The U.S. Supreme Court convenes for a new term today and its docket of hot-button issues and broad-sweeping cases has legal observers hyper-ventilating about the staid and arcane institution. "[It] is widely expected to be one of the most exciting and important terms in recent memory," writes SCOTUS blogger Joshua Matz. "A fantastic Supreme Court term," hypes former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal in The Associated Press. "One that’s really for the ages," adds former Solicitor General Paul Clement in the Tucson Citizen. "Among the most momentous in recent decades," Constitutional Accountability Center chief counsel Elizabeth Wydra tells Reuters. So what's the big fuss about? Everyone has their own view about which cases are the biggest. Here are the top attention-getters:
Health Care It's the elephant in the room, notes the Associated Press. With the Obama administration's formal plea last week that the high court rule on health care reform's constitutionality, the likelihood the court will take on this issue this term is very strong. And that's a big deal. "Those deliberations would certainly define the court’s coming term," writes the AP. "Their decision could rank as the court’s most significant since the December 2000 ruling that effectively sealed George W. Bush’s election as president."
Immigration The case of Arizona v. U.S. weighs heavily on the right states to combat illegal immigration. "Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wants the court to rule that states and their police can question and arrest illegal immigrants. Lower-court judges blocked Arizona's law from taking effect, saying the federal government has exclusive control over immigration," reports The Los Angeles Times. "A ruling upholding the Arizona immigration law would encourage more states and cities to adopt measures that crack down on illegal residents."
Censorship Another big showdown. The Supreme Court will hear arguments between the Federal Communications Commission and broadcasters on its ban of "fleeting expletives" and brief nudity. As Warren Richey at The Christian Science Monitor reports, "The case, FCC v. Fox Television, will examine whether the FCC’s indecency enforcement procedures violate the First and Fifth Amendments. At issue is the government’s attempt to police the public air waves to prevent not only obscene material, but also indecent communications offensive to a family-oriented audience."
Spying The case of U.S. v. Jones involves the use of GPS tracking devices by police. "Police say they are entitled to attach a GPS tracking device to anyone’s car for any reason and will ask the justices to reverse an appeals-court ruling that held otherwise," reports Nathan Koppel at The Wall Street Journal.
Israel This case has garnered significant interest to international observers. "In the case, Jerusalem-born Menachem Zivotofsky's parents want his U.S. passport to list his birthplace as Israel, though U.S. policy does not recognize the once-divided city as belonging to Israel," reports Fox News. "Congress passed a law in 2002 giving Jerusalem-born U.S. citizens that option, but presidents of both parties have directed the State Department to ignore the law, saying it wrongly interferes with the president's powers. Had the child been born elsewhere in Israel, the State Department would have issued a passport listing his place of birth as Israel."
Affirmative Action While not garnering a huge amount of attention, this case could result in a ban on affirmative action, as Bob Egelko at The San Francisco Chronicle reports. "After ruling that quotas and set-asides for minorities and women violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection, the court in 2003 narrowly upheld a University of Michigan law school policy that considered applicants' race as one of several factors to promote campus diversity," he reports. "If the court agrees to review a University of Texas admissions program modeled after the Michigan policy, it could mean the majority is about to reverse course."