Upcoming Supreme Court Term Includes Important Cases on Civil Rights, Constitutional Liberties, States’ Rights

Introduction

As the Supreme Court considers a First Amendment challenge to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law argued in early September, a series of other important cases concerning constitutional and civil liberties will be presented to the Court during its 2003-04 term.

A dozen of the more than 35 cases already scheduled for review by the Court beginning in October raise fundamental civil rights and constitutional liberties concerns. For example, the Court will decide whether to further expand its series of “states’ rights” rulings to invalidate another portion of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as to exempt a state from court enforcement of a consent decree previously agreed to by the state. It will consider whether the Constitution requires a state to pay for a student’s religious education. The Court will also take up a case raising the potentially far-reaching question of when gerrymandering of congressional districts based on partisan politics is unconstitutional.

In addition to cases already on the Court’s docket, the court is actively considering whether to take other controversial cases, such as lower court decisions striking down a congressional attempt to control content on the Internet and an appeals court ruling on the pledge of allegiance. The Court is expected to add more cases to its docket during the week of September 29.

Summarized in this memo are some of the non-criminal cases already scheduled to be heard by the Court in 2003-04 that raise civil rights and civil liberties issues. Many of these and other cases will likely be decided by very narrow margins, demonstrating the impact that future Supreme Court nominees will have on the Court and on American society. Although People For the American Way Foundation has not been directly involved in all the cases discussed below, PFAWF attorneys are available to discuss the issues raised in these cases and others that may come before the Supreme Court this term.

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