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Members of the US Supreme Court pose for a group photograph at the Supreme Court building on September 29, 2009 in Washington, DC. Front row (L-R): Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Back Row (L-R), Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
From gay marriage to DNA patents to racism-related laws, the Supreme Court will rule on a number of landmark cases in the coming weeks.
Movie star Angelina Jolie’s recent revelation about her breast and ovarian cancer predisposition has highlighted a genetics case. The court has to decide whether human genes are patentable, specifically whether a Utah company can patent BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, of which Jolie, like thousands of women, is a carrier. From California, the Proposition 8 case will address the constitutionality of a ban on same-sex marriage. In conjuction with that case, a decision is slated on the Defense of Marriage Act -- and whether the federal government can deny benefits to gay couples in state were they are legally married.
In Shelby v. Holder, the justices are asked to weigh whether the 1965 Voting Rights Act is still necessary to prevent racial discrimination in elections and polling. The other race-related case stems from Texas. A young white woman claims she was discriminated against by the University of Texas when they admitted minority students over her.
These highly politicized cases come at a time when the Justices have repeatedly split 5-4 along conservative-liberal lines.
We’ll speak with Marcia Coyle about her new book, “The Roberts Court.” Coyle examines major cases on health care, money in elections, guns, and race -- and the significant role of conservative judicial activists in shaping and arguing them.
Lisa McElroy, Associate Professor of Law, Earle Mack School of Law, Drexel University; Supreme Court scholar
Marcia Coyle, author, “The Roberts Court: The Struggle for the Constitution;” Chief Washington Correspondent for The National Law Journal; as a lawyer and journalist, Coyle has covered the Supreme Court for 25 years