminary hearing testimony by an unavailable witness is admissible at trial if certain factors are met to ensure the testimony is reliable and trustworthy. Factors to establish reliability and trustworthiness include a prior opportunity for questioning by the defendant’s counsel and being under oath. (Overruled by Crawford v. Washington)

Right to Confront Witnesses

Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990). Criminal defendants' right to confront witnesses against them under the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause did not bar use of closed circuit television testimony to present alleged child abuse victim’s testimony.

Coy v. Iowa, 487 U.S. 1012 (1988). Placing a screen between defendant and alleged victims in sexual abuse trial violated defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront the alleged victims face-to-face.

Scientific Evidence

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Expert scientific evidence is governed by Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and must be generally relevant and reliable to be admissible at trial. Daubert rejected the "Frye test," which required that scientific evidence must be generally accepted in the scientific community to be admissible.

Juvenile Justice

Burden of Proof

In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970). When a juvenile is charged with an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult, every element of the offense must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Capital Punishment

Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005). Imposing capital punishment on juvenile offenders under age 18 is unconstitutional.

Due Process Protections

In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967). Juveniles who are accused of crimes are entitled to due process protections, including timely notice of the charges, the right to legal representation, the right to confront witnesses, and the right against self-incrimination.

J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 131 S. Ct. 2394 (2011). The Court ruled that age is a relevant factor when determining if a child is "in custody" for purposes of giving Miranda warnings. Summary

Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966). Juveniles are entitled to procedural due process protections, including a preliminary hearing to inform them of the charges against them, before waiving their cases to criminal court.

Mental Health Commitment

Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979). A fact-finding hearing is not required before committing juveniles to mental health facilities since such hearings are unlikely to be more reliable than a mental health professional’s findings.


Montgomery v. Louisiana, No. 14-280 (U.S. Jan. 25, 2016). Juvenile homicide offenders convicted and sentenced before Supreme Court's ruling in Miller v. Alabama may challenge their sentences retroactively. Miller held that mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile homicide offenders was unconsititutional.

Miller v. AlabamaNo. 10-9646 and Jackson v. Hobbs, No. 10-9647 (U.S. June 25, 2012). The Court eliminated the mandatory imposition of a sentence of life without parole on juvenile offenders.

Graham v. Florida,  130 S.Ct. 2011 (2010). Juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for nonhomicide offenses.

Mental Health

Competency Evaluation

Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960). A defendant has the right to a competency evaluation before proceeding to trial. To be competent to stand trial, a defendant must have "sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding" and a "rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."

Confinement of Mentally Disabled

Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999).  Individuals with mental disabilities have a right under the Americans with Disabilities Act to live in the community instead of institutions.


Child Welfare Agencies

Camreta v. Greene, 131 S. Ct. 2020 (2011). The Court declined to decide whether police and social workers must get a warrant before interviewing a child at school about alleged sexual abuse. In its 7-3 decision, the court found the issue was moot.

Los Angeles County v. Humphries, 131 U.S. 447 (2010). Requirement that a municipality can only be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an injury caused by that municipality's own "policy or custom" applies regardless of whether the plaintiff seeks prospective relief or monetary damages.

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep’t of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989).  State child welfare agency does not have a duty to protect a child from known child abuse when (1) the child is in parental custody, and (2) the state did not create the danger of abuse or increase the risk of abuse.

Monell v. City of New York Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).  Government agencies may be held liable for violating constitutional rights through Section 1983 actions.

Registries/Community Notification

Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003). Sex offender registration requirement that child welfare agency gather and publicly disclose information on sex offenders upon their release from incarceration did not violate due process. Injury to reputation, even if defamatory, does not constitute deptrivation of a liberty interest.

Law Enforcement

Failure to Enforce Restraining Order

Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005). Following murder of woman’s three children by estranged husband, town and police department could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for failing to enforce a restraining order obtained by the mother.

Parental Rights

Burden of Proof

Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982). Permanent termination of parental rights requires clear and convincing evidence. In underlying case, statute permitting permanent termination of parental rights based upon a preponderance of the evidence standard violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Grandparent Visitation

Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000).  Grandparent visitation statute unconstitutionally infringed on parents’ fundamental liberty interest in the custody, care and control of their children. A law permitting a third party to petition for visitation with children over the parents’ objection unconstitutionally infringes on the parents’ fundamental right to raise their children.


M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102 (1996). Parent’s inability to pay court fees may not be a basis to deny a party from appealing the termination of parental rights.

Parental Authority

Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944). Parental authority is not absolute and may be restricted by the government to protect a child’s welfare.

Right to Counsel

Lassiter v. Department of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18 (1981). Indigent parents are not constitutionally entitled to have counsel appointed and present at termination of parental rights hearing.

Public Benefits

King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309 (1968). Aid to Families with Dependent Children could not be withheld from a mother with four children who lacked biological father who provided support based on the presence of a “substitute father” who visited on weekends.


Agency Investigations

Camreta v. Greene, 131 S. Ct. 2020 (2011). The Court declined to decide whether police and social workers must get a warrant before interviewing a child at school about alleged sexual abuse. In its 7-3 decision, the court found the issue was moot.


Children with Disabilities

Endrew F. ex. rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas Cty. School District RE-1, 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017). Parents sought tuition reimbursement for enrolling their autistic child in a private school because the public school district failed to implement an appropriate education plan for their child. The U.S. Supreme Court held the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to be reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress in light of the child’s circumstances.

Corporal Punishment

Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977). U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment does not apply to use of corporal punishment by schools, and constitution does not require notice and hearing before corporal punishment is imposed.

Drug Testing

Board of Education v. Earls, 536 U.S. 822 (2002). Mandatory drug testing by public schools of students participating in extracurricular activities is constitutional. Students participating in extracurricular activities have a diminished expectation of privacy, and the school’s drug testing policy furthered the school’s interest in preventing drug use among students.

Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646 (1995). Random drug testing of student athletes in public schools is constitutional. Although tests are searches under the Fourteenth Amendment, they serve a legitimate school interest in preventing drug use.


Education Records

Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo, 534 U.S. 426 (2002). Permitting school students to score each other's tests and call out the grades does not violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

Gonzaga University v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273 (2002). Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, blocking federal government from providing funding to schools that release education records to unauthorized people, does not create an enforceable federal right under 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Freedom of Religion

Bronx Household of Faith v. New York City Bd. of Educ., No. 11-386 (12/5/11). The Court let stand a ruling by the Second Circuit upholding a policy of the New York City Board of Education against religious worship in schools. Underlying case


Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000). School policy permitting student-led prayer at high school football games violates the Establishment Clause and the First Amendment.

Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972). Requiring Amish school children to attend compulsary education beyond the eighth grade violated parents’ right to freedom of religion.

Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962). Government-written prayers that must be recited by students in schools violate the Establishment Clause.

Freedom of Speech

Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007). School’s confiscation of banner promoting drug use and suspension of student did not violate First Amendment. Schools may take steps to protect students entrusted to their care from speech that could reasonably be interpreted to promote illegal drug use.

Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001). School’s exclusion of evangelical Christian club from school grounds based on its view that club’s activities constituted religious worship violated the club’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). The First Amendment applies to public schools. Before regulating student speech in the classroom, school administrators must offer constitutionally valid reasons. See also:

  • Bethel School District v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986) (student's sexual innuendo–laden speech not constitutionally protected)
  • Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988) (schools may regulate, for legitimate educational reasons, the content of non-forum, school-sponsored newspapers) 
  • Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007) (schools may restrict student speech that promotes illegal drug use)

Immigrant Children

Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982). State statute denying funding to educate immigrant children was discriminatory and penalized children based on legal characteristic over which they lacked control. When states limit rights based on immigrant status, limitation must be examined under an intermediate scrutiny standard to determine if it furthers a substantial state goal.

Racial Integration/Segregation

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007), decided with Meridith v. Jefferson County Board of Education. Assigning students to public schools solely to achieve racial integration is prohibited. While race may be considered in efforts to achieve diversity in schools, it may not be the sole determining factor when assigning students to schools.

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). State laws that permit schools to segregate black and white students are unconstitutional. Even if segregated schools are of equal quality, segregation itself harms black students by creating a significant psychological and social disadvantage.

Search and Seizure

Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 129 S.Ct. 2633 (2009). Strip search of public school student by school officials based on suspicion that student possessed and was distributing a prescription drug on campus violated the Fourth Amendment.

New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985). Search of public high school student for contraband after she was caught smoking was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. School officials had reasonable suspicion to support search and drug-related evidence was in plain view to support waiving the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.


Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1957). Board of education resolution permitting reimbursement of parents for transportation costs by public bus carrier to religious schools with tax-raised funds was constitutional.