Supreme Court Prepares for a Year of Big Cases

On Monday, Oct. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin its annual term, which will continue until mid-summer 2014. Although the justices will continue taking new cases until January, there are already a number of significant cases on the docket that should impact the nation for years to come.

On Oct. 8—during this first week—the Court will hear McCutcheon v. FEC. This is a follow-up to the famous 2010 Citizens United case. Federal law limits the amount of money that a person can give to candidates and political action committees. In McCutcheon, the Supreme Court will decide whether aggregate limits—limiting the total contribution a citizen can give over two years to everyone combined—violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

One week later, on Oct. 15, the Supreme Court will hear Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, asking whether Michigan violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by amending the Michigan Constitution to bar racial preferences in government programs, such as college admissions.

Also on Oct. 15, in DaimlerChrysler AG v. Bauman, the Court will consider if it violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause (there’s one for the federal government, and one for the states) for an American court to claim jurisdiction over all matters involving a foreign corporation when the sole domestic contact is that a subsidiary of that corporation provides services in the American state where the court is located.

On Nov. 5, in Bond v. U.S., the justices will hear arguments on whether Congress can pass federal laws to fulfill a treaty when those laws would normally be unconstitutional if Congress were simply making domestic policy. While this case involved a woman poisoning her husband’s mistress, it has implications for many issues, including gun rights and parental rights.

On Nov. 6, the Supreme Court will consider in Town of Greece v. Galloway whether invocations at sessions of policymaking bodies—called “legislative prayer”—are unconstitutional if the court decides they endorse religion (such as the prayer-givers mentioning Jesus Christ, or if a majority of the volunteer prayer-givers are Christian). This case also asks the Court to consider whether its overall test on finding Establishment Clause violations for the past forty years needs to change. If the Court takes the extra step, this could become one of the most important religious liberty Supreme Court cases in American history. [Disclosure: I represent Members of Congress in this litigation supporting the prayer-givers. My detailed discussion of this case for SCOTUSblog is here.]

And on Nov. 13, in Fernandez v. California, the justices will decide if the Fourth Amendment requires a tenant to be present and object to police entry when a co-tenant invites them in to search a home.

A number of important cases the Court has taken for review have not yet been assigned an argument date. These cases will likely be heard in January.

The first has received considerable public attention. In NLRB v. Noel Canning, the Supreme Court will decide whether President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board without Senate approval, during days when a single senator was holding a nominal session of the Senate to prevent those appointments, are unconstitutional, and therefore that all NLRB actions over the past two years and illegal and void.

In Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, the Court will consider whether the Oklahoma Supreme Court erred in striking down a state law requiring abortion-inducing drugs only be used consistent with federal FDA safety protocols. The state court struck down the law without any discussion.

And in another abortion case, McCullen v. Coakley, the justices will decide whether a Massachusetts law creating a buffer zone around abortion clinics, in which no one can approach a pregnant woman to offer her information or encouragement not to proceed with an abortion, violates the First Amendment.

The justices will continue accepting cases for this term over the next three months, filling its argument docket for February, March, and April. All decisions for the year are expected by the first week of July.  

Ken Klukowski is on faculty at Liberty University School of Law and senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.


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