New Court Term to Tackle Free Speech, Business Regulation, Gun Rights

Marcia Coyle, frequent NewsHour contributor and Washington bureau chief for the National Law Journal, was at the court for the first day of the term.

“The new term not only offers potential blockbuster decisions involving guns, church state separation, free speech juvenile criminals, campaign finance and sexual predators, but it also may provide revealing insights into our newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, and the overall direction of the Roberts court,” Coyle told the NewsHour.

Tom Goldstein of said one of the most closely-watched cases this term involves gun rights and the role of state and local government regulations.

Listen to a full interview with Goldstein about the new court term here:


In the gun rights case, McDonald v. Chicago, the justices will consider whether local and state gun laws can be challenged under the Second Amendment. In June 2008, the court struck down Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns, ruling that the Second Amendment provided an individual right to a gun. The McDonald case could determine how that Second Amendment ruling applies to state and local handgun bans.

During its first full week of the new term, the court is scheduled to hear arguments in several cases, including Maryland v. Shatzner, which will explore whether police can continue questioning after a suspect requests an attorney.

The case could have future implications for the definition of the Miranda warning, which informs a person under arrest as to their legal rights and responsibilities.

On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments in Salazar v. Buono, a high-profile case involving a religious memorial in the Mojave National Preserve, which is public land. The court will consider whether an 8-foot-tall crucifix violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause for religion.

In early November, the justices will also consider whether a ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits life in prison, without parole, for minors accused of non-homicides.

The justices will consider Graham vs. Florida and Sullivan vs. Florida, both cases involving minors who were sentenced to life in prison. In 1989, Joe Sullivan was convicted of robbing and raping a 72-year-old woman, when he was 13. Terence Graham was convicted of armed burglary of a restaurant at age 16. Both are serving life sentences.

Business cases are also expected to play a key role in the new court term. The justices will face several opportunities to shape the role of government in regulating business.

Business cases on the docket include Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.This case revolves around the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which created a board to oversee accounting firms after the Enron and WorldCom scandals in the early 2000s.

The question in that case is whether the creation of the board violates the principle of separation-of-powers, the concept that power in the government is spread among the different branches and not concentrated in one place.

The Security and Exchange Commission, which is appointed by the president, controls the board, which removes the board from direct control by the president.

In another business case, Jones v. Harris Associates, the court will consider what role courts should play in determining how much mutual fund advisers can charge in fees, the Times reported.

New York University law professor Richard H. Pildes told the New York Times the term could show how much the worst economic crisis since the Depression is going to shape the court’s general stance toward markets and economic regulation.

For a full listing of cases to be heard in this term, see this SCOTUS Wiki case index.

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