Political Animal


September 30, 2012 9:50 AM SCOTUS 2012-2013 Preview

By Simon van Zuylen-Wood

To kick off the day, here’s a quick preview of the Supreme Court’s upcoming term, which begins Wednesday, October 3.

With half the term’s cases scheduled, here are some of the big cases that are already on the docket, and a few the Court court take up later.

Affirmative Action
October 10, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

Revisiting affirmative action in higher education, a decade after Sandra Day O’Connor’s fifth vote upheld it in Grutter v. Bollinger. The conventional wisdom says that the Court, with Alito sitting in O’Connor’s seat, rules the practice unconstitutional.

Human Rights
October 3, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

Fascinating case in which Royal Dutch and its Shell subidiaries (the American companies) are accused of helping the Nigerian government torture a dozen and kill Nigerians protesting against the companies’ oil exploration. What’s being decided is whether a US court can effectively rule on human rights violations a domestic company has committed abroad.

Capital Punishment
October 9, Tibbals v. Carter; Ryan v. Gonzalez

Both of these cases deal with a state’s responsibility to halt the appellate review of capital punishment cases while a defendant is mentally ill. For now, this is the only case on the court’s docket that deals with the death penalty.

Civil Liberties/Surveillance
October 29, Clapper v. Amnesty International

The Court reviews the United State’s ability to wiretap Americans when they’re abroad. In 2008, Congress expanded the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which previously regulated only domestic surveillance. Since then, we’ve been able to spy on our own wherever they go.

Doggie sniffing
October 31, Florida v. Jardines; Florida v. Harris

The Court decides whether it violates the Fourth Amendment provision against illegal searches for a trained narcotics dog to sniff around a house or car for drugs without a warrant. Dogs in question are Franky and Aldo, respectively.

Potential SCOTUS cases (Should the Court take them up)

Same-Sex Marriage

Several Defense of Marriage Act cases are working there way through the courts, most notably the May Massachusetts federal court decision that struck down the law. A lower court in California has also struck down Prop 8, the state’s ban on gay marriage, so that case could get heard too.

Voting Rights Act

Several states (Texas, South Carolina, Florida) have recently had voting laws struck down by the Department of Justice, thanks to the provision of the Voting Rights Act that mandates many of the ex-Confederate states have their voting laws “pre-cleared” by the federal government. If the Court decides to take up any of the resulting state challenges to the VRA, it could rule pre-clearance unconstitutional. Sidenote: I’d argue that pre-clearance isn’t broad enough. Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and other northern states that don’t require pre-clearance have passed Voter ID laws no problem. Welcome to the era of Jim Crow North.

Simon van Zuylen-Wood is a writer for Philadelphia Magazine.


  • Govt Skeptic on September 30, 2012 11:02 AM:

    On VRA, I totally agree with you. In fact, I can't see how equal protection doesn't apply. Poor/minority voters (read: Democrats) in Northern states are now less able to exercise their franchise than their ex-confederate-state counterparts. Bad news.
    Unfortunately, the entire SCOTUS dynamic is no longer about rational decisions, the greater good, or precedent. It's about a group of ideologues advancing the agenda of corporatocracy and oligarchy. In the face of that, good luck with your predictions.

  • Ronald on September 30, 2012 11:02 AM:

    as interesting as the docket, is the dynamics of this years court.
    What is Roberts going to do?
    How are the right-wingers going to act this year if (God forbid) Romney wins.
    Then in figuring if Mr. Obama wins, how the general right-wing is going to react, as well as the Court's right-wing.

    I'm pretty confident that the Court will tack certainly right-wards until the election.

  • Hedda Peraz on September 30, 2012 11:04 AM:

    "Affirmative Action", like bussing, is still the bane of racists (AKA the Left Behind Stupid White Men) everywhere.
    Except it ain't the '60's no mo', either 18 or 19- take your pick.

    We are fast on our way to "One World", and a good many of the 9 billion do not have Northern European skin.

    International Corporations- those guys the Left loves to hate- realize this, and want , indeed, are competing for, the most qualified talent. And that, shock and horrors- even includes "Wimmen".

  • c u n d gulag on September 30, 2012 11:06 AM:

    I wonder why it is that I'm afraid of the wrong side pitching a perfect game?

    We'll see.

    Maybe Roberts will side with fairness and "The Force" a few times, even if for no other reason than to spite Darth Scalia and watch him throw another epic hissy-fit.

  • Tomm Undergod on September 30, 2012 2:31 PM:

    A recent drive from CA to TX included a stateline drive-through entering AZ or TX or some other border, complete with a volkspoletzie dog walking by going sniff, sniff. My guess is that they were not looking for native speakers of Spanish, but these days anything is possible in the greatest and most wonderfullest of all granfalloons ever because, you know, freedom.

    But you can't get much more random than that. Legal?

    Also - Not Roe v. Wade? And if not, why not? Waiting for a Rmoney appointment perhaps?

  • ErnaMichael on December 06, 2012 2:46 PM:

    Make your life more easy get the business loans and everything you need.