oral arguments

THE SUPREMES: Kagan & Co. Just 3 Days Away From Hearing Westboro’s Free Funeral Speech Claim

With three women on the bench for the first time, the Supreme Court’s 2010-11 term will tackle a slew of cases predicated one on of our favorite issues ’round these parts: the First Amendment. Put a condom on in case you blow your wad, because there’s also some gays mixed in!

With the Supreme Court’s term beginning Monday, you’ll have to wait just two more days to get to Snyder v. Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church case that’ll decide whether military funerals are special “no free speech” zones. Oral arguments there begin Wednesday. (Here’s an exhaustive explanation of that case’s twists and turns.)

The court will look at provocative anti-gay protests at military funerals and a California law banning the sale of violent video games to children. These cases worry free speech advocates, who fear the court could limit First Amendment freedoms.

The funeral protest lawsuit, over signs praising American war deaths, “is one of those cases that tests our commitment to the First Amendment,” said Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Another case involves a different aspect of the First Amendment, the government’s relationship to religion. The justices will decide whether Arizona’s income tax credit scholarship program, in essence, directs state money to religious schools in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

And yet some things never change: Perennial swing vote Anthony Kennedy, who joins Antonin Scalia in sitting next to Chief Justice John Roberts, remains the focus of every onlooker. Well, almost. Because the court’s newest inductee Elena Kagan has recused herself from 20 of the court’s 38 cases because as U.S. solicitor general, she argued them. Which means we’re gonna have the possibility of plenty of 4-4 votes, in which case nothing gets decided (and the lower courts’ rulings stand).

[AP, Topeka Capital-Journal]