October 23, 2012

Case Highlights 2005-2006 Term

Following are case highlights for the topic areas of First Amendment and Fourth Amendment. To access other case highlights for the 2005-2006 Term or previous terms, or to return to the main Case Highlights page, use the Topic Area menu to the right.


Garcetti, et al. v. Ceballos
Docket No. 04-473
Reversed: The Ninth Circuit

Argued: October 12, 2005
Reargued: March 21, 2006
Decided: May 30, 2006
For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 42

Does the First Amendment protect a government employee from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee's official duties?

No. The Court held that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.

From the opinion by Justice Kennedy (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito):

Exposing governmental inefficiency and misconduct is a matter of considerable significance, and various measures have been adopted to protect employees and provide checks on supervisors who would order unlawful or otherwise inappropriate actions. These include federal and state whistle-blower protection laws and labor codes and, for government attorneys, rules of conduct and constitutional obligations apart from the First Amendment. However, the Court's precedents do not support the existence of a constitutional cause of action behind every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job.

Dissenting: Justice Stevens
Dissenting: Justice Souter (joined by Justices Stevens and Ginsburg)
Dissenting: Justice Breyer

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Rumsfeld et al. v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights Inc. et al.

Docket No. 04-1152

Reversed: The Third Circuit

Argued: December 6, 2005

Decided: March 6, 2006

For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 143

Does the Solomon Amendment's equal access condition on federal funding likely violate the First Amendment to the Constitution?

No. Because Congress could require law schools to provide equal access to military recruiters without violating the schools' freedoms of speech and association, the Third Circuit erred in holding that the Solomon Amendment likely violates the First Amendment and in directing that a preliminary injunction be issued against its enforcement.

From the opinion by Chief Justice Roberts (joined by all other members except Justice Alito, who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case):

In this case, FAIR has attempted to stretch a number of First Amendment doctrines well beyond the sort of activities these doctrines protect. The law schools object to having to treat military recruiters like other recruiters, but that regulation of conduct does not violate the First Amendment. To the extent that the Solomon Amendment incidentally affects expression, the law schools' effort to cast themselves as just like the schoolchildren in [ West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette (1943)], the parade organizers in [ Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc. (1995)] and the Boy Scouts in [ Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000)] plainly overstates the expressive nature of their activity and the impact of the Solomon Amendment on it, while exaggerating the reach of our First Amendment precedents.

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Fourth Amendment

Brigham City, Utah v. Stuart et al.

Docket No. 05-502

Reversed: The Supreme Court of Utah

Argued: April 24, 2006

Decided: May 22, 2006

For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 404

May police enter a home without a warrant when they have an objectively reasonable basis for believing that an occupant is seriously injured or imminently threatened with such injury?

Yes. The Court held that one exigency obviating the requirement of a warrant is the need to assist persons who are seriously injured or threatened with such injury.

From the opinion by Chief Justice Roberts (for a unanimous Court):

An action is "reasonable" under the Fourth Amendment, regardless of the individual officer's state of mind, "as long as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify [the]action." … The officer's subjective motivation is irrelevant. … It therefore does not matter here—even if their subjective motives could be so neatly unraveled—whether the officers entered the kitchen to arrest respondents and gather evidence against them or to assist the injured and prevent further violence.

Concurring: Justice Stevens

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Georgia v. Randolph

Docket No. 04-1067

Affirmed: Supreme Court of Georgia

Argued: November 8, 2005

Decided: March 22, 2006

For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 57

Do police have valid consent to search a house if one occupant of the house consents, but another occupant who is present objects?

No. A physically present co-occupant's stated refusal to permit entry renders a warrantless entry and search unreasonable and invalid as to him or her.

From the opinion by Justice Souter (joined by Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer):

To the Fourth Amendment rule ordinarily prohibiting the warrantless entry of a person's house as unreasonable per se … one "jealously and carefully drawn" exception … recognizes the validity of searches with the voluntary consent of an individual possessing authority. That person might be the householder against whom evidence is sought … or a fellow occupant who shares common authority over property, when the suspect is absent … and the exception for consent extends even to entries and searches with the permission of a co-occupant whom the police reasonably, but erroneously, believe to possess shared authority as an occupant. … None of our co-occupant consent-to-search cases, however, has presented the further fact of a second occupant physically present and refusing permission to search, and later moving to suppress evidence so obtained. … Since the co-tenant wishing to open the door to a third party has no recognized authority in law or social practice to prevail over a present and objecting co-tenant, his disputed invitation, without more, gives a police officer no better claim to reasonableness in entering than the officer would have in the absence of any consent at all.

Concurring: Justices Stevens and Breyer

Dissenting: Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Justice Scalia)

Dissenting: Justice Scalia

Dissenting: Justice Thomas

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Hudson v. Michigan

Docket No. 04-1360

Affirmed: The Court of Appeals of Michigan

Argued: January 9, 2006

Reargued: May 18, 2006

Decided: June 15, 2006

For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 204

Does violation of the "knock-and-announce" rule require the suppression of all evidence found in the search?

No. Exclusion may not be premised on the mere fact that a constitutional violation was a "but-for" cause of obtaining the evidence.

From the opinion by Justice Scalia (joined in parts by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito):

Cases excluding the fruits of unlawful warrantless searches … say nothing about the appropriateness of exclusion to vindicate the interests protected by the knock-and-announce requirement. … The interests protected by the knock-and-announce requirement are quite different—and do not include the shielding of potential evidence from the government's eyes. One of those interests is the protection of human life and limb, because an unannounced entry may provoke violence in supposed self-defense by the surprised resident. … Another interest is the protection of property. … And thirdly, the knock-and-announce rule protects those elements of privacy and dignity that can be destroyed by a sudden entrance. … What the knock-and-announce rule has never protected, however, is one's interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant. Since the interests that were violated in this case have nothing to do with the seizure of the evidence, the exclusionary rule is inapplicable.

Concurring in part and concurring in the judgment: Justice Kennedy

Dissenting: Justice Breyer (joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg)

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Samson v. California

Docket No. 04-9728

Affirmed: California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District

Argued: February 22, 2006

Decided: June 19, 2006

For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 241

Does the Fourth Amendment prohibit a police officer from conducting a suspicionless search of a parolee?

No. The search in this case was lawful under a California statute that requires every prisoner eligible for release on state parole to "agree in writing to be subject to search or seizure by a parole officer ... with or without a search warrant and with or without cause." And the search was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment because it was not arbitrary, capricious or harassing.

From the opinion by Justice Thomas (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg and Alito):

The concern that California's suspicionless search system gives officers unbridled discretion to conduct searches, thereby inflicting dignitary harms that arouse strong resentment in parolees and undermine their ability to reintegrate into productive society, is belied by California's prohibition on 'arbitrary, capricious or harassing' searches. ... The dissent's claim that parolees under California law are subject to capricious searches conducted at the unchecked 'whim' of law enforcement officers ... ignores this prohibition. Likewise, petitioner's concern that California's suspicionless search law frustrates reintegration efforts by permitting intrusions into the privacy interests of third parties is also unavailing because that concern would arise under a suspicion-based regime as well.

Dissenting: Justice Stevens (joined by Justices Souter and Breyer)

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