22 September 2013

Law in Plain English: October preview

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in 35 cases so far; these cases fill out the Court's calendar through December. Here are previews of some of the more noteworthy cases in October:

Coming on the heels of the Supreme Court's controversial decision in Citizens UnitedMcCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission has all the trappings of another high-profile, controversial campaign finance decision. While Citizens United dealt with expenditures, McCutcheon deals with contributions; the plaintiff wanted to contribute more than the aggregate limits specified by Congress in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA, popularly known as the McCain-Feingold Act). The question before the Court is whether the biennial, aggregate limit on contributions to non-candidate committees specified by McCain-Feingold is unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment.

Since the Supreme Court punted on the Fisher case last spring, all eyes have looked to Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action to clarify the role of affirmative action in higher education. As was the case in Fisher, Justice Kagan is recused; so there is always the possibility of a 4-4 split (in that case, the Sixth Circuit's en banc decision would be affirmed). The question before the Court in Scheutte is whether a state violates the Equal Protection Clause by amending its constitution to prohibit race- and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public-university admissions decisions.

The Court will also consider two important cases in criminal law. In Burt v. Titlow, the Court will consider a Sixth Circuit case about AEDPA deference and ineffective assistance of counsel. In Kansas v. Cheever, the Court will consider whether a state violates the defendant’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination by rebutting the defendant’s mental state defense with evidence from a court-ordered mental evaluation of the defendant.

Schuette and Burt v. Titlow are both Sixth Circuit cases that are likely to be reversed. A third Sixth Circuit case that is likely to be reversed, White v. Woodall, has not yet been scheduled. The Sixth Circuit was reversed twice in both cases the Supreme Court accepted last term.

For the October Term 2013 case page, see here.
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