Supreme Court Begins Term

When the United States Supreme Court began its new term on October 7, 2013, it had  a number of cases to hear of vital importance:

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION The question in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is whether a state may amend its constitution to prohibit the consideration of race or sex in public university admissions. Michigan passed a constitutional amendment banning the use of race as one consideration in acceptance at the University of Michigan Law School after the court affirmed its right to do so.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the court will consider the constitutionality of overall limits on how much an individual donor may give directly to federal candidates, party committees and PACs in a two-year election cycle.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND RELIGION In McCullen v. Coakley, anti-abortion protesters are challenging a Massachusetts law that sets a 35-foot “buffer zone” around health care clinics where abortions are performed.

In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the court will decide whether the First Amendment permits a prayer before a town board meeting.

ABORTION Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice deals with the constitutionality of an Oklahoma law that requires doctors to use abortion-inducing drugs precisely as the Food and Drug Administration approved them 13 years ago. Doctors have developed experience since the drugs were approved and are using them in a way that causes less pain for the women using them and have been prescribing them “off-label.”

PRESIDENTIAL POWER National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning involves the president’s constitutional power to make appointments “during the recess of the Senate.”

In addition to these cases, which the court has already accepted, it is likely they will also accept an appeal of whether the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that the health plans of private for-profit employers cover birth control is constitutional.

The National Council for Jewish Women (NCJW) hosted a call with Dahlia Lithwick, Slate Magazine’s senior editor, who discussed these cases. You can listen to the recording of the call online. You can also learn more about the cases by checking out SCOTUSblog.