Supreme Court Cases Worth Watching

The United States Supreme Court is getting back to work.  As the high court kicks off its latest session there are a few cases, and one notable action, worth watching.

The big news is that a new challenge to Obamacare has emerged, and with it, the possibility of overturning this controversial, unpopular, and expensive law.  The Supreme Court has ordered the Justice Department to respond to a challenge brought by Liberty University.  The Liberty suit argues that the individual and employer mandates in Obamacare are unconstitutional on the basis of their infringement of religious liberties.  This move bears close watching.

Four cases on the docket are notable.

In the first, Cornell University student Supap Kirtsaeng discovered that college textbooks from Wiley Publishing were significantly cheaper in Thailand.  Being entrepreneurial, Kirtsaeng got family in Thailand to buy up the books and ship them to Ithaca, New York.  Reselling the books below the prices set by Wiley, Kirtsaeng saved money for his classmates and earned himself $1.2 million.

Wiley is suing for copyright infringement, while Kirtsaeng is relying on the 1908 precedent that permits a buyer to resell purchased goods.  A victory for Kirtsaeng would be a victory for consumers, free markets, and competition.  A Wiley victory could have a chilling effect on all resale items, from garage sales to Ebay, and be a serious blow against property rights.

The second case puts race preferences in academic admissions back in consideration in what may be the biggest case since Bakke v. UC Davis.  In the new case, Abigail Fisher is arguing that the University of Texas at Austin rejected her application because she was white.

In 2003 a similar case was heard by the Supreme Court.  In the Bollinger decision a split court ruled that racial quotas were impermissible, but allowed that race could be a factor in admissions decisions since race was one means of allowing the institution to shape the composition of the student body.  Retired Justice O’Connor was the deciding opinion in Bollinger.  Her successor, Justice Alito, is considered to be averse to her opinion.

The Mayo vs. Prometheus case will examine the question of whether or not thought is patentable. At issue is a Prometheus patent based on clinical observations and a subsequent deduction of the effects of a pharmaceutical.  Mayo asserts that the conclusions reached by Prometheus are not patentable.  It is an intriguing case that, depending on the language of the decision, could either have far-reaching implications, or minimal application in other areas.

Also of interest is McBurney v. Young.  Here the Court will consider whether or not open access and freedom of information laws in one state necessitate extension of access to residents of other states on the basis of the privileges and immunities clause of the Constitution.  Advocates for the free flow of information, such as the Yawper, will look for the Court to overturn the appellate court opinion.

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2 thoughts on “Supreme Court Cases Worth Watching

  1. Great article Jason…very informative about issues of which I normally would not be aware. Thanks for writing about important issues!

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