Huge Supreme Court week ahead after quiet Thursday

The Supreme Court ruled on three low-profile cases on Thursday, setting up a hectic conclusion to its current term, with eight high-profile cases to be settled in the next 10 days.

800px-Supreme_Court_US_2010The Justices decided cases involving software patents, the IRS and public employee testimony on Thursday, clearing the decks for a flood of bigger decisions next week.

The Court is expected to have three, or possibly four, decision days left before the term is scheduled to end on Monday, June 30. The expected decision days, for now, are Monday, June 23; Thursday, June 26, and Monday, June 30. The times are 10 a.m. ET.

Among the decisions expected from the Court soon are the first big ruling on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, since June 2012; a pair of significant cellphone privacy cases; another huge environmental law case; and decisions that could limit presidential recess appointment powers and the ability of computer companies to offer cloud technology.

Here is a rundown of the cases. (Note: The Court doesn’t necessarily issue decisions chronologically based on when arguments are heard. So a case heard in November arguments can be decided in late June.)

National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning (heard Jan. 13, 2014)

This high-profile case asks the Court to interpret the breadth of the President Obama’s constitutional authority to make appointments during Senate recesses. The Court is considering a balance of power issue between the President and the legislative branch.

McCullen v. Coakley (heard Jan. 15, 2014)

This case is about Massachusetts’s selective exclusion law – which makes it a crime for public speakers other than clinic “employees or agents . . . acting within the scope of their employment” to protest within 35 feet of a reproductive health care facility.

Harris v. Quinn (Argued January 21, 2014)

An argument in Illinois over home-care union workers, and their refusal to pay their “fair share” of the cost for union representation, could have much-bigger national implications.

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius (heard March 25, 2014)

The second big test in the Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare is about exceptions to Obamacare’s requirements relating to religious freedom.

In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the national hobby and crafts chain store asked the Court to take on the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate that applies to for-profit companies with religious convictions.

In the Conestoga Wood case, a Mennonite family-owned, profit-making business claims that the ACA’s birth control mandate violates the company’s rights under the First Amendment free exercise clause and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo (heard April 22, 2014)

The highly publicized case involves a copyright battle between Aereo, a tech TV startup, and the major television networks that could affect the future of broadcast television and cloud computing.

Riley v. California and U.S. v. Wurie (heard April 29, 2014)

Both cases examine the power of the police, acting without a search warrant in certain circumstances, to look at information stored on a cellphone taken from a suspect at the time of an arrest.

The Greenhouse Cases (heard February 24, 2014)

A group of six cases, with Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, as the lead case, focuses on federal government’s power to limit the amount of “greenhouse gases” that enter the atmosphere, under powers granted in the Clean Air Act.

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