Breaking Legal News - POSTED: 2010/02/08 13:49
As the Supreme Court nears the midpoint of its annual term and prepares to hear several momentous cases, one question looms: Will the justices' split decision reversing past rulings and allowing new corporate spending in political races set the tone for the term, or will Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission be an exception?
"Is this a turning point?" asks Pamela Harris, director of Georgetown Law's Supreme Court Institute. Harris notes that Chief Justice John Roberts' concurring opinion in the campaign-finance case defended reversing past rulings that have been, as Roberts wrote, "so hotly contested that (they) cannot reliably function as a basis for decision in future cases."
"That is an incredibly muscular vision of when you would overrule precedent," which usually guides justices in new cases, Harris says. "That makes it look like this is a court that's ready to go."
Several pending cases — some that already have been argued, some that will be argued in upcoming weeks — are likely to show the reach of the Roberts Court and its boldness.
Temple University law professor David Kairys expects the Citizens United to distinguish the Roberts Court for years. "I think it will actually define more than this particular term," he says. "It might define the Roberts Court."