What to expect in the Supreme Court’s new term

Yes, it’s the first Monday in October, and the Supreme Court has started hearing arguments in new cases. And there are a few high-profile ones in front of the Justices immediately, including a big case involving campaign financing.

350px-Supreme_Court_US_2010And the Justices will likely add a few more cases to their schedule that haven’t been granted hearings.

Here’s a quick look at when to expect and some resources you can use to track the Court’s activities.

1. When does the Supreme Court term open and close? The Supreme Court actually was making decisions about procedural matters sporadically through the summer, but it starts hearing cases for the new term on Monday, October 7. In the past few terms, the Court has handed down its final decisions for the current term in the last week of June.

2. What are the big cases this term? All the cases are equally important in the eyes of the judicial system, but some get a lot more publicity than others.

One big case this week is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which is another decision about the limits of campaign financing by corporations. The Court will hear the McCutcheon case on Tuesday, October 8. A week later will be Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a major case about affirmative action policies in Michigan that could have national ramifications. In November, a high-profile case is Town of Greece v. Galloway, which is about a dispute about prayers being held at public meetings.

And a case being closely followed, but not yet scheduled by the Court, is National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning. It centers on the presidential power to make recess appointments.

3. How do we know when the Court is hearing cases? The Court has cases scheduled through December and lists the arguments calendar on its website here.

SCOTUSblog also has an iCal version of the calendar on its website here.

4. Are there other important cases we should all be following? There appears to be a lot of them. Irving L. Gornstein, from the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University, told the New York Times today that “this term is deeper in important cases than either of the prior two terms.”

Adam Liptak at the New York Times, David Savage at the Los Angeles Times and the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro have previews of the Court’s terms that are all good reads and informative. And BuzzFeed, in its own unique style, points out 11 cases to watch.

5. Are there other big cases that the Court could accept and hear this term? The expectation is the Court will accept at least one case involving the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, involving for-profit companies being forced to offer insurance that includes birth-control provisions, or pay a fine. Another case is an abortion case, Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. It has been accepted for review by the Court, but it was sent back to the Oklahoma Supreme Court for clarification.

6. Is there a chance the Court could drop one of the big cases?  Yes, that could be the case of Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, which is scheduled for hearings in December. It involves a key question of whether disparate impact claims are acceptable under the Fair Housing Act. The question is if the two sides in the case will reach a settlement before the case makes it before the Justices in December. A similar case Magner v. Gallagher, involving Saint Paul, Minnesota, was accepted by the Court last year, but withdrawn in February 2012.

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