The Supreme Court goes on hiatus at the end of this month, leaving us with nothing but a reading list to tide us over until the fall. And like every year, the last month of the term is set to be the biggest.
What's left on the docket? While there is no holy crap case with widespread appeal, like last year's Windsor and Perry, there are a number of fascinating disputes remaining, covering free speech, presidential power, healthcare, and the Fourth Amendment, for legal geeks to pine over.
Here are our top five, from least to most interesting:
5. Susan B. Anthony List: Criminalized False Political Speech
This one only ranks so low because it is likely a foregone conclusion. Ohio passed a law that criminalizes false statements in campaign materials. The sheer ludicrosity of the law led the Cato Institute to draft the funniest amicus brief you'll ever read, and shortly thereafter, the Ohio Attorney general conceded that his state's law was stupid, and worse, unconstitutional.
4. Noel Canning: Presidential Recess Appointments
There's nothing quite like a pissing contest between Congress and the President over separation of powers. The Senate held pro forma (walk in, say "Hi," walk out) sessions to keep the President from making appointments, he did so anyway, arguing that they were in recess. The D.C. Circuit disagreed, and held that his NLRB appointments were unconstitutional, as the recess appointment power is limited to intercession recesses.
The Supreme Court will play referee, and the truly interesting question is: if Noel Canning (a company unhappy with an NLRB ruling) wins, what happens to the 200 decisions handed down while the unconstitutional appointees were sitting on the board?
This places fourth only because 99 percent of America could care less about separation of powers and the NLRB. Finally, I'm part of the 1 percent!
3. Wurie and Riley: Fourth Amendment and Cell Phones
Two cases, two phones, and one Fourth Amendment. Can the police search a cell phone as part of a search incident to a lawful arrest? Interestingly, the Court granted both cases: one involving a "dumb" flip-phone, and one involving a smartphone.
Should a warrant be required to dig through these phones? Does the phone's capabilities make a difference? Tech geeks and lawyers will love this case. The rest of America? They probably won't notice.
2. McCullen: Abortion Clinic Protest Buffer Zone
Abortion. Free speech. This one should make headlines, and not just on the law blogs.
The Court, in 2000, upheld a Colorado law that created eight-foot protest-free "buffer zone" for reproductive health facilities. This law is 35 feet. Not only is it a longer distance, but Chief Justice William Rehnquist, as well as Justices O'Connor, Souter, and Stevens are no longer on the Court.
Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy dissented in the Colorado case, arguing that the law, which covered abortion clinics only, was a content-based restriction on free speech. Will Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito agree? And what about stare decisis?
1. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood: Obamacare Birth Control Mandate
Religion versus a law that requires employers to pay for insurance that provides birth control, including so-called abortifacients (such as the morning after pill). After oral arguments, it looked like a probable 5-4 or even 6-3 victory, with Breyer making anti-mandate arguments, along with the conservative wing of the court. The Contraceptive Mandate may soon be a thing of the past.
Due to the politics and religious claims involved, this will probably be the. big. case. for the end of the term.
- Case of the Mondays: Supreme Court Grants, Denials, and 3 Opinions (FindLaw's Supreme Court Blog)
- SCOTUS's Productive Weekend Leads to Four New Opinions (FindLaw's Supreme Court Blog)
- The Supreme Court is Partisan. Should We Care? (FindLaw's Supreme Court Blog)