5 Court Cases

I. Name and Citation
STATE OF FLORIDA, versus SEMINOLE TRIBE OF FLORIDA
II. Key Facts
In this complaint, the the Tribe was operating “electronic or electromechanical facsimiles of games of chance” and that such operations constituted class III gaming as defined by IGRA. These games were operated despite the absence of a compact between the Tribe and the State regarding the regulation of class III gaming. The State also alleged that the Tribe planned to construct a new facility on its lands in order to conduct additional class III gaming.
III. The Issue
Does the operation of such games without a Tribal-State compact violate both federal and state law?
IV. Holding and Vote
No (Opinion by Justice Stevens)
V. Reasoning
Congress abrogated tribal immunity from state suits that seek declaratory or injunctive relief for alleged tribal violations of IGRA; (2) the Tribe, by electing to engage in gaming under IGRA, waived its immunity from a suit to require compliance with the statutory conditions precedent to class III gaming; and (3) tribal immunity does not necessarily extend to actions seeking prospective equitable relief. Congress may abrogate a sovereign’s immunity only by using statutory language that makes its intention unmistakably clear, and that ambiguities in federal laws implicating Indian rights must be resolved in the Indians’ favor. The Supreme Court has made it plain that waivers of tribal sovereign immunity cannot be implied on the basis of a tribe’s actions, but must be unequivocally expressed. Accordingly, we reject the State’s argument that the Tribe’s immunity does not necessarily extend to this action for prospective equitable relief. The district court’s holding that sovereign immunity bars the State’s suit against the Tribe is affirmed.


I. Name and Citation
ALDEN et al. v. MAINE
II. Key Facts
Congress lacks power under Article I to abrogate the States’ sovereign immunity in federal court, the Federal District Court dismissed a Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 suit filed by petitioners against their employer, respondent Maine. Subsequently, petitioners filed the same action in state court. Although the FLSA purports to authorize private actions against States in their own courts, the trial court dismissed the suit on the ground of sovereign immunity.


III. The Issue
Does the federal government have authority under Article I to abrogate a State’s immunity in it’s own court?
IV. Holding and Vote
Yes. (vote 5-4) (Opinion by Justice Kennedy)
V. Reasoning
The Constitution’s structure and history and this Court’s authoritative interpretations make clear that the States’ immunity from suit is a fundamental aspect of the sovereignty they enjoyed before the Constitution’s ratification and retain today except as altered by the plan of the Convention or certain constitutional Amendments. The States’ immunity from private suit in their own courts is beyond congressional power to abrogate by Article I legislation. Congress may exercise its Article I powers to subject States to private suits in their own courts only if there is compelling evidence that States were required to surrender this power to Congress pursuant to the constitutional design.A question of first impression. History, practice, precedent, and the Constitution’s structure show no compelling evidence that this derogation of the States’ sovereignty is inherent in the constitutional compact.
VI. Separate Opinions
Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O’Connor, Scalia, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Souter, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined.



I. Name and Citation
BUCKLEY v. FITZSIMMONS ET AL.


II. Key Facts
Petitioner Buckley sought damages from respondent prosecutors for fabricating evidence during the preliminary investigation of a highly publicized rape and murder in Illinois and making false statements at a press conference announcing the return of an indictment against him. He claimed that when three separate lab studies failed to make a reliable connection between a bootprint at the murder site and his boots, respondents obtained a positive identification from one Robbins, who allegedly was known for her willingness to fabricate unreliable expert testimony. Thereafter, they convened a grand jury for the sole purpose of investigating the murder, and 10 months later, respondent Fitzsimmons, the State’s Attorney, announced the indictment at the news conference. Buckley was arrested and, unable to meet the bond, held in jail. Robbins provided the principal evidence against him at trial, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict. When Robbins died before Buckley’s retrial, all charges were dropped and he was released after three years of incarceration. In the 1983 action, the District Court held that respondents were entitled to absolute immunity for the fabricated evidence claim but not for the press conference claim.
III. Issue
Do respondent prosecutors have absolute immunity?
IV. Holding and Vote
No (Opinion by Justice Stevens)
V. Reasoning
Respondents are not entitled to absolute immunity. Certain immunities were so well established when 1983 was enacted that this Court presumes that Congress would have specifically so provided had it wished to abolish them. Most public officials are entitled only to qualified immunity. However, sometimes their actions fit within a common-law tradition of absolute immunity. Whether they do is determined by the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it. Acts undertaken by a prosecutor in preparing for the initiation of judicial proceedings or for trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an advocate for the State, are entitled to the protections of absolute immunity. However, in endeavoring to determine whether the bootprint had been made by Buckley, respondents were acting not as advocates but as investigators searching for clues and corrobor-ation that might give them probable cause to recommend an arrest. Such activities were not immune from liability at common law. If performed by police officers and detectives, such actions would be entitled to only qualified immunity; the same immunity applies to prosecutors performing those actions. Convening a grand jury to consider the evidence their work produced does not retroactively transform that work from the administrative into the prosecutorial.


V. Separate Opinions
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, and IV-B, and the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts IV-A and V, in which BLACKMUN, O’CONNOR, SCALIA, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion.


KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and WHITE and SOUTER, JJ., joined.

I. Name and Citation
James Dale v. Boy Scouts of America
II. Key Facts
James Dale became a member of BSA in 1978 until his eighteenth birthday in l988. Dale was an exemplary scout. On March 21, 1989, Dale sought adult membership in BSA. He served for approximately sixteen months. In July 1990, Dale was interviewed by the Star-Ledger, in connection with the interview, Dale’s photo appeared in the Star-Ledger with a caption identifying him as co-president of the Rutgers University Lesbian/Gay Alliance. Later that month, Dale received a letter from BSA Monmouth Council revoking his BSA membership, Kay indicated that the standards for leadership established by the BSA specifically forbade membership to homosexuals.
III. The Issue
The issue in this appeal is whether New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD), prohibits Boy Scouts of America (BSA) from expelling a member solely because he is an avowed homosexual. If the LAD prohibition applies, the Court also must determine whether BSA’s First Amendment rights are thereby violated.
IV. Holding and Vote
No. (PORITZ, C.J., writing for a unanimous Court.)
V. Reasoning
Boy Scouts of America is a “place of public accommodation” and is, therefore, subject to the provisions of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination; application of the Law Against Discrimination to Boy Scouts of America does not infringe on its First Amendment rights. The BSA had engaged in no selectivity in admitting its members, providing strong evidence that BSA is “public,” and thus subject to the proscriptions of the LAD. However, while membership selectivity is relevant to a determination of whether an organization meets the LAD’s definition of “place of public accommodation,” it is not necessarily determinative, as other factors may outweigh the presence of genuine selectivity in ultimately finding that an organization is subject to the LAD.
VI. Separate Opinions
JUSTICES POLLOCK, O’HERN, GARIBALDI, STEIN, and COLEMAN join in CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ’s opinion. JUSTICE HANDLER filed a separate concurring opinion.
I. Name and Citation
CITY OF CHICAGO v. MORALES et al.
II. Key Facts
Chicago’s Gang Congregation Ordinance prohibits “criminal street gang members”
from loitering in public places. Under the ordinance, if a police officer
observes a person whom he reasonably believes to be a gang member loitering in a
public place with one or more persons, he shall order them to disperse. Anyone
who does not promptly obey such an order has violated the ordinance. The police
department’s general orders limit officers’ enforcement discretion by confining arrest authority to designated officers, establishing detailed criteria for defining street gangs and membership therein, and providing for designated, but publicly undisclosed, enforcement areas.
III. The Issue
Does the Gang Ordinance violate due process in that it is impermissibly vague on its face and an arbitrary restriction on personal liberties?
IV. Holding and Vote
Yes, (The judgment is affirmed. Justice Stevens gave opinion)
V. Reasoning
The ordinance encompasses a great deal of harmless behavior: In any public place in Chicago, persons in the company of a gang member “shall” be ordered to disperse if their purpose is not apparent to an officer. The ordinance is unconstitutionally vague
because it lacks sufficient minimal standards to guide law enforcement officers;
in particular, it fails to provide any standard by which police can judge
whether an individual has an “apparent purpose.” This vagueness alone provides a
sufficient ground for affirming the judgment below, and there is no need to
consider the other issues briefed by the parties and addressed by the plurality.
It is important to courts and legislatures alike to characterize more clearly the narrow scope of the Court’s holding. Chicago still has reasonable alternatives to combat the very real threat posed by gang intimidation and violence, including, e.g., adoption of laws that directly prohibit the congregation of gang members to intimidate residents, or the enforcement of existing laws with that effect.


VI. Separate Opinions
Stevens, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion
of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and V, in which O’Connor, Kennedy,
Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts
III, IV, and VI, in which Souter and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. O’Connor, J., filed
an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Breyer,
J., joined. Kennedy, J., and Breyer, J., filed opinions concurring in part and
concurring in the judgment. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Thomas, J.,
filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Scalia, J., joined.


Category: Social Issues

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