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The Civil Constitutional and Civil Rights Docket in Plain English

This group contains most of the cases involving constitutional and civil rights claims.  There are several significant free speech cases, as well as other important constitutional law cases.

Click the links below to scroll directly to cases of that subcategory, or browse the entire list below them.

Constitutional Litigation


Title: Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Docket: 08-1151

Argument date: December 2, 2009

Question presented: The Florida Supreme Court held that when the state deposited sand to stop erosion, that land became the state’s property.  The question presented is whether that ruling violated the federal Constitution, including because it constituted a “taking” of private property without compensation.


Title: Free Enterprise Fund and Beckstead and Watts, LLP v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board

Docket: 08-861

Argument date: December 7, 2009

Question presented: The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has various powers related to regulating public companies.  The question presented is whether the Board’s structure violates the Constitution because the President does not have the direct power to appoint or remove Board members, or to direct the Board’s decisions.


Title: Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project; Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder

Docket: 08-1498; 09-89

Argument date: February 23, 2010

Question presented: Is the federal law criminalizing providing support for terrorist groups unconstitutional because it is either too vague or violates the right to free speech?


Title: McDonald v. City of Chicago

Docket: 08-1521

Argument date: March 2, 2010

Question presented: Does the constitutional right to bear arms apply to state and local gun laws?


Free Speech and Religion


Title: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

Docket: 08-205

Argument date: September 9, 2009

Question presented: What is the nature and extent of corporations’ constitutional free-speech right to spend money in election campaigns?


Title: United States v. Stevens

Docket: 08-769

Argument date: October 6, 2009

Question presented: Does a law making it illegal to create, sell, or possess images of animal cruelty for commercial gain violate the right to free speech?


Title: Salazar v. Buono

Docket: 08-472

Argument date: October 7, 2009

Question presented: The case presents two questions arising from a cross that was erected on public land.  First, what kind of injury must a defendant who objects to a religious display have suffered in order to file suit?  Second, can the government eliminate any objection under the Constitution’s requirement of separation of church and state by turning over the land on which the display sits to a private party?


Title: Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, P.A. v. United States; United States v. Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, P.A.

Docket: 08-1119 and 08-1225

Argument date: December 1, 2009

Question presented: Does federal bankruptcy law forbid lawyers from advising their clients to take on more debt when filing for bankruptcy and, if so, is that an unconstitutional violation of their right to free speech?


Title: Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

Docket: 08-1371

Argument date: Will be set for argument in March or April 2010

Question presented: Does the First Amendment permit a state university to deny recognition and funds to a religious group that requires its members and leaders to share the organization’s values, which conflict with the university’s non-discrimination rules?


Civil Rights


Title: Pottawattamie County v. McGhee

Docket: 08-1065

Argument date: November 4, 2009

Question presented: May a criminal defendant sue a prosecutor for presenting false testimony in order to wrongfully convict the defendant?


Title: Lewis v. City of Chicago

Docket: 08-974

Argument date: February 22, 2010

Question presented: Federal law sets a short deadline to file a “charge” with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to challenge discrimination  by an employer, which is a prerequisite to later filing a lawsuit in court.  The question is whether the deadline starts to run on the day the employer announces the act or instead on the later day the employer implements it.


Title: Hui v. Castaneda

Docket: 08-1529; 08-1547 (this case was consolidated with Henneford v. Castaneda)

Argument date: March 2, 2010

Question presented: Must a lawsuit claiming that employees of the federal Public Health Service committed medical error be filed under a federal statute that makes the United States the defendant, or can the employees be sued personally for violating the Constitution?


Title: Samantar v. Yousuf

Docket: 08-1555

Argument date: March 3, 2010

Question presented: Does federal law permit a plaintiff to file a suit in this country against a former official of a foreign government for alleged human rights abuses he committed overseas while in office?