The three cases challenging the 2010 healthcare overhaul will take the spotlight in the Supreme Court's spring term; the court scheduled the hefty 5 1/2 hours of oral arguments for the cases to occur March 26, 27, and 28. The court will focus on the law's mandate that individuals buy health insurance, but the justices will visit other aspects of the law, like the Medicaid requirements imposed on states. The justices will render some kind of decision before the end of their current term-and before the presidential election-but a possibility exists that they could delay a real decision on the merits of the law until it takes fuller effect. Groups on either side of the aisle continue to urge Justices Elena Kagan and Clarence Thomas to recuse themselves from the case-Kagan for her work in the Obama administration, Thomas for his wife's advocacy against the law-but neither has shown intentions to sit out the biggest moment in the term.
Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., takes one of the first oral argument slots of the year on Jan. 10. The FCC prohibits indecent material on broadcasting channels before 10 p.m. in an effort to protect children, and Fox is arguing that the FCC's standards are unconstitutionally vague, placing a burden on free speech. Libertarians and press associations have sided with Fox, and the lower courts have too. But National Religious Broadcasters, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and The Parents Television Council filed amicus briefs on the side of the FCC. "Despite cries of a 'chilling effect' and 'censorship' from the industry and their agents, the FCC's broadcast decency enforcement regime does not affect whether the TV networks can broadcast indecent material. It only affects when they can do so," said PTC's President Tim Winter in a statement. "If broadcasters are truly unable to refrain from airing indecent material when children are most likely to be watching television, they simply do not deserve a broadcast license." The Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the FCC was right to ding Fox over fleeting expletives, but this case addresses the broader issue of whether the FCC's indecency standards are constitutional.
On the docket later in the spring: In April, the Court will hear an appeal by Arizona, which is seeking to uphold its state-level immigration law that requires immigrants to carry papers and police to check the citizenship status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. The Obama administration has challenged the law as unconstitutional and in conflict with federal immigration law.