March
In Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971), the Supreme Court holds that employment practices that have a disparate impact on black workers are illegal, even without a showing of intent to discriminate, if employers cannot demonstrate that the practice is justified by a business necessity.

April
The Supreme Court specifically endorses busing as a remedy for school desegregation in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971). The Court holds that desegregation must be achieved in each of a district's schools to the "greatest extent possible." In the companion case of North Carolina State Board of Education v. Swann, 402 U.S. 43 (1971), the Court strikes down North Carolina's Anti-Busing Law that prohibited making student assignments on the basis of race.

June
In Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217 (1971), the Court upholds Jackson, Mississippi's decision to close public swimming pools after a court ordered them desegregated. The Court refuses to inquire into the motivation behind legislative action.

September
Justices Hugo L. Black and John Marshall Harlan retire. They are replaced in January 1972 by William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell, giving Nixon four appointments to the Supreme Court in his first term.

November
In Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), the Supreme Court strikes down an Idaho law that required that men be chosen as administrators of estates; the decision marks the beginning of modern constitutional doctrines of sex equality.