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Happy Friday y'all! Today's breaking news out of the Supreme Court involves grants in three cases -- two from Texas and one from Louisiana. The first case, and the more important one in my opinion, is the First Amendment license plate case that we've covered previously -- the state of Texas is denying requests for Confederate flag vanity plates.

Also from Texas, the Court will take on patent issues once again in a spat over Cisco's Wi-Fi products.

Finally, in a death penalty case out of Louisiana, the Court will have the opportunity to flesh out their holding from Atkins v. Virginia. More specifically, do courts have to hold a separate hearing regarding mental disability and competency to be executed? And do they have to cover the tab for evaluations?

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Elonis, ballyhooed as the "Facebook threats" case or the "rap lyrics" case. Commentators have proclaimed that this case will determine the fate of free speech on the Internet.

But this is really a simple case of criminal threats that just happened to be made on the Internet.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act had better look out; in the battle over who's going to punch their SCOTUS "frequent petitioner" card first, Abigail Fisher is a close second.

Fisher, you might remember, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 and then sued to get in, claiming the state's policy of granting admission to UT to the top 10 percent of graduating students in the state resulted in racial discrimination.

The Fifth Circuit said nope, and the Supreme Court showed marked restraint by not overturning Grutter v. Bollinger like a Lakers fan overturns a police car after a victory.

When does a permissible partisan gerrymander become an impermissible racial gerrymander? The U.S. Supreme Court dealt with that question in oral arguments today in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. According to the petitioners, in 2012, the Alabama legislature redrew state legislative districts in an attempt to dilute statewide black voting power by "packing" black voters into existing majority-black districts.

Alabama contended that the 2012 gerrymandering didn't alter the racial composition of the districts; that is, they already contained a majority-black electorate. And whatever changes they did make were for partisan, not racial, reasons.

Better late than never, though we're sure the Court would've rather the issue of gay marriage had been addressed never. Avoiding the issue might've been possible, had the circuit courts stayed in concert. Now, the Supreme Court may not have a choice.

A few months back, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the Sixth Circuit could force the Court's hand if it upheld gay marriage bans. Yesterday afternoon, it did just that, upholding bans in four states, calling RBG's bluff and putting SCOTUS in for all its chips.

Now, with a circuit split in place, and the ACLU already preparing their petition for certiorari (apparently en banc isn't happening?), the Court has to decide the issue of whether the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees marriage equality -- doesn't it?

The Supreme Court's latest orders list is out, with three very interesting grants. First, what happens to a convict's guns? Can a court order them transferred or sold to a buyer of the convict's choice? Second, can a Batson issue be dealt with ex parte? And in the third grant, the Court explores the possibility of a facial challenge to a hotel records law under the Fourth Amendment.

In other news: The Court let another state voting law stay in effect, this time in Texas, in the strongest test of the Purcell v. Gonzalez holding yet. A district court had held that the law had a discriminatory purpose, and blocked it, but the Fifth Circuit, citing Purcell, reversed the trial court.

We've got two big pieces of news on the Supreme Court front, both involving issues of national importance: abortion and voting rights.

The biggest development has to be the Supreme Court's decision to vacate parts of a Fifth Circuit opinion that allowed Texas' new abortion law to go into effect; the law would effectively force all but a few abortion clinics in the state to close. The issue, and appeal, are likely to make it to the Court on the merits.

Meantime, back at the Fifth Circuit, the court allowed the Texas voter ID law to go into effect, despite the district court's finding that the law had a discriminatory purpose. That too will likely head to the High Court at some point.

In what might be the most litigious election season in recent memory, the Supreme Court has stepped in and blocked three lower court rulings in the last week alone, some of which allowed controversial voting laws, and some of which blocked those laws. The seemingly conflicting rulings all have one thing in common: the Purcell rule.

Meantime, a court in Texas has blocked that state's voter ID law at the last second. A quick appeal, citing that same Purcell rule, is a foregone conclusion.

SECOND UPDATE, October 10, 2014, 2:33 p.m.: The Supreme Court has just issued an order lifting the stay on same-sex marriages in Idaho, less than three days after Justice Kennedy's surprising initial stay.

UPDATE, October 8, 2014, 12:54 p.m.: Justice Kennedy has issued a new order, dropping the stay in Nevada. Gay marriage can proceed in Nevada, but it's still on hold in Idaho. Meantime, BuzzFeed reports that the conservative Nevada district court judge who ruled against gay marriage in 2012, and was ordered to issue the injunction (blocking the ban), has self-recused.

This morning, those of us on the west coast woke up to surprising news: Two days after the Supreme Court declined to take on the issue of gay marriage, and one day after the Ninth Circuit followed that up with a smackdown of Nevada and Idaho's gay marriage bans, the Supreme Court stepped in and pressed pause on Idaho gay marriages. And maybe Nevada too -- nobody is quite sure.

Speaking of stays, despite issuing a stay blocking last-minute changes to voting laws in Ohio, the Court has yet to rule on other requests out of North Carolina and Wisconsin. The latter state sent a follow-up request to the Court earlier today, while the waiting game rolls on on the two earlier requests.

Well, this is quite a way to kick of SCOTUS Week at FindLaw, isn't it? This morning, the Supreme Court shocked the nation by denying certiorari in all of the pending gay marriage cases. The orders were handed down with no warning, no elaboration, and no dissent.

In retrospect, the denials shouldn't have been that shocking: While the issue is of major nationwide importance, there is no circuit split yet, and every federal appeals court to consider the issue since Windsor has ruled in favor of marriage equality. The Court's denial is simply an exercise of restraint -- if they don't have to touch the issue, they apparently won't.

In the coming days, we'll be doing a circuit-by-circuit review of the Court's major cases that they did take, but for today, we're going to stick to the major ramifications of the Court's non-decision in the marriage cases.