Supreme Court 2013-2014 Term Preview
Welcome back to the Legal Information Institute’s Supreme Court Bulletin. We are excited to cover the Supreme Court’s 2013-2014 term, including cases on campaign finance, affirmative action, and legislative prayer. All case previews are written and edited by Cornell Law School students, focusing on a balanced reporting of the issues in each Supreme Court case. The Court’s 2013–2014 term begins on October 7. Below, we discuss some notable cases from the upcoming term.
In the highly anticipated case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 12-536, the Court will address the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (“FECA”) aggregate limits on individual political contributions. In addition to restricting the amount individuals can give to any particular candidate, party, or committee, FECA limits the total amount an individual can give during a two-year period. During the 2012 election cycle, Shaun McCutcheon gave to various political candidates and committees, and wanted to contribute more than the aggregate limit, but in doing so would have violated FECA. He sued the FEC, arguing that FECA’s aggregate limits violate his First Amendment rights of association and expression. The Supreme Court will determine the permissible constitutional balance between the exercise of First Amendment rights and the government’s interest in regulating campaign finance law.
In a sequel to Fisher v. University of Texas, the Court will revisit affirmative action in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (“CDAA”), 12-682. The Court will decide whether Michigan’s 2006 constitutional amendment prohibiting public universities and schools from using race-conscious admissions processes, violates the Equal Protection Clause. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette argues that the provision does not create racial classifications because it bars the State from classifying individuals based on race, while Respondent CDAA maintains that it does create racial classifications because it targets race-conscious admissions policies. Also at issue is whether the Michigan provision violates the political-restructuring doctrine, which the Court has previously relied on to preventing placing onerous burdens on minorities seeking change through the political process. Unlike in Fisher, where the Court reviewed the University of Texas’s race-conscious admissions policy, the Court in Schuette will decide the constitutionality of Michigan’s prohibition against the use of such policies.
In November, the Court will examine the constitutionality of legislative prayer in Town of Greece v. Galloway, 12-696. Since 1999, the Town of Greece, NY has begun its Town Board meetings with prayer. Although the Town has permitted citizens from all religions to be prayer-givers and has not regulated the content of the prayers, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Town's prayer practice as a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Town of Greece argues that legislative prayer is a longstanding practice exercised by all levels of government, consistent with the Establishment Clause. Respondents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens contend that the Town’s prayer practice unconstitutionally coerces them to participate in sectarian prayer. The Court will decide whether the Town’s legislative prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause, even though it does not discriminate against certain religions or regulate the content of the prayers.
On November 5, the Court will hear oral argument in a patent law case, Medtronic Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corp., 12-1128. The case is a follow-up to MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118 (2007), in which the Court held that a patent licensee that believes its product does not infringe the patent does not have to terminate its license before seeking a declaratory judgment in federal court that it does not infringe the patent. The issue here is who bears the burden of proof – i.e., whether in such a declaratory judgment action, the licensee bears the burden of proving noninfringement or the patentee must prove infringement.
RECESS APPOINTMENT POWER
In another highly anticipated case, National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, 12-1281, the Court will determine when the President can exercise the recess-appointment power – specifically, whether the President can appoint individuals to government positions when the Senate is not in session. The case arose out of a labor dispute at Noel Canning, a bottling company in Yakima, Washington. In February 2012, the Board issued an order finding that Noel Canning had violated the National Labor Relations Act. A month earlier, the Board’s membership had dropped to two, lacking the quorum necessary to act, and because the Senate was not in session, President Obama filled the three vacancies on the five-member Board pursuant to the Recess Appointments Clause. Noel Canning challenged the validity of the order, arguing that (1) three of the Board’s five members were not validly appointed, and thus, the Board lacked a quorum to legally operate; and (2) the Sentate was not in recess when President Obama made the appointments. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Noel Canning and vacated the Board’s order.
The Court will hear another First Amendment case in McCullen v. Coakley, 12-1168. The case is about Massachusetts’s selective exclusion law, which prohibits individuals other than employees or agents from entering a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics. Petitioners are a group of individuals who believe that women having abortions are often pressured and alone, and thus the group offers information and support to women outside of abortion clinics. They challenged the Massachusetts law as unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law as a “content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation” that balances the state’s interest in protecting prospective patients and clinic employees with the First Amendment rights of others. Against the perpetually controversial backdrop of abortion, the Court will address the scope of First Amendment free speech rights in the quintessential public forum – the sidewalk.
The 2013–2014 term will bring us these and many other significant cases. Beginning later this month, the LII e-mail service will include condensed summaries of these cases with links to full previews of each case. We hope you will join us for the 2013-2014 term!
Chanwoo Park, Editor-in-Chief
Dillon Horne, Executive Editor