Monday, October 05, 2009

First Monday in October and five SCOTUS cases to watch

Excerpt summaries courtesy TIME; links are mine.

Salazar v. Buono
At issue: Whether the government can permit the display of a crucifix on public land as per the Establishment Clause.

Maryland v. Shatzer
At issue: The scope of the rights of police suspects, as given in the court's landmark 1966 decision, Miranda v. Arizona.

Graham v. Florida / Sullivan v. Florida
At issue: Whether life imprisonment for juveniles on non-homicide charges constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

The Eighth Amendment precludes cruel and unusual punishment, but it has long been left to the Supreme Court to define exactly what that term means. This court will be asked to consider it again in a pair of cases on the docket.

National Rifle Association v. Chicago / McDonald v. Chicago
At issue: Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.

A pair of cases challenge Chicago's 27-year-old ban on handgun sales within the city limits. Originally designed to curb violence in the city, the ban has long irked Second Amendment advocates, who take an expansive view of the amendment's wording that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." But the Supreme Court had long held that the Second Amendment pertained only to federal laws, until a 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller struck down a ban on handguns and automatic weapons in Washington, D.C. The ruling marked the first time the Supreme Court acknowledged an individual right to bear arms, and it opened the door for these challenges to the Chicago regulation.

American Needle v. National Football League
At issue: Whether sporting leagues should be exempt from antitrust regulations.

Experts say American Needle may turn out to be the most important legal decision in sporting history. The sportswear manufacturer contracted with NFL teams to produce hats and headgear with official team logos. But the NFL decided to give an exclusive leaguewide license to Reebok in 2000, leading American Needle to sue, claiming the NFL's action violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by limiting the market for who could produce team-branded merchandise.

The fundamental question for the court to decide is whether the NFL should be considered a single entity or a collection of 32 individual businesses. The answer to this question has repercussions beyond the production of licensed merchandise. If the NFL is considered a single entity, it would largely be exempt from antitrust laws, giving the league not only continued right to grant exclusive licenses for team apparel but also the ability to make decisions on a leaguewide basis. This opens the door to the NFL - rather than individual teams - determining things like ticket prices and player salaries. Indeed, the bargaining power of the NFL Players Union is based on antitrust legislation that the league would largely be immune to if it receives a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court.

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