Notable Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, 2001–2002 Term

Updated June 18, 2019 | Infoplease Staff
  • Statute of Limitations Stands (Nov. 13, 2001): Court holds unanimously that any violation of Fair Credit Reporting Act, including improper disclosure of consumer credit information, must be prosecuted within statutory two-year period following date of violation rather than date of plaintiff's discovery of violation.
  • No Tax Exemption for Tribes (Nov. 27, 2001): Justices, 7–2, uphold circuit court finding that Indian tribes, unlike states, are not exempt from paying gambling taxes.
  • Search Without Warrant Upheld (Dec. 10, 2001): Court rules unanimously that a person or his property may be searched without a warrant if that person is on probation and a warrantless search is a condition of probation.
  • Law on Disabilities Narrowed (Jan. 8, 2002): Justices rule unanimously that persons seeking to qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act must have impairment that limits activities that are central to daily life and not just to their job.
  • Due Process Guarantees Upheld (Jan. 9, 2002): In narrow 5–4 split, justices rule that jury must be informed of life without parole option when defendant's future dangerousness is an issue and death sentence is only alternative to life imprisonment.
  • Permit for Park Events Allowed (Jan. 15, 2002): Court holds unanimously that a city park ordinance requiring a permit for large-scale events does not violate the First Amendment's free speech clause.
  • Due Process for Sex Offenders (Jan. 22, 2002): Justices, 7–2, hold that state does not have to show that sex offender is completely unable to control dangerous behavior to justify confinement in a civil commitment center following prison; however, state must show defendent has some difficulty controlling behavior.
  • Student Grading Does Not Violate Student Privacy (Feb. 19, 2002): Court holds unanimously that student grading of classroom assignments does not violate students' privacy rights.
  • Tenants Evicted Under Drug Law (March 26, 2002): In 8–01 decision, Court upholds fairness of federal drug law that permits the eviction of public housing tenants because of drug use by any household member or guest, even if the drug use takes place off site without the tenant's knowledge.
  • Illegal Immigrants Denied Back Pay (March 27, 2002): Court, in 5–4 split, rules that companies cannot be forced to give back pay to undocumented workers who have been wrongly fired or demoted.
  • Virtual Child Pornography Protected (April 16, 2002): Court, 6–3, holds that 1996 child pornography prevention law went too far in banning computer-generated child pornography.
  • Court Deals Setback to Property Rights Movement (April 23, 2002): Court, 6–3, rules that a government-imposed moratorium on property development does not automatically amount to a “taking” of private property, for which property owners must be compensated by the government.
  • Seniority Prevails over Disability (April 29, 2002): In 5–4 decision, Court rules that in accommodating a disabled employee, an employer is not required to make a placement that overrides a valid seniority system.
  • Ban Lifted on Advertising of Drugs (April 29, 2002): In 5–4 decision, Court invalidates a 1997 federal law that banned pharmacies from advertising special compound drugs made to order by pharmacists. Ruling marks shift in favor of free speech in commercial advertising.
  • Court Backs Competition Among Rival Phone Companies (May 13, 2002): Court, 7–12, upholds federal regulations that permit start-up telephone companies to use large local telephone companies' networks at relatively low cost.
  • Internet Pornography Law Gets Temporary Reprieve (May 13, 2002): Court, 8–1, rules that case involving Child Online Protection Act (COPA) be sent back to lower court for further analysis. According to a majority of the justices, COPA's use of “community standards” to define what is harmful to children does not make the law unconstitutional; however, most feel there are other potential constitutional problems with the law. Meanwhile, as a result of the decision, enforcement of the 1998 law remains blocked.
  • Right to Counsel Expanded (May 20, 2002): Court, 5–4, rules that a state may not impose even a suspended sentence—in which the possibility of incarceration is remote—on a defendant who has not had a lawyer.
  • States' Rights Upheld (May 28, 2002): Court, 5–4, holds that the Federal Maritime Commission does not have the authority to decide a dispute between a private casino-boat company and South Carolina port officials.
  • Patent Protection Upheld (May 28, 2002): In unanimous decision, Court upholds “doctrine of equivalents,” which states that patent protection extends to very similar devices even if they do not fall literally within the scope of a particular patent.
  • Court Backs SEC (June 3, 2002): In unanimous decision, Court overturns an appeals court ruling that said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could not sue to recover money from a broker convicted of fraud since the crime did not involve the sale or purchase of securities. Ruling ensures SEC has authority to protect consumers from unscrupulous brokers.
  • Court Backs Employers in Americans with Disabilities Act Case (June 10, 2002): Court rules, 9–0, that an employer can refuse to hire someone whose disability makes a job physically dangerous for him. The justices agree that such a refusal does not constitute discrimination.
  • Prisoners' Right Against Self-Incrimination Is Limited (June 10, 2002): In 5–4 split, justices rule that prison rehabilitation programs requiring inmates to reveal undisclosed crimes do not necessarily violate the right to avoid self-incrimination guaranteed by the Constitution, even if inmates lose privileges for refusing to participate.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses Win Free Speech Dispute (June 17, 2002): In 8–1 ruling, Court decides that a Stratton, Ohio, ordinance requiring permits for door-to-door solicitation is too broad and violates First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.
  • Bus Search Upheld (June 17, 2002): Court rules, 6–3, that during random searches for drugs or weapons on buses, police do not need to inform passengers that they may refuse to be searched.
  • Students Cannot Sue Under Educational Privacy Law (June 20, 2002): In 7–2 decision, Court rules that an individual student cannot sue for damages under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that prohibits schools and colleges from releasing students' educational records without consent. The law only provides for the cutting off of federal funds to the offending school or college.
  • Utah Loses Census Battle (June 20, 2002): Justices, in 5–4 split, reject Utah's claim that Census Bureau used a banned counting method for 2000 Census, which resulted in Utah's losing one congressional seat.
  • States Have Authority to Protect Medical Patients (June 20, 2002): In 5–4 decision, justices uphold Illinois state law that requires health maintenance organizations to provide for independent review in disputed cases where physician-prescribed treatment is being denied by HMO. Although Congress has yet to enact a patients' bill of rights that would include the right to independent review, 42 states and the District of Columbia currently have medical review laws.
  • Court Bars Execution of Mentally Retarded (June 20, 2002): Court rules, 6–3, that executing murderers who are mentally retarded is unconstitutional.
  • Death Penalty Law Invalidated (June 25, 2002): In 7–2 decision, justices rule that juries rather than judges must decide who gets death penalty. In five states, including Ariz., Colo., Idaho, Mont., and Nebr., judges have had sole authority to sentence prisoners to death. In four other states, Ala., Del., Fla., and Ind., juries may give sentencing recommendation, but final decision rests with judge.
  • Federal Sentencing Guidelines Upheld (June 25, 2002): In 5–4 decision, Court holds that it is permissible for a judge to impose a tougher sentence based on aggravating factors with which the defendent was not formally charged as long as the sentence remains within the statutory range for the crime. The decision clarifies a Supreme Court ruling from two years ago (Apprendi decision) that held that any factor that led to a sentence beyond the statutory maximum must be included in the indictment and found by a jury.
  • Random Drug Tests for Students (June 27, 2002): Justices, 5–4, approve drug testing as a condition for participation in any extracurricular activities involving interscholastic competition.
  • School Voucher Victory (June 27, 2002): Court, 5–4, upholds use of public funds for tuition at private religious schools under Cleveland voucher program.
  • Judicial Candidates Given First Amendment Protection (June 27, 2002): In 5–4 decision, Court strikes down Minnesota rule prohibiting candidates in judicial elections from expressing their views on controversial legal or political issues. Currently the state also has a rule forbidding candidates from promising to act in a particular way on an issue once elected; however, this rule still stands.
1. Justice Breyer took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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