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What could be the upcoming term's most interesting case isn't a dispute over controversial subjects like gay rights or immigration. It doesn't involve boldface names or the continued existence of massive government programs. No one's life hangs in the balance.

It's Trinity Lutheran v. Pauley, and it's a battle over used tires and religion -- or rather, whether a church in Missouri can have access to a state program that helps resurface playgrounds with rubber from ground up scrap tires. But as peculiar as this conflict might be, it could have a significant impact on religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

Whether a Texas inmate lives or dies could depend, in part, on the work of John Steinbeck. In the upcoming term, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Moore v. Texas, a challenge to the sentence of Bobby James Moore, who faces execution for the murder of grocery store clerk, but who also suffers from severe intellectual incapacity.

The case asks the Court to weigh in on the standard Texas uses when deciding if someone's intellectual disability is so extreme as to disqualify them from a death sentence. Moore wants a standard that comports with modern medical understandings. Texas's highest criminal court, however, demanded the use of a more out-dated metric, the so-called "Lennie standard," named after the sweet-natured, but feeble-minded character from Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."

'Test cases,' or legal challenges meant to set precedent and change the law, were pioneered by civil rights activists. Test cases brought us some of the Supreme Court's greatest civil rights victories, and some of its greatest failures. But in the past few years, test cases have also become a powerful force in undoing civil rights laws, with test cases directed at everything from the Voting Rights Act to college admissions. And many of those cases are directed by a single man.

In this week's recap of "More Perfect," our look into NPR's new Supreme Court podcast, we're looking at the man behind some of the Supreme Court's most high-profile recent civil rights decisions: Edward Bloom.

The battle over where transgender youth can go to the bathroom has quickly turned into a political and legal flashpoint. The Supreme Court delved into the fight recently, staying an order that would allow transgender Virginia high schooler Gavin Grimm to use the bathroom that matched his gender identity. Then, on Sunday, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Obama administration's guidance on transgender students and bathroom access.

But these fights aren't just about the rights of transgender youth and debates about who can pee where. (Though they're certainly about that.) They're also a battle to change administrative law and the deference courts give to government agencies.

Voter ID laws have been having a tough summer in federal appellate courts. Less than a month ago, the Fifth Circuit struck down Texas's controversial voter ID law, finding that it had a discriminatory effect. Just a few days later, the Fourth Circuit overturned a similar law in North Carolina, in a blistering opinion that condemned the "discriminatory intent" behind the law.

Now, both states are looking for the Supreme Court to intervene. On Monday, North Carolina filed an emergency appeal to save its law before the November elections, while Texas has announced that it will soon petition for cert as well.

Briefs are starting to trickle into the Supreme Court in the case of Buck v. Davis, a death penalty case that promises to be one of the more important decisions of the upcoming term. Duane Edward Buck, who is African American, was sentenced to death in 1997, after one of his defense's own experts claimed that Buck was more likely to reoffend because of his race.

Now, Buck's attorneys and several amici are arguing that he deserves to have his punishment reconsidered, given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding his sentencing.

Gavin Grimm probably won't be able to use the boys' bathroom when he returns to school this fall. Grimm, a transgender high school student who was born female but identifies as a man, had sued for the right to use the men's bathroom. About a month ago, a federal district court issued a preliminary injunction against the Gloucester County School Board, in rural Virginia, ordering it to do just that: allow Grimm to use the bathroom that matched his gender identity.

But that order won't be going into effect anytime soon. The Supreme Court intervened in the dispute yesterday, staying the order pending the filing and disposition of the school board's cert petition.

Fans of the Supreme Court and NPR are in for a treat. Radiolab, NPR's science-based radio show, has its first spin off: "More Perfect." This new podcast, which you can listen to online, takes a look at "the rarefied world of the Supreme Court to explain how cases deliberated inside hallowed halls affect lives far away from the bench."

And while the characters and cases that "More Perfect" touches on won't be unfamiliar to legal professionals, some of the backstory might be. For the rest of the summer, we'll be providing weekly reviews of past episodes. We hope you'll follow us along as we explore some lesser-known Supreme Court history, unearthed by the journalists behind "More Perfect."

Gavin Grimm just wants to be able to use the bathroom in peace -- and, for a while, he could. When Grimm, a high school student in rural Virginia who was born female but identifies as male, first notified his school administrators that he was transgender, he was allowed to use the bathroom that aligned with his gender identity. But following an ugly public backlash, the Gloucester County School Board kicked him out of the boy's room, offering Grimm access to the women's bathroom or a modified broom closet, instead.

Grimm, backed by the ACLU, sued, arguing that the school had violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. Last month, Grimm won a preliminary injunction against the school board, requiring his high school to allow him to use the boy's room while the litigation played out after the Fourth Circuit refused to stay a ruling in Grimm's favor. Now, the school board has taken its case to the Supreme Court, with Grimm, in a filing with the Supreme Court yesterday, urging the Court to stay out of the dispute for the time being.

An en banc Fifth Circuit ruled against Texas's controversial voter ID law today, affirming a district court opinion that found the law, known as SB 14, to have a discriminatory effect on minority voting rights in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling came just in time as well. In April, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the voter ID dispute, giving the Fifth Circuit until July 20th to act on the issue -- a deadline the Fifth just barely made.

That does not mark the end of the debate, though. The Fifth sent the case back down to the district court with instructions to craft temporary relief before this November's elections but, should the parties appeal, the case could be headed to the Supreme Court instead.