Peconic Baykeeper v. Suffolk County

Peconic Baykeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting estuaries on Long Island, brought suit against Suffolk County in order to halt their mosquito control program. The program had been expanded following the emergence of West Nile virus in New York. Peconic Baykeeper charged that the Legislature had failed to carry out an environmental impact study prior to its control program. The Court agreed that Suffolk County Public Works did not fully comply with the environmental impact assessment under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services

What is the extent of the government’s responsibility
to safeguard its citizens from harm? Petitioner Joshua DeShaney lived
with his abusive father for several years. Although the respondent
received several complaints alleging child abuse, the department intervened
little. When Joshua was four, his father beat him until he lapsed
into a coma. Joshua and his mother sued the agency on the grounds
that it had denied him of his liberty without due process.

v. Mercury Marine

In 1995, Jeanne Sprietsma fell out of her sport boat and was fatally
wounded by the boat’s propellor. Her husband brought a common law
tort suit against the manufacturer of the boat’s outboard motor, claiming
that their failure to provide a propellor guard rendered the motor
unreasonably dangerous. In defense, the manufacturer claimed the action
was preempted by the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 and by the Coast
Guard’s 1990 decision not to regulate propellor guards. In deciding
the matter, the Supreme Court cites injury control research conducted
by faculty at the Center
for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of
Public Health.

Tobacco Co. v. Reilly

With the hope of reducing tobacco use by minors,
Massachusetts Attorney General Reilly promulgated a series of comprehensive
tobacco control regulations. The regulations included a ban on tobacco
advertising near schools or playgrounds in addition to point-of-sale
advertising restrictions. Several tobacco companies challenged the
regulations, claiming that they violated First Amendment protections
and that they were preempted by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and
Advertising Act. Part II of Justice O’Connor’s opinion addresses the
preemption claim.

v. American Honda Motor Co

Pursuant to a federal statute, the government
issued a standard requiring that air bags and other passive restraints
be included in automobiles. Petitioner Geier was injured in car that
was not equipped with a driver’s side airbag. She sued Honda in the
District of Columbia for negligently failing to equip her car with
an airbag. Does the language of the federal statute bar her tort claim
in state court?

Dakota v. Dole

In 1984, Congress required that states raise
the legal drinking age to 21; states that failed to comply would not
receive certain federal highway funds. South Dakota, whose drinking
age was 19, challenged Congress’s power to do so. The Constitution
grants Congress the power to tax and spend, but did it exceed the
limits of this power by imposing such conditions on the receipt of
federal funds?

States v. Morrison

Finding that violence against women had serious
implications for the nation’s economy, Congress enacted the Violence
Against Women Act, which permitted victims of gender-motivated crimes
to sue their attackers for civil damages in federal courts.

In 1995, a freshman at Virginia Polytechnic Institute brought such
a suit against two football players who allegedly raped her. Respondents
challenged the Act’s civil suit provision, arguing that Congress exceeded
its Commerce Clause powers. Citing Lopez, the Court determines
whether gender-motivated violence constitutes economic activity.

States v. Lopez

In 1990, Congress passed the Gun-Free School
Zones Act, which prohibited the possession of firearms in school zones.
The federal government claimed that banning guns in schools affects
interstate commerce, and thus falls within Congress’s scope of power.
But does the legislation really involve interstate commerce?

Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Petitioners purchased undeveloped land to build
a landfill. The Army Corps of Engineers refused to grant a permit,
claiming that their power to do so is granted by the Clean Water Act
and its own regulations that protect migratory birds. Did Congress
intend the Clean Water Act to govern this situation?

York v. United States

To encourage states to confront the shortage
of low-level radioactive waste disposal sites, Congress passed a law
offering various incentives to states who comply with the statute.
New York challenged the law, claiming that the Congress was commandeering
powers reserved for the states. To what extent can Congress put pressure
on states to comply with its policy objectives?

v. United States

Under the interim provisions of the “Brady
bill” firearms control act, state and local law enforcement
agencies are required to perform background checks on potential
gun purchasers in certain circumstances. The petitioner objected,
claiming that the Constitution forbids Congress from requiring state
officials to carrying out federal laws. Does this provision of the
law intrude on state sovereignty?

of Alabama v. Garrett

Upon returning to work after undergoing treatment
for breast cancer, Patricia Garrett was told that she would have to
give up her position as nursing director at a state university hospital.
She sued her employer for damages under Title I of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA). The University, in turn, argued that the doctrine
of sovereign immunity barred Congress from authorizing such a suit
by a private individual against a state entity. In his opinion, Chief
Justice Rehnquist discusses the nature of state discrimination against
the disabled and the “constitutional shortcomings” of the

Mothers v. Haveman

Westside Mothers and other advocacy groups sued the state of Michigan
for failing to provide certain medical services mandated by the
federal Medicaid program. In determining whether sovereign immunity
protects Michigan against this cause of action, the Sixth Circuit
discusses the nature of the legal relationship between the states
and the federal government created by Medicaid.

v. Atkins

In 1998, many states settled their suits
against the tobacco industry (the ‘Master Settlement’) and received
large amounts of money. The money received by the states invoked
several issues relating to Medicaid, and Congress drafted legislation
in response. In 2000, Medicaid patients in West Virginia, North
Carolina, and South Carolina sued their states, claiming entitlement
to certain portions of the Master Settlement funds. The Fourth Circuit
looks to the doctrine of sovereign immunity in deciding the validity
of these claims.