With Chief Justice William Rehnquist's death, the Supreme Court now has two vacancies and only one month to go before the start of its new term in October. The media spotlight is currently on Judge John G. Roberts Jr. and other potential replacement justices, but it will soon shift to a Supreme Court calendar packed with several huge culture-war cases. Whatever the court's composition, get ready for some big decisions:
Abortion: On November 30, the court will hear two cases related to abortion. The first, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, involves a New Hampshire law requiring parents of a minor seeking an abortion to be notified. An appeals court in Boston blocked the law because it did not include an exemption for young women whose health is in jeopardy. The second case, Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, concerns whether violent protesters at abortion clinics can be prosecuted under a federal racketeering law.
Federalism: In Gonzales v. Oregon, the court will be asked to rule on Oregon's law allowing physicians to give lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who have chosen to end their lives. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has argued that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution allows the federal government to prohibit such drug dispensing, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently agreed.
Gay Rights: The Solomon Amendment, a 1994 Act of Congress requiring law schools that receive federal funds to allow military recruiters on campus, is the subject of Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic & Institutional Rights. The court will be asked to decide whether a lower court was right in finding the Solomon Amendment unconstitutional because it violates the law schools' first-amendment rights—that is, the right to keep recruiters off campus because the military's policies on gays violate the law schools' nondiscrimination policies.