For those who thought the Supreme Court's June ruling on health care was the peak of the judicial body's dramatic potential, you should look at next term's docket.
Cases concerning affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights will all come before the court next term, which kicks off Monday. The first major case will be heard October 10th.
In the first major case, white student Abigail Fischer is suing the University of Texas for what she calls its discriminatory admissions policy that favors non-white students.
Fischer, who was denied admission, says after the Supreme Court upheld an earlier affirmative action law in 2003, Texas universities took race into account in admissions.
Previously, the universities conformed to the "Top 10 Percent" law, which said the top 10 percent of all high school students were admitted to state public colleges. Although Fischer's grades weren't high enough to be considered under this law, she said her denial from the school was based on her Caucasian heritage.
When the 2003 law was upheld, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the deciding vote in the 5-4 decision. Now that O'Connor has been replaced with conservative judge Samuel Alito, the Fischer v. University of Texas ruling could swing the opposite way.
Later in the term, the court will heard two different cases related to same-sex marriage. The first will involve looking at the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is opposed by the Obama administration as unconstitutional.
In the DOMA case, the court will not rule on the constitutionality of DOMA as a whole but only on whether legally married same-sex couples can be denied federal benefits such as Social Security, as they are under DOMA.
Separately, the court will decide whether to rule on a case in which supporters of California's Proposition 8 - who oppose same-sex marriage - say a lower court ruling striking down the proposition could be reversed.
It is unclear whether the court will hear this second case, as the grounds under which the prop was struck down were narrow. If the court does not hear the case, gay marriage will most likely be able to go ahead unimpeded in the Golden State.
The court's docket also includes a case involving the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Under current law, nine southern states are required to clear all election law changes with the federal government due to past voter discrimination history.
These nine states - and parts of seven more - would not have to clear election law changes with the federal government if the provision of the Voting Rights Act is found moot under current circumstances.
The docket was announced just as new polling data shows favorability toward the Supreme Court is heavily split along partisan lines.
According to a Gallup poll released Friday, 49 percent of all American adults approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing. However, when looked at along party lines, 57 percent of Democrats favor the court compared to just 36 percent of Republicans.
"The Supreme Court in theory is a nonpolitical branch of government, but its rulings clearly have political implications," Gallup Poll Managing Editor Jeffrey Jones said, noting Americans adjust their feelings on the court depending on political affiliation.
He added, "That happened after the court upheld the healthcare law earlier this year, prompting an increase in Democratic approval of the court and a decrease in Republican approval - a pattern that persists to this day."
The first case heard Monday will involve human rights and U.S. companies acting abroad.
by RTT Staff Writer
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