What's Left for the Supreme Court

With about six weeks remaining in the Supreme Court term, there are several significant outstanding opinions remaining. Take a look at some of what the court still has on its plate.


Affirmative Action

Argued in October, the justices have yet to rule on this major affirmative action case that could severely limit the use of race in admissions programs at public universities and colleges. All eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has said that diversity is a compelling government interest, but is seen as a swing vote on the issue. Only eight justices will participate in the case as Justice Elena Kagan is recused because of her role in the case at her previous job as solicitor general.

Genetically Altered Seeds

Feb. 19 Bowman v. Monsanto Co. An Indiana farmer is fighting seed behemoth Monsanto in a case regarding patents of genetically modified food. In this case it is a soy bean seed that is immune to the weed killer Roundup.

UPDATE: Read more about today's opinion here.

Maryland v. King

In February the court will heard arguments in a case that pits the needs of law enforcement against the privacy rights of those who have been arrested for a crime. While states allow the collection of DNA for those convicted of a crime, the lower courts have split on whether states can collect DNA without a warrant from people who have only been arrested. The federal government and 28 states allow the collection of DNA from arrestees. At oral arguments Justice Samuel Alito said, "I think this is perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades."

Voting Rights

At issue is a key section of the historic Voting Rights Act Section 5-- that requires states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to have any changes in voting procedures pre-approved by federal officials in Washington. The court agreed to hear the case just days after the last election. Opponents of the law say Congress was wrong in 2006 to extend Section 5 for 25 more years.


Opponents of California's Proposition 8 say the controversial ballot initiative that banned gay marriage in California is unconstitutional.


The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in their state. Challengers say it is unconstitutional, and the Obama administration agrees.

Arizona's Proof of Citizenship

At issue is a section of an Arizona law that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. Critics of the law argue that it puts an additional burden on voters and conflicts with a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act.

Generic Drugs

In 2004, Karen Bartlett went to see her doctor for shoulder pain and was prescribed a generic anti-inflammatory drug Sulindac. She experienced rare side effects that caused her skin to deteriorate over 60 percent of her body. She sued the generic drug manufacturer, Mutual Pharmaceutical Co, under a state drug design law and was awarded $21 million. At issue before the court is whether federal law trumps a state law judgment against the generic manufacturer.

Can Human Genes Be Patented?

A group of researchers , doctors, scientists and patients are challenging patents held by a bio tech company on isolated DNA from the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes. Women with mutations in those genes are at a much higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The challengers argue the patents chill research and block other companies from developing similar or even better genetic testing. But Myriad Genetics, the company awarded the patents, argues that their innovation has led to genetic tests that saves lives and they need patent protection to risk billions of dollars for research.


At issue is a case about a now 3-year-old girl who was put up for adoption by her biological mother, after her biological father, a Cherokee Indian, relinquished his parental rights via text message. The father said he had no idea the mother was putting the baby up for adoption and, with the help of lawyers for the Cherokee Nation, fought for custody and won. The case pits South Carolina state law against a federal law meant to protect Indian parents and their children.

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