2011 term per curiam opinions of the Supreme Court of the United States

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The Supreme Court of the United States handed down thirteen per curiam opinions during its 2011 term, which began October 3, 2011 and concluded September 30, 2012.[1]

Because per curiam decisions are issued from the Court as an institution, these opinions all lack the attribution of authorship or joining votes to specific justices. All justices on the Court at the time the decision was handed down are assumed to have participated and concurred unless otherwise noted.

Court membership[edit]

Chief Justice: John Roberts

Associate Justices: Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan

Cavazos v. Smith[edit]

Full case name: Javier Cavazos, Acting Warden, v. Shirley Ree Smith
Citations: 565 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Petition denied, sub nom. Smith v. Mitchell, No. CV-01–4484–ABC (C.D. Cal., Mar. 22, 2004); rev'd, 437 F. 3d 884 (9th Cir. 2006); summarily vacated and remanded, sub nom. Patrick v. Smith, 550 U.S. 915 (2006), judgment reinstated, 508 F. 3d 1256 (9th Cir. 2007) (per curiam); summarily vacated and remanded, 558 U.S. ___ (2010); judgment reinstated, sub nom. Smith v. Mitchell, 624 F. 3d 1235 (9th Cir. 2010) (per curiam)
Laws applied:
Full text of the opinion: Wikisource Wikisource-logo.svg
official slip opinion

565 U.S. ___
Decided October 31, 2011.
The Court reversed, for the third time, a judgment of the Ninth Circuit that had set aside the conviction of a woman for the death of her infant grandson attributed to shaken baby syndrome (SBS). The Court ruled that the Ninth Circuit's judgment, which had questioned the sufficiency of the expert testimony supporting SBS as the victim's cause of death, was contrary to the deferential standard of review established by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 for such petitions.

Justice Ginsburg filed a dissent, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor.

Smith's sentence was subsequently commuted by California Governor Jerry Brown to time served, releasing her after a decade in prison.[2]

Further reading


KPMG LLP v. Cocchi[edit]

Full case name: KPMG LLP v. Robert Cocchi et al.
Citations: 565 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Motion to compel arbitration denied, Fla. Cir. Ct., Palm Beach Cty.; aff'd, 51 So. 3d 1165 (Fla. App. 2010)
Laws applied:

9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq. (Federal Arbitration Act)


Full text of the opinion: Wikisource Wikisource-logo.svg
official slip opinion

565 U.S. ___
Decided November 7, 2011.
The Court vacated a Florida state court judgment refusing to compel arbitration in a lawsuit involving claims brought against auditor KPMG LLP by investors who were defrauded by Bernie Madoff. The Court ruled that the state court erred in determining only that some, but not all, of the claims in the lawsuit were not subject to arbitration, because the Federal Arbitration Act does not permit courts to issue a blanket refusal to compel arbitration simply because some of the claims could be resolved by the court without arbitration.

Bobby v. Dixon[edit]

Full case name: David Bobby, Warden v. Archie Dixon
Citations: 565 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Defendant convicted at trial sub. nom. State v. Dixon; affirmed (Ohio App., 1995); affirmed, 2004 Ohio 1585, 101 Ohio St.3d 328, 805 N.E.2d 1042 (2004); habeas petition denied sub nom. Dixon v. Houk, No. 05-01290 (N.D. Ohio, 2005); reversed, 627 F. 3d 553 (6th Cir. 2010)
Laws applied:

U.S. Const. amend. V


Full text of the opinion: Wikisource Wikisource-logo.svg
official slip opinion

565 U.S. ___
Decided November 7, 2011.
The Court ruled that the Sixth Circuit erred in setting aside a murder conviction in Ohio state court, because although the defendant's initial confession was given without the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, his subsequent confession was voluntary and therefore admissible against him.

Hardy v. Cross[edit]

Full case name: Marcus Hardy, Warden v. Irving L. Cross
Citations: 565 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Petition denied, No. 05-C-5692 (N.D. Ill. 2009); rev'd, 632 F. 3d 356 (7th Cir. 2011)
Laws applied:

U.S. Const. amend. VI


Full text of the opinion: Wikisource Wikisource-logo.svg
official slip opinion

565 U.S. ___
Decided December 12, 2011.
The Court reversed the Seventh Circuit's setting aside of a state court criminal conviction for sexual assault, where the alleged victim had been declared an unavailable witness and her testimony from a previous mistrial was admitted. Because the state court's decision to admit the testimony was not an unreasonable application of the Court's Confrontation Clause jurisprudence, the Seventh Circuit's decision failed to give the state court the benefit of the doubt as required by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

Though she had testified willingly and was cross-examined at the first trial, which was declared a mistrial, the witness subsequently claimed to fear for her safety and went into hiding, failing to appear for the second trial. The prosecution made numerous and repeated attempts to locate her through her family and friends, and the state trial court, characterizing such efforts as "superhuman," consequently granted its motion to have her declared unavailable and her testimony from the first trial admitted. The defendant was convicted of one of the charges and after losing an appeal in state court, filed a habeas corpus petition in federal court.

The Seventh Circuit ruled that the prosecution had not made the requisite good faith effort to locate the witness, describing particular steps that had not been taken. The Court considered these efforts unlikely to have made a difference, and "the Sixth Amendment does not require the prosecution to exhaust every avenue of inquiry, no matter how unpromising."

Perry v. Perez[edit]

Full case name: Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, et al. v. Shannon Perez, et al[3]
Citations: 565 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Interim redistricting ordered, W.D. Tex.; stay granted, probable jurisdiction noted, 565 U.S. ___ (2011)
Laws applied:

42 U.S.C. § 1973c(a) (Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965)


Full text of the opinion: Wikisource Wikisource-logo.svg
official slip opinion

565 U.S. ___
Decided January 20, 2012.
The Court vacated and remanded a federal court's interim legislative redistricting in Texas, a state covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for which preclearance of redistricting by the state is required. Due to a significant increase in the state's population recorded in the 2010 census, the state had to redistrict, but in the District Court's view, could not obtain preclearance of its proposed plan in time for the 2012 elections. The District Court accordingly drew an interim district map itself. The Supreme Court found that the District Court's map was not deferential enough to the state's plan and policies, altering it without regard to whether those particular elements of the state's plan were legally flawed or had a reasonable probability of failing preclearance.

Justice Thomas filed a concurrence, stating that he believed Texas could implement its redistricting plan regardless of its failure to obtain preclearance in time, because in his view, §5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.

Ryburn v. Huff[edit]

Full case name: Darin Ryburn, et al. v. George R. Huff, et al.
Citations: 565 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Judgment for defendants, sub nom. Huff v. City of Burbank, C.D. Cal., 2009 (unreported); reversed in part and remanded, 632 F.3d 539 (9th Cir. 2011)
Laws applied:

U.S. Const. amend. IV


Full text of the opinion: Wikisource Wikisource-logo.svg
official slip opinion

565 U.S. ___
Decided January 23, 2012.
The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's judgment that police officers were not entitled to qualified immunity for entering a private home without a warrant, finding that their belief that violence was imminent, and that a warrantless entry was appropriate, was reasonable under the circumstances.

The police officers were questioning the mother of a student who had been rumored to be planning to shoot other students at school. The mother initially failed to answer the phone, hung up after she did, and after coming outside to speak to the officers, failed to ask them what the questioning was about, and immediately ran back inside when she was asked if there were any guns inside. Finding this behavior alarming, the officers followed her in. No guns were found, and the rumors about the student's intentions turned out to be false.

The family sued the police, alleging under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that their warrantless entry violated the Fourth Amendment. The District Court entered judgment for the officers, finding that their account of the incident was accurate and ruling that they were entitled to qualified immunity because they reasonably believed that violence was imminent. A divided panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed. Though it accepted the District Court's findings of fact, it instead found that the officers were objectively unreasonable in believing that anyone's safety was at risk, because in their view the mother merely exercised her legal right to end the questioning.

In reversing, the Court criticized the Ninth Circuit for basing its ruling upon a changed version of the facts, as well as for apparently assuming that lawful conduct could not give rise to a legitimate concern that violence was imminent. The Court also stated that the Ninth Circuit failed to look at the totality of the officers' encounter with the mother, instead incorrectly analyzing each step in isolation. Finally, the Ninth Circuit failed to give proper consideration to the perspective of the officers at the scene as events were unfolding, instead viewing the case "with the 20/20 vision of hindsight."

Wetzel v. Lambert[edit]

Full case name: John E. Wetzel, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, et al. v. James Lambert
Citations: 565 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Petition denied, sub nom. Lambert v. Beard, No. 02–9034 (E.D. Pa. July 24, 2007); reversed, 633 F. 3d 126 (3d Cir. 2011)
Laws applied:
Full text of the opinion: official slip opinion

565 U.S. ___
Decided February 21, 2012.
Justice Breyer filed a dissent, which was joined by Ginsburg and Kagan.

Marmet Health Care Center, Inc. v. Brown[edit]

Full case name: Marmet Health Care Center, Inc., et al. v. Clayton Brown et al.[4]
Citations: 565 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Brown v. Genesis Healthcare Corp., No. 35494 (W. Va., June 29, 2011)
Laws applied:

9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. (Federal Arbitration Act)


Full text of the opinion: official slip opinion

565 U.S. ___
Decided February 21, 2012.

Coleman v. Johnson[edit]

Full case name: Brian Coleman, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution at Fayette, et al. v. Lorenzo Johnson
Citations: 566 U.S. ___;
Prior history: habeas petition denied, sub nom. Johnson v. Mechling, 541 F. Supp. 2d 651 (M.D. Pa. 2008); rev'd, 446 Fed. Appx. 531 (3d Cir. 2011)
Laws applied:
Full text of the opinion: official slip opinion

566 U.S. ___
Decided May 29, 2012.

Parker v. Matthews[edit]

Full case name: Philip Parker, Warden v. David Eugene Matthews
Citations: 567 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Petition denied, W.D.Ky.; rev'd, 651 F. 3d 489 (6th Cir. 2011)
Laws applied:
Full text of the opinion: official slip opinion

567 U.S. ___
Decided May 29, 2012.

American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock[edit]

Full case name: American Tradition Partnership, Inc., FKA Western Tradition Partnership, Inc., et al. v. Steve Bullock, Attorney General of Montana, et al.
Citations: 567 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Summary judgment for plaintiffs, No. BDV 10-238, Mont. Dist. Ct., Lewis and Clark Cty., October 18, 2010; rev'd, Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney General of Montana, 271 P. 3d 1 (Mont. 2011)
Laws applied:

U.S. Const. amend. I; Mont. Code Ann. §13–35–227(1) (2011)


Full text of the opinion: official slip opinion

567 U.S. ___
Decided June 25, 2012.
In a case involving a state law prohibiting corporate expenditures that support or oppose a political candidate or party, the Supreme Court reversed the Montana Supreme Court's 2011 holding in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney General of Montana that the law did not violate the First Amendment. The Court's short opinion stated that "[t]here can be no serious doubt" that the issue had already been decided to the contrary by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 50 (2010), which struck a similar federal law as unconstitutional. "Montana's arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case."

Justice Breyer filed a dissent, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, writing that he disagreed with the holding in Citizens United. Even accepting that decision, however, Breyer did not believe it precluded a finding that Montana had a compelling state interest in limiting corporate political expenditures in light of the particular "history and political landscape in Montana."

Tennant v. Jefferson County[edit]

Full case name: Natalie E. Tennant, West Virginia Secretary of State, et al. v. Jefferson County Commission, et al.
Citations: 567 U.S. ___;
Prior history: Judgment for plaintiffs, Jefferson County v. Tennant, No. 2:11-cv-0989, S.D. W.Va. (Jan. 3, 2012; amended Jan. 4, 2012); stay granted, sub nom. Tennant v. Jefferson County, 565 U.S. ___ (2012)
Laws applied:

U.S. Const. art. I, §2; W. Va. Code Ann. §1–2–3 (Lexis 2012 Supp.)


Full text of the opinion: official slip opinion

567 U.S. ___
Decided September 25, 2012.
The Court ruled that the federal district court gave the state insufficient deference to its political judgment when it invalidated a legislative redistricting map as contrary to the constitutional principle of "one person, one vote."

Further reading


Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The description of two opinions have been omitted; the Court's opinions in Vasquez v. United States, 566 U.S. ___ (2012), and First American Financial Corp. v. Edwards, 567 U.S. ___ (2012), were one-line dismissals of certiorari as improvidently granted.
  2. ^ Bazelon, Emily (February 6, 2012), Jerry Brown Shows Mercy to Shirley Ree Smith, Slate.com, retrieved April 7, 2012 
  3. ^ Perry v. Perez, No. 11-713, was decided together with Perry v. Davis, No. 11-714 and Perry v. Perez, No. 11-715.
  4. ^ Marmet Health Care Center, Inc. v. Brown, No. 11–391, was decided together with Clarksburg Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center, LLC, dba Clarksburg Continuous Care Center, et al. v. Sharon A. Marchio, Executrix of the Estate of Pauline Virginia Willett, No. 11-394.

References[edit]