When it comes to choosing its docket, the Supreme Court is worse with peer pressure than a freshman trying a cigarette for the first time. In 2010, the Citizens United ruling was prefaced with hundreds of amicus curiae briefs, which are basically special interest groups telling the justices why they have to rule on the matter. In 2011, the healthcare reform lawsuit featured a conglomerate of nearly thirty states screaming at the top of their legal lungs for an unconstitutional ruling. And in both situations, the Supreme Court caved and heard ’em out.
Now, as 2012 comes to a close, the same lobbying effort is happening with the battle for California’s Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act to finally meet its fate in the highest court in the land. After Election Day, the first case has the weight of nine state marriage equality laws on its back, as well as thirty-one states who believe the Constitution prohibits Adam and Steve. The second case has Obama’s blessing, so it’s a matter of whether the judicial branch wants to listen to its executive counterpart. As of now, the Court is silent on what it wants to do next year with the hot-button issue. But with that being said, it must already have its hands full, right? Well, let’s see.
1. Affirmative Action, or, ‘What Race Are You?’ on the Common App
Like abortion or student loans, “affirmative action” is one of those buzzwords that bears an emotional caveat for many — this might be why it was not mentioned too much on the campaign trail. Every college student has had some sort of interaction with the policy and, as rough economic times drag on, the relevance of the heated issue has increased tenfold. In 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court stepped in and ruled that race can be a factor in University admissions. Nine years have passed since then.
Well, it’s time for the Supreme Court to have its say yet again. In Fisher v. University of Texas, the petitioner, Abigail Fisher, is arguing that the University of Texas gave her spot away to a minority with lower credentials and the University is using the diversity card as its defense. But, the main question here is whether affirmative action is compatible with the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause or not. If same-sex marriage is put on the Court’s back burner, expect this one to be the Controversial Case of the Year.
2. Search and Seizure, or, “Can This Dog Constitutionally Sniff Me?”
Fourth Amendment cases pop up left and right in the Court’s docket since, with something like search and seizure, there are a ton of things that could go wrong. However, the more recent examples have revolved around technological advances; for example, just last week, the Court refused to hear a defense of Illinois’s anti-eavesdropping law, which forbade citizens from recording or videotaping police in a public sphere. Score one for smartphone justice.
Next year, the Court has a few on its plate. The first, Bailey v. United States, will decide if authorities can detain someone while grabbing a search warrant. The second, Florida v. Jardines, pertains to the title. In this one, we’ll find out if a canine sniffing at your front door infringes upon your rights or if cops are allowed to wait outside your house for a search warrant. Breaking Bad should be able to answer all these questions.
3. Immigration, or, What Happens If Your Pot Dealer Is An Illegal Alien
The final major case on the horizon is a weird mixture between federalism and green cards. As the law stands, if a ‘non-citizen’ is arrested for selling buds, he or she can be deported immediately for an ‘aggravated felony’ under the federal Controlled Substances Act. However, the law will be brought down to a lower level in Moncrieffe v. Holder. The Court will decide if the felony can fall under a state law, thus clearing someone of an automatic “get out of our country!” decision. To Colorado!
As you can see, the docket is jam-packed with enough material for an average session. However, besides the affirmative action case, it’s still missing a Citizens United or Obamacare decision; if the Supreme Court wants to continue on this recent streak of epic legalese, it needs to decide by the end of the week if it wants to finally end the argument on the right of marriage for millions across the country. If the Nine decides to do so, they’ll definitely have their work cut out for them.