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Supreme Court docket: Free-speech rights, violent video games, immigration law

What's on the docket
Saturday, October 2, 2010; 6:21 PM

The Supreme Court has accepted about two-thirds of the cases it will hear this term. Among the more important oral arguments the court is scheduled to hear before the end of the year:

NASA v. Nelson

Tuesday: Will determine what kinds of questions the federal government may ask of contract employees, in this case, whether a background check can include questions about illegal drug use without violating the right to informational privacy.

Snyder v. Phelps

Wednesday: Poses questions about the First Amendment's protection of free speech vs. privacy rights. The court will examine protests by the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas and its leader, the Rev. Fred W. Phelps, at military funerals. Albert Snyder sued the church after its 2006 protest in northern Maryland at the funeral of his son Matthew. A jury awarded Snyder millions of dollars, finding the protest constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress, but an appeals court said the group's protests were protected speech.

Connick v. Thompson

Wednesday: Did a former district attorney shirk his duty to make sure his deputies complied with their obligations to turn over evidence to the defense? In this case, prosecutors did not turn over exonerating evidence, and a man was sent to death row before the incident was uncovered. A jury awarded him $14 million.

Bruesewitz v. Wyeth

Oct. 12: Looks at whether the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act prevents a lawsuit by parents who say their child suffered seizures and mental impairment as a result of a vaccination.

Skinner v. Switzer

Oct. 13: Raises again the question of when a state must allow inmates the right to test DNA evidence that might show their innocence. A Texas death row inmate says state officials denying his request have violated his civil rights and his right to due process.

Schwarzenegger v. EntertainmentMerchants Association

Nov. 2: California is the latest state attempting to prevent the sale of "violent" video games to minors. An appeals court said, similar to decisions of courts elsewhere, that the law violates First Amendment free-speech rights.

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn; Garriott v. Winn

Nov. 13: An Arizona law allows residents to designate a portion of the taxes they owe to "school tuition organizations" that provide scholarships, most of which have gone to students at religious schools. Those challenging the law say that violates the separation of church and state.

Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America

Nov. 13: Federal regulations allowed Mazda to install either a lap seat belt or a shoulder belt in the second seat of its minivans. The family of a child injured in an accident says it should have the right to sue Mazda for its choice of the lap belt.

Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting

Dec. 8: One of Arizona's attempts to crack down on illegal immigrants allows the state to yank the licenses of employers who hire undocumented workers. Business groups, civil rights organizations and the federal government say a state does not have the authority to implement immigration law.

- Robert Barnes

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