Cases Argued by Public Citizen Litigation Group Attorneys in the Supreme Court of the United States

Public Citizen Litigation Group has argued 54 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including four in the 2005-2006 term. Below is a list of those cases. For more information about a specific case or to see documents associated with a case, click the link in the case name.

For more information about Public Citizen Litigation Group's Supreme Court practice, visit the Supreme Court Assistance Project homepage, or view the list of our active Supreme Court cases.

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Shady Grove Orthopedic Assocs., PA v. Allstate Ins. Co. , (Argued Nov. 2, 2009).

Attorney: Nelson 

The questions presented are:

  1. Can a state legislature properly prohibit the federal courts from using the class action device for state law claims?
  2. Can state legislatures dictate procedure dictate procedure in the federal courts?
  3. Could state-law class actions eventually disappear altogether, as more state legislatures declare them off limits to the federal courts?

Outcome: Pending

Topics: Class Actions 


Taylor v. Sturgell, 128 S.Ct. 2161 (2008).

Attorney: Rosenbaum

Question presented: Can a non-party be bound by the judgment in a case under the theory that he was “virtually represented” by a party to the case when the non-party had no legal relationship with the party and did not receive notice of the litigation?

Outcome: Won

Topics: Access to the Courts

Richlin Security Co. v. Chertoff, 128 S.Ct. 2007 (2008).

Attorney: Wolfman

Question presented: Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 5 U.S.C. § 504(a)(1) and 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A), may a prevailing party be awarded attorney fees for paralegal services at the market rate for such services, or does EAJA limit reimbursement for paralegal services to cost only?

Outcome: Won

Topics: Preserving Consumer Court Remedies, Access to the Courts

Warner-Lambert v. Kent, 128 S.Ct. 1168 (2008).

Attorney: Zieve

Question presented: Whether, under the conflict preemption principles in Buckman Co. v. Plaintiffs' Legal Committee, 531 U.S. 341 (2001), federal law preempts the provision in a Michigan statute that allows a product liability claim to be maintained against a drug manufacturer of an FDA-approved drug only if the manufacturer failed to submit to the FDA or misrepresented information to the FDA that was required to be submitted and the FDA would not have approved the drug or would have withdrawn approval if the company had been not done so.

Outcome: Won (Affirmed by an equally divided court)

Topics: Preemption of Consumer Remedies and Access to the Courts

Riegel v Medtronic, Inc., 128 S. Ct. 999(2008)

Attorney: Zieve

Question presented: Whether the express preemption provision of the Medical Device Amendments to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360k(a), preempts state-law claims seeking damages for injuries caused by medical devices that received premarket approval from the Food and Drug Administration

Outcome: Lost

Topics: Preemption of Consumer Remedies and Access to the Courts

Jones v. Flowers, 547 U.S. 220 (2006)

Attorney: Kirkpatrick

Question presented: When mailed notice of a tax sale or property forfeiture is returned undelivered, does due process require the government to make any additional effort to locate the owner before taking the property?

Outcome: Won

Topics: Consumer Justice Project and Protecting Constitutional Rights

Will v. Hallock, 546 U.S. 345 (2006)

Attorney: Zieve

Questions presented:

  1. Whether a court of appeals has jurisdiction over interlocutory appeal of a district court’s order denying a motion to dismiss based on the Federal Tort Claims Act's judgment bar provision.
  2. If a claim under the FTCA is dismissed because it falls within one of the statute's exceptions to liability, does the Act's judgment bar provision preclude the plaintiff from bringing a constitutional claim based on the same facts?

Outcome: Won on first question (Court did not reach second question)

Topic: Access to the Courts

Garcetti v. Ceballos, 126 S. Ct. 1951 (2006)

Attorney: Robin-Vergeer

Question presented: Is speech by a public employee on a matter of public concern entitled to First Amendment protection when the speech is related to the employee’s job?

Outcome: Lost

Topic: First Amendment

Lockhart v. United States, 546 U.S. 142 (2005)

Attorney: Wolfman

Question presented: May the government withhold social security benefits in order to collect old student loan debt?

Outcome: Lost

Topics: Consumer Justice Project and Protecting Constitutional Rights

Cheney v. United States District Court, 124 S.Ct. 2576 (2004)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Can the Federal Advisory Committee Act be construed, consistent with the Constitution, to authorize discovery orders directing the Vice President to produce information about his "Energy Task Force"?

Outcome: Lost

Topic: FOIA and Government Secrecy

Scarborough v. Principi, 541 U.S. 401 (2004)

Attorney: Wolfman

Question presented: Is an applicant for attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act barred from obtaining a fee award by the Act's 30-day statute of limitations solely because the applicant's timely-filed fee application did not initially allege that the position of the government in the underlying litigation lacked substantial justification?

Outcome: Won

Topic: Preserving Consumer Court Remedies and Access to the Courts

Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580 (2003)

Attorney: Frost

Question presented: Did the Court of appeals correctly vacate a final judgment entered by a magistrate judge on the ground that two defendants did not consent to the referral to the magistrate judge prior to trial?

Outcome: Lost

Topic: Protecting Constitutional Rights

Barnes v. Gorman, 536 U.S. 181 (2002)

Attorney: Nelson

Question presented: Are punitive damages available to plaintiffs in cases brought under Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act?

Outcome: Lost

Dusenbery v. United States, 534 U.S. 161 (2002)

Attorney: Zieve

Question presented: Did the federal government violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by failing to give actual notice to an inmate in its own prison system before it forfeited the inmate's property for its own benefit?

Outcome: Lost

Topic: Protecting Constitutional Rights

Lee v. Kemna, 534 U.S. 362 (2002)

Attorney: Robin-Vergeer

Question presented: Was a defendant denied his rights to a fair trial and due process of law when the trial court refused to grant him an overnight continuance to locate his three subpoenaed alibi witnesses who unexpectedly, and for reasons not attributable to the defendant, did not return after a lunch break on the last day of trial?

Outcome: Won

Jefferson County v. Acker, 527 U.S. 423 (1999)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Is the Jefferson County occupational license tax unconstitutional as applied to federal judges?

Outcome: Lost

Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811 (1997)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Did members of Congress have Article III standing to challenge the Line Item Veto Act as a violation of the Presentment Clause in Article I?

Outcome: Lost

Topic: Separation of Powers

Richardson v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399 (1997)

Attorney: Vladeck

Question presented: Are prison guards employed by for-profit corporations entitled to qualified immunity in civil rights actions?

Outcome: Won

Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651 (1997)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Were civilian judges serving on the Coast Guard appeals court appointed in violation of the Appointment Clause?

Outcome: Lost

Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 518 U.S. 470 (1996)

Attorney: Wolfman

Does federal law pertaining to the regulation of medical devices preempt tort claims to compensate injured victims?

Outcome: Won

Topic: Preemption of Consumer Remedies

Doctor's Associates v. Casarotto, 517 U.S. 681 (1996)

Attorney: Sikes

Question presented: Is a Montana law requiring all mandatory arbitration clauses be printed on the covers of printed consumer contracts preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act?

Outcome: Lost

Topic: Arbitration

Yamaha Motor Corp. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199 (1996)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Does federal law, which is designed to compensate injured seamen, preempt state tort law for maritime accidents occurring within the territorial waters of the United States?

Outcome: Won

Stone v. INS, 514 U.S. 386 (1995)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Must an alien who loses before the Immigration Service and files a timely request for reconsideration seek immediate court review or may he await the decision on reconsideration?

Outcome: Lost

Elder v. Holloway, 510 U.S. 510 (1994)

Attorney: Tankersley

Question presented: May civil rights plaintiffs be denied relief merely because their lawyers fail to cite appropriate case law in the trial court?

Outcome: Won

Weiss v. United States, 510 U.S. 163 (1994)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Does the current system of military judges violate the Appointments and Due Process Clauses?

Outcome: Lost

Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U.S. 761 (1993)

Attorney: Vladeck

Question presented: Do Florida's restrictions on accountants' efforts to attract clients violate the First Amendment?

Outcome: Won

Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25 (1993)

Attorney: Hitchcock

Question presented: Does the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment apply to prisoners who face health dangers (from being confined in a cell with a heavy smoker)?

Outcome: Won

Citizens Against Aircraft Noise v. Met. Washington Airports, 501 U.S. 252 (1991)

Attorney: Goldman

Question presented: Does congressional review board that can veto actions of authority that runs National and Dulles Airports violate separation of powers?

Outcome: Won

Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89 (1991)

Attorney: Wolfman

Question presented: In a Social Security case, in which a court has ordered a remand to the agency, may a claimant wait until winning his case before seeking fees for obtaining the remand?

Outcome: Won

Int’l Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots v. Brown, 498 U.S. 466 (1991)

Attorney: Levy

Question presented: Did a union violate section 401(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act by refusing a request of a member to mail election campaign literature to his fellow union members until after nominations had been held?

Outcome: Won

Public Citizen v. Dept. Of Justice, 491 U.S. 440 (1989)

Attorney: Glitzenstein

Question presented: Is the American Bar Association judicial selection committee, which offers its opinions on judicial nominations to the attorney general, an advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act?

Outcome: Lost

American FSA Employees v. Garfinkel, 490 U.S. 153 (1989)

Attorney: Goldman

Question presented: Do non-disclosure requirements imposed on federal employees violate federal statutes or the Constitution?

Outcome: Won

Barnard v. Thorstenn, 489 U.S. 546 (1989)

Attorney: Hitchcock

Question presented: May the Virgin Islands refuse to admit non-residents to its bar?

Outcome: Won

Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Do the federal sentencing guidelines violate principles of separation of powers?

Outcome: Lost

Michigan Citizens for an Independent Press v. Thornburgh, 493 U.S. 38 (1989)

Attorney: Schultz

Question presented: Did the attorney general improperly approve a joint operating agreement between the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press?

Outcome: Lost

Supreme Court of Virginia v. Friedman, 487 U.S. 59 (1988)

Attorney: Hitchcock

Question presented: May Virginia refuse to let a non-resident be admitted to its bar without taking the bar exam, as Virginia residents are permitted to do?

Outcome: Won

Lingle v. Norge, 486 U.S. 399 (1988)

Attorney: Levy

Question presented: Are claims for wrongful discharge for filing a workers compensation claim preempted by federal labor law?

Outcome: Won

Department of Justice v. Julian, 486 U.S. 1 (1987)

Attorney: Glitzenstein

Question presented: Are presentence reports, prepared for use by federal judges and shown to prisoners at sentencing and when they are seeking parole, exempt from copying under the FOIA?

Outcome: Won

West v. Conrail, 481 U.S. 35 (1987)

Attorney: Levy

Question presented: Does the filing of the complaint in a duty of fair representation case satisfy the statute of limitations?

Outcome: Won

Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714 (1986)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Was the Gramm-Rudman balanced budget act constitutional where it delegated broad authority to the comptroller general, an agent of Congress, to carry out the act?

Outcome: Won

Young v. Community Nutrition Institute, 476 U.S. 974 (1986)

Attorney: Schultz

Question presented: Must the FDA engage in a formal proceeding before permitting certain food products to be sold with dangerous additives in them?

Outcome: Lost *

* Although the case was lost on this ground, it was won on a more narrow ground on remand.

Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio, 471 U.S. 626 (1985)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Was the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court to discipline a lawyer for taking out ads seeking to inform women of his availability to provide legal services in connection with Dalkon Shield litigation a violation of the First Amendment?

Outcome: Won

CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159 (1985)

Attorney: Levy

Question presented: Are the names of persons who are investigators or otherwise took part in a CIA program on the effects of certain psychedelic drugs exempt from disclosure under the FOIA as intelligence sources?

Outcome: Lost

Bernal v. Fainter, 467 U.S. 216 (1984)

Attorney: Hitchcock

Question presented: May a state condition the right to become a notary public on being a citizen of the United States?

Outcome: Won

INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Is the provision under which either house of Congress may veto certain actions taken by administrative agencies a violation of separation of powers?

Outcome: Won

Taxation with Representation v. Regan, 461 U.S. 540 (1983)

Attorney: Sims

Question presented: Is the prohibition on all but insubstantial amounts of lobbying by charitable organizations a violation of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause?

Outcome: Lost

Frazier v. Heebe, 482 U.S. 615 (1982)

Attorney: Hitchcock

Question presented: May a federal district court condition admission to its bar on the applicant either residing in or having an office in the state where the federal court is located?

Outcome: Won

Barrentine v. Arkansas Best Freight System, 450 U.S. 728 (1981)

Attorney: Vladeck

Question presented: Does unsuccessful arbitration under a collective bargaining agreement of a dispute about overtime pay preclude workers from suing their employer based on a federal statute also protecting the right to overtime pay?

Outcome: Won

GTE Sylvania v. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 445 U.S. 375 (1980)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: May a requestor under the FOIA sue to obtain access to records after the submitter has sued in another court to prevent the records' release?

Outcome: Lost

Duke Power Co. v. Carolina Environmental Study Group, 438 U.S. 59 (1978)

Attorney: Schultz

Question presented: Does the federal statute that puts a cap on the amount of money that victims of a nuclear power plant disaster can recover violate the Constitution?

Outcome: Lost

Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, 426 U.S. 290 (1976)

Attorney: Robertson

Question presented: Does the federal regulatory scheme for interstate air travel preclude a passenger who is wrongfully bumped from a flight for suing for damages?

Outcome: Won

Va. State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Va. Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Does the First Amendment apply to commercial speech, and if so, is the Virginia statute forbidding the advertising of prescription drug prices unconstitutional?

Outcome: Won

Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration v. Robertson, 422 U.S. 255 (1975)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: May the FAA withhold documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) based on a statute giving the agency discretion to do so?

Outcome: Lost *

* Shortly after the Supreme Court upheld the withholding, Congress overruled the decision.

Goldfarb v. Virginia State Bar, 421 U.S. 773 (1975)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: Are minimum fee schedules promulgated by bar associations unlawful under the federal anti-trust laws?

Outcome: Won

Campaign Clean Water v. Train, 420 U.S. 136 (1975)

Attorney: Jacks

Question presented: Does the President have the power to refuse to spend money appropriated by Congress unless specifically authorized by Congress to do so?

Outcome: Won

Alexander v. Americans United, 416 U.S. 752 (1974)

Attorney: Morrison

Question presented: May an organization that was denied tax exempt status obtain a court ruling directly on the validity of the IRS's action?

Outcome: Lost *

* Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled against the taxpayer, Congress enacted a special statute providing for such review.