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After a historic week, what lies ahead for the Supreme Court?

After a dramatic week at the Supreme Court, there are still three cases to be decided. Justices will rule on environmental regulations, redistricting and lethal injection. Chief Washington correspondent for The National Law Journal Marcia Coyle joins Hari Sreenivasan from Washington with analysis on the decisions made and cases that lie ahead.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    Joining me now is the chief Washington correspondent for “The National Law Journal,” Marcia Coyle.

    So, Marcia, yesterday, we talked a lot about the impact of the gay marriage ruling. But there are a couple of other big rulings. And we know court rulings at the Supreme Court are small, but the ones that are coming up on Monday are pretty important. Let’s talk a little bit about that.

  • MARCIA COYLE, THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL:

    Absolutely, Hari.

    There are three cases that are left. There is a very important case involving the environment and the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate mercury emissions from electric power plant. In that case, it’s a question of whether the EPA, the federal agency, should have considered the cost of its regulation before deciding whether to regulate the mercury emissions.

    There’s a second case that’s very important in terms of how states — state legislatures, in particular, reapportion congressional districts. Arizona created an independent commission to do the redrawing of district lines following each census. And it did that because, as we’ve seen all around the country, redistricting has become a very partisan effort in state legislatures.

    The Arizona state legislature challenged the use of an independent commission, claiming that it violated the elections clause in the federal constitution, claims that that clause gives the authority, the right to state legislatures to redraw district lines.

    And, finally, the death penalty, which is never far from the Supreme Court’s docket. This is a case involving lethal injection, and a particular drug, Midazolam, that was used by Oklahoma not too long ago, as a replacement drug for the drug in its three-drug protocol that is usually used to make someone unconscious while the other two drugs are administered.

    Oklahoma used Midazolam, as a substitute, and we saw reports how far the drug really didn’t make someone — make the death row inmate unconscious long enough for the other drugs to be administered. And in some cases, the execution lasted — one execution 20 minutes, in others the inmate was seen to gasp, and in another, the inmate actually talked and said, “This isn’t working.”

    So, a challenge has been brought to the use of that particular drug, and we will get a decision I believe on Monday as to whether that — the use of that drug is cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Looking back at the cases, just the high-profile cases, the Affordable Care Act and the gay marriage case, what was interesting was Chief Justice Roberts in his votes, one direction in one case, and another direction in the other case. He’s really become one of the more surprising justices.

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    If we take away anything from this particular term, it is that even though the court has a five-yesterday conservative majority, those five conservatives are not all the same, just as not all Democrats are the same or all Catholics are the same. They have different approaches to how they interpret statutes, how they read the Constitution. And we saw that play out in the health care case, as well as same-sex marriage.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, while these two cases might be win for liberal thought, liberal ideology, this doesn’t make an entire season or an entire court.

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    No, it doesn’t, Hari, and I think we have to be cautious about labeling the court, OK, so now we’ve had two liberal — huge liberal-leaning decisions. This is a liberal Supreme Court. I really believe that each term tells its own story, depending on the makeup of the cases, the mix of cases, that come to the court and end up on its docket.

    I can remember during the Rehnquist years that there were some terms that were left-leaning, other terms that were right-leaning. This term, the cases that came played out to the left side of the court.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Marcia Coyle from “The National Law Journal” — thanks so much.

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Oh, my pleasure, Hari. Take care.

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