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3 Supreme Court Cases to Watch at the End of the Term

The Supreme Court is reaching the final cases of its October 2014 term, and has some doozies on the docket.

From raisin rights to marriage rights and the right to a humane execution, here are some of the highlights on next week's SCOTUS oral argument calendar.

Same-Sex Marriage (April 28)

Possibly the most anticipated cases ever for the Court and certainly the biggest civil rights decision in decades, the Court will hear two hours of oral arguments concerning four consolidated cases regarding same-sex marriage. The ruling will basically come down to whether state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional. If SCOTUS rules against the state bans, same-sex marriage will be legal nationwide. If the Court finds in favor of state bans, the hodge-podge of state marriage equality laws will likely continue.

Lethal Injection (April 29)

Oklahoma botched the execution of Clayton Lockett last year. In Glossip v. Gross, the court will decide if Oklahoma's new three-drug lethal injection cocktail is a cruel and unusual punishment, with related questions of rules governing a stay of execution, and how the availability of alternative lethal injection drugs affects a condemned person's Eighth Amendment rights.

Raisins and Eminent Domain (April 22)

This one may sound a bit esoteric, but can have some real-world implications for small businesses, especially farmers. Under a World War II-era program, the USDA forces raisin farmers to "set aside" (give to the state) a certain percentage of their crop in order to keep prices artificially high. In some cases, this can be almost half the yearly yield. The Eminent Domain Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires just compensation if private property is taken for public use.

While farmers were once paid for the raisin set-aside, that changed, and the farmers sued. Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture will decide whether just compensation is required when the taking is personal property (as opposed to land or real property), and whether the farmer's financial interest in that taken property affects the compensation requirement.

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