What do the cast of Jersey Shore and the Supreme Court have in common?
Little, other than fist-pumping and end of season recaps.
With that in mind, let's take a look at FindLaw's five most fascinating 2010 Supreme Court cases.
- Snyder v. Phelps. When protestors appear waiving anti-gay signs that say, "God hates you" and "You're going to hell" at a military funeral, free speech becomes decidedly harder to defend. In March, the Supreme Court held that the Westboro Baptist Church's peaceful protest outside a military funeral was shielded from tort liability under the First Amendment. The Court noted that the group protests military funerals because their church is anti-homosexual, believes that America is pro-homosexual, and faults military servicemen for protecting the U.S. and its pro-homosexual agenda. Chief Justice Roberts observed, "Westboro believes that America is morally flawed; many Americans might feel the same about Westboro."
- Wal-Mart v. Dukes. Can 1.5 million WalMart employees be wrong? Perhaps not, but the Supreme Court can still refuse to allow their sex-discrimination class action lawsuit to proceed. Female employees brought the suit alleging that local managers disproportionately favor male employees in pay and promotions decisions. The sticking point for SCOTUS was the fact that the female employees across the 3,400 retail stores nationwide lacked the requisite commonality in claims to bring a class action lawsuit.
- Kentucky v. King. Police do not need a warrant to enter a house if they hear sounds "consistent with the destruction of evidence." The limitation? "The exigent circumstances rule applies when the police do not gain entry to premises by means of an actual or threatened violation of the Fourth Amendment."
- Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. The Supreme Court struck down a California law that restricted the sale of violent video games to minors, noting that parents, not government should restrict which games children buy. Justice Scalia wrote that there was no culture in the United States of restricting children's access to depictions of violence. On the contrary, Scalia said society has enabled children's access to violence for years. "Grimm's Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed. .... Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven."
- PLIVA Inc. v. Mensing. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that generic drug manufacturers cannot be sued on a failure to warn theory. This is an odd decision because the Court ruled two years ago that brand-name drug manufacturers could be sued under the same theory. It's like deciding that the student who copies his friend's test answers cannot be held accountable for incorrect responses.
Did your favorite 2010 Supreme Court cases make our list? And which cases will make the cut for next summer's Supreme Court year in review? We'll go way out on a limb here and say that if the Court decides to hear the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual coverage mandate case, an ACA opinion will be on the list next year.