Supreme Court Faces Politically Charged Cases

October 03, 2007 03:51 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The U.S. Supreme Court’s new term began on Oct. 1 with a docket full of contentious partisan cases; whereas some observers say the last term marked the court’s rightward shift, analysts believe this term will bring a broader mix of conservative and liberal victories.

30-Second Summary

The U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for the next nine months includes high-profile cases involving the rights of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, voter identification requirements, and the lawfulness of lethal injection. Given such controversial issues, pundits expect a term of split decisions and rulings with far-reaching political implications.

As with many of the high-profile cases of last term, this term’s most contentious cases may hinge on the tie-breaking vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. But whether this centrist swing voter will cast his lot with the court’s liberal or conservative blocs remains to be seen.

Trying to anticipate the court’s political leaning, Mimi Wesson, professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, thinks that the “justices' track records on [this term’s issues] suggest that the court's liberal members have a chance of crafting a majority.”

Tom Goldstein, professor of Supreme Court litigation at Stanford and Harvard law schools, complicates Wesson’s point. Writing on “SCOTUS Blog,” Goldstein points out that “Kennedy's commitment to any ideological world view is too fragile for either wing of the Court to have genuine confidence in … Moreover, many important cases are not decided on ideological grounds or by five-to-four majorities.”

This term is also the last before the 2008 presidential elections, which places special significance on how the court affects the political landscape. Knowing how and why the land’s highest legal authority influences American culture is more important than ever.

Headline Links: Preview of the new term, the Supreme Court’s full docket, and how to stay up-to-date

Background: An introduction to the Supreme Court, split decisions in the past, and how the court decides to hear a case

The Wall Street Journal offers a detailed graphic illustrating how the justices split on some of last term’s most divisive cases. The same page also provides links to each case’s arguments and opinion.

Analysis: Examining the new term and what it may reveal about the court

Historical Perspective: A history of the Supreme Court, landmark decisions, and the changing number of justices

Reference Material: Glossary of legal terms, biographies of the justices, and what Americans do not know

Related Topics: Key cases in the Supreme Court’s new term

The Wall Street Journal focuses on the court’s two upcoming cases involving the reach of executive power. The first case—Medellin v. Texas—will be argued on Oct. 10, and considers whether President Bush has the authority to order a state to comply with international law. The second case—Boumediene v. Bush—is slated for review this fall, and concerns whether Congress has the authority to deny Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to habeas corpus— the petition that asks a court to rule on the legality of their detention.

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