The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in three cases today, two of which deal with juveniles who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for non-homicide offenses. The other case involves limits that the Federal Circuit has imposed on patents for certain types of business methods. In Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida,
the Court must decide whether the imposition of life sentences without
the possibility of parole for two thirteen year-olds violates the
prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments found in the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments. In Sullivan, the Court must also determine
whether it should review a recently evolved Eighth Amendment claim
after a state court has decided not to grant review considering that
life sentences for thirteen year-olds are exceedingly rare and no other
federal court can provide a substantive review of the claim.
Bilski v. Kappos involves the Federal Circuit's "machine-or-transformation"
test, specifically whether the court improperly ignored its own
precedent when defining the test and whether the court went against
Congress' intent that patents should protect business methods. The
test largely excludes many business methods from patent protection
since it requires that a "process" be tied to a machine or apparatus,
or transform an item into a different state or thing.