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Monday Morning at the Supreme Court

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By Kevin Fayle on November 09, 2009 7:18 AM

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.

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