June 25--WASHINGTON -- When the U.S. Supreme Court meets again at 10 this morning, millions of Americans will be watching for a decision in the Affordable Care Act challenge led by Florida.
Officially, the court has only today's session scheduled to rule on health reform and other important cases. But court observers speculate that the justices will add sessions this week, possibly Wednesday and Thursday, to get through all their decisions.
Here are cases the court is weighing:
However the court rules on the question of whether Congress overstepped its power in requiring virtually every American to buy health insurance, it could set important limits for future lawmakers.
"There will almost certainly be some message for Congress about what the limits of its powers are," American University professor Stephen Wermiel, author of an online column explaining the Supreme Court to law students, has said.
If the court strikes down the law, " it will establish new limits," he said.
Arizona v. United States: Arizona lawmakers claimed the federal government was not following its own immigration policy, so they passed their own law in 2010. The law allows police to stop and arrest anyone they believe is in the country illegally, to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest and it makes it a crime to be in the state or to hold a job without valid immigration papers.
While immigration activists said the law was a civil rights abomination and a violation of unreasonable search and seizure, the court is taking up a more technical question. It will rule whether the law is invalid because it conflicts with existing federal law.
United States v. Alvarez: Xavier Alvarez, a member of the Three Valleys Water District, claimed during a board meeting that he had received a Congressional Medal of Honor.
His lie violated the Stolen Valor Act, designed to preserve the value of military awards. Alvarez was convicted and sentenced to probation. He sued claiming the law was a violation of his right to free speech. The court will decide whether a federal law forbidding such lies is a violation of the First Amendment.
Sentencing for young killers
Miller v. Alabama, Jackson v. Hobbs: In Alabama, Evan Miller was 14 years old when he robbed and then killed his neighbor. The man, who had been smoking pot with Miller and the boy's friend earlier, had awoken to find Miller stealing from his wallet. Cole Cannon attacked Miller and the teen and his friend fought back, killing Cannon. They attempted to clean up the blood and set fire to his trailer. Miller was convicted of capital murder in the course of arson.
In Arkansas, 14-year-old Kuntrell Jackson was walking with his cousin and another teen, when they decided to rob a video store. Jackson learned the teen was carrying a gun, during the walk. At first he stood outside the store, but then he went in. Although Jackson had no weapon and took no part in killing the store clerk, he was convinced of capital felony murder and aggravated robbery.
Both 14-year-olds were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In both cases, their lawyers argue that such a sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in someone so young. Lawyers for the teens presented evidence from the American Psychological Association, claiming that at that stage of brain development, teens are more impulsive and less able to understand consequences than adults. As such, they should not receive adult sentences.
The court's decision in these cases could set new sentencing limits for juveniles.
First American Financial Corp. v. Edwards: In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether lawsuits against a bank or title company, brought under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, for paying kickbacks for the closing of the mortgage loan are constitutional if the kickback does not affect the price or quality of the services provided.
Title companies and others supporting the bank in this case argue that there's a long history of referrals and working agreements that benefit buyers. Those supporting the plaintiff say that requiring someone to prove damages to sue would go against previous Supreme Court rulings and hamper Congress, which established the ability to sue in such cases.
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