Notable Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1998–1999 Term

Updated June 18, 2019 | Infoplease Staff
  • School Voucher Ruling Stands (Nov. 9, 1998): Supreme Court justices avoid decision on whether taxpayer-financed vouchers may be used to send children to parochial schools. Plan was upheld by state court in Wisconsin.
  • Administration Appeals Rejected (Nov. 9, 1998): Justices bar two Clinton moves to block grand jury testimony by Secret Service agents and President's lawyer in investigation of Monica Lewinsky affair.
  • Campaign Finance Appeals Rejected (Nov. 16, 1998): Supreme Court justices reject moves by Ohio and Arkansas questioning limits on political spending and contributions.
  • Police Search Powers Limited (Dec. 8, 1998): Justices rule unanimously that issuing a speeding ticket does not automatically give police right to search car.
  • Workers Protected in Testifying (Dec. 14, 1998): In unanimous decision, Court rules that Federal civil rights law protects employees from retaliation for appearing against their employers in Federal court.
  • Limit on Ballot Initiatives Blocked (Jan. 12, 1999): Justices, 6–3, reject Colorado's move to regulate process. Decision cites First Amendment's protection of uninhibited “communication with voters.”
  • Census Count by Sampling Rejected (Jan. 25, 1999): Justices rule, 5–4, that traditional head count must be used in 2000. Justices reject Administration's plan for statistical sampling to prevent wide undercounting.
  • Payment for Disabled Students Upheld (March 3, 1999): Justices rule, 7–2, that students requiring special care during school day are entitled to care at public expense.
  • Timothy McVeigh's Appeal Rejected (March 8, 1999): Justices refuse to hear appeal by man sentenced to death for Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that killed 168.
  • Immigration Laws Left Intact (March 8, 1999): Court decides not to review conflicting rulings on protection of immigrants facing deportation orders.
  • Federal Judges Get New Authority (March 23, 1999): Justices rule unanimously that Federal judges may prevent questionable expert testimony from being included in trials. Ruling is a victory particularly for defendants in cases involving product liability.
  • Confusion in Gun Cases Cleared (March 30, 1999): In 7–2 decision, Court rules that Federal offense of using gun in “any crime of violence” may be prosecuted anywhere the underlying crime occurred and not only where the firearm itself was used.
  • Car Search Rules Expanded for Police (April 5, 1999): In 6–3 decision, justices rule that police with probable cause to search a car for illegal drugs may also search the personal belongings of passengers who are not suspected of illegal activity.
  • Law Banning Obscene Email and Faxes Upheld (April 20, 1999): Justices accept without comment a ruling by special three-judge Federal District Court panel that Federal statute does not violate the First Amendment.
  • Court Restricts Immigrants' Rights (May 3, 1999): Rules unanimously that foreigners who have committed serious crimes in home countries are ineligible for refugee status despite risk of persecution if deported.
  • Racially Drawn Districts Approved (May 17, 1999): Justices rule unanimously that even deliberate concentration of black voters is permissible as long as state's motive is potentially political, not racial.
  • Welfare Restrictions Overruled (May 17, 1999): Court, 7–2, decides state programs may not restrict new residents to benefits due them in home states.
  • Property Owner's Rights Upheld (May 24, 1999): Court rules, 5–4, that he is entitled to jury trial in lawsuit over local government's ban on development of property.
  • No Conflict Found Between Two Laws for Disabled (May 24, 1999): In unanimous decision, Justices uphold benefit provisions of Social Security Act and those under Americans with Disability Act.
  • Ruling on Sexual Harassment in School (May 24, 1999): In 5–4 decision, Justices find that school districts can be liable under Federal law for offenses by students.
  • Standard Raised in Drug Cases (June 1, 1999): Justices rule, 6–3, that to convict a drug kingpin of a “continuing criminal enterprise,” jurors must agree unanimously that he committed each drug offense in the series.
  • Access to Federal Courts Limited (June 7, 1999): Justices' 6–3 decision rules that state prisoners who have not first appealed to state's highest court cannot appeal to Federal level.
  • Anti-Loitering Law Struck Down (June 10, 1999): Justices rule, 6–3, that Chicago statute, aimed at gang areas, was unconstitutional. It was found to give too much discretion to act against innocent people who are in the presence of suspected gang members.
  • Ban on Casino Advertising Lifted (June 14, 1999): On First Amendment grounds, Justices unanimously strike down 65-year-old law banning gambling notices. They rule that Federal law “sacrifices an intolerable amount of truthful speech about lawful conduct.”
  • States Limited on Disability Policy (June 22, 1999): In 6–3 decision, Court finds discrimination in isolation of patients in big institutions when there is no medical reason for confinement. Case brought against Georgia by two women with mental impairment.
  • Disability Legal Coverage Restricted (June 22, 1999): By 7–2 votes in three bias cases, Court rules that persons whose condition can be corrected by wearing glasses or taking their medications do not fall under protection of Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • Congressional Restrictions on States Curbed (June 23, 1999): In three 5–4 decisions, Court rules that states are immune from suits by state employees for violations of Federal labor law; by patent owners from infringement by state agencies; and by persons bringing unfair-competition suits over state activities. Decisions extend doctrine of state sovereignty.
  • Death Sentence Upheld in Test Case (June 21, 1999): Justices divide, 5–4, in first such case under expanded federal death-penalty law. Reject argument that jury had not received sufficient information before sentencing retired Army Ranger in killing of enlisted woman in Tex. in 1995.
  • Witness Deal-Making Retained (June 21, 1999): Court, without comment, rejects lower court's decision that offering leniency for testimony amounts to bribery.
  • Federal Judges Rebuffed on Tax (June 21, 1999): Court, 7–2, rules that Birmingham, Ala., did not discriminate against two U.S. employees by enforcing occupational license tax on them.
  • Rights of Federal Employees Enlarged (June 14, 1999): In 5–4 verdict, Court rules that in discrimination cases against Government the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has authority to award not only back pay but also compensatory damages.

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