2013 Archive: Supreme Court of the United States (Introduction to Supreme Court's 2013 Term & Decided Cases)

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Hobby Lobby Amicus Brief Hamilton

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

In an important case about reproductive liberty at the Supreme Court, Professor Hamilton’s brief offers a bold challenge to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, making the argument that others missed: RFRA unfairly privileges religious citizens other others.

Professor Griffin Letter

Affordable Care Act

Professor Griffin warned Congress in 2012 that religious freedom does not require employers to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which is a neutral and general law that should govern everyone.

Introduction to the Supreme Court’s 2013 Term


Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean (to be argued during 2014 Term)

The Court will decide whether Robert MacLean, a federal air marshal who was fired after telling reporters that DHS had cancelled some overnight missions for marshals during a time of high security risk, is protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act. Professor Griffin analyzes the case here.

Holt v. Hobbs (to be argued during 2014 Term)

Muslim prisoner Gregory Houston Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammed, argued that the Arkansas Department of Corrections’ grooming policy (which allows trimmed mustaches but no other facial hair except one-quarter inch beards to those with a diagnosed dermatological condition) violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA) or the First Amendment because his religion requires him to grow a half-inch beard. The Eighth Circuit rejected his argument, ruling that the state had satisfied RLUIPA’s requirement that the grooming policy was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling penological interest.

Decided Cases


The Court struck down a Massachusetts law making it a crime to “enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk” within thirty-five feet of the entrance, exit, or driveway of a “reproductive health care facility.” The Court ruled unanimously that the law violated the First Amendment.

Owners of Hobby Lobby, the large arts and crafts store chain, argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) entitles them to an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptive insurance coverage to their employees. Owners of Conestoga Wood made a similar argument under the First Amendment. The Court ruled, 5-4, that RFRA required the government to accommodate the employers’ objection to the mandate.

Edward Lane, director of a youth program at Central Alabama Community College, discovered that an Alabama state representative was on the payroll although she had never performed any work for the organization. After Lane, responding to a subpoena, testified about the legislator before a federal grand jury, he was fired from his job. The Court ruled that the First Amendment protects a whistleblower public employee “who provided truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena, outside the course of his ordinary job responsibilities” from retaliation by his employer. . Read our Guest Blogger Catherine Fisk’s analysis of the case here and Professor Griffin’s analysis of the decision here.

Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens challenged the Town of Greece’s practice of beginning its Town Board meetings with a prayer. The record reflects that from 1999 to 2010, during more than 120 monthly meetings, only 4 began with a non-Christian prayer. The Court ruled 5-4 that the practice did not violate the Establishment Clause because Christian legislative prayer has a long history in this country, going back to the First Congress. Read Professor Griffin’s analysis of the opinion here.

As a teenager, “Amy” discovered that rapes by her uncle at ages 8 and 9 were videotaped and distributed to viewers around the world. She argued that the Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act required Paroline, who possessed pornographic images of Amy, to be held liable for all her damages. Paroline argued he should pay no damages. In a 5-4 decision by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court ruled that Amy should get some compensation from Paroline, but he could not be held liable for all her harm. Professor Hamilton authored an amicus brief in the case and analyzes the Court’s opinion here.

In a fractured, 3-1-2-2-1 opinion, the Court upheld Michigan’s Proposition 2, a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to prohibit the use of race, gender or national origin as a factor in school admissions, public employment, or public contracting. Read Professor Hamilton’s analysis of the case here.

 In a high-profile campaign finance case, the Court ruled 5-4 that “aggregate” limits on campaign contributions were unconstitutional. While “base” limits restrict the total amount that can be given to one candidate, aggregate limits restrict the totals that can be given to all candidates combined. Shaun McCutcheon did not challenge the base limits, but wanted to give that base limit to more candidates than the aggregate limits allowed. Read our Guest Blogger Erwin Chemerinsky’s analysis of the case here.

In a 6-3 decision reversing the First Circuit, the Court ruled that the whistleblower retaliation provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) protect employees of private contractors and subcontractors of public companies from retaliation. The First Circuit had held that only employees of public companies were protected. Read more about Lawson here.