The current Supreme Court has refrained from making sweeping statements about social and political issues. There is every reason to believe that trend will continue in the remaining cases to be heard this term. Here is a quick preview of some of them:


Grandparents in Washington state seeking a closer relationship with the children of their late son went to court to win visitation rights--against the wishes of the children's mother. The mother and father of the children were never married; the mother has since married, and the stepfather has adopted the children. The grandparents won visitation rights, but that decision was overturned on appeal.

The question at the Supreme Court is whether parents' fundamental rights are violated when courts allow visitation--by grandparents or other people--over parents' objections.


A female student at Virginia Tech charged two football players with rape. The men were found guilty of sexual misconduct in a school hearing and suspended for a year. A subsequent grand jury did not find criminal evidence to indict the two. The woman, Christy Brzonkala, then sued the pair invoking the Violence Against Women Act, which allows women to file civil lawsuits for money damages against their attackers.

Did Congress have the authority to pass the act, involving itself in what traditionally had been a state matter?


A 1996 Massachusetts statute was passed to prevent state agencies from dealing with companies that did business in Burma (called Myanmar by its military rulers) as a way of protesting that country's authoritarian regime. The statute had been modeled on more than 24 anti-apartheid laws enacted by other state and local governments in the 1980s. The Clinton administration had imposed economic sanctions on Burma that barred new U.S. investment there in April 1997, although they were viewed as less stringent than the Massachusetts law.

Did the Massachusetts law infringe upon the federal government's authority to set foreign policy?


Three abortion protesters in Colorado challenged the state's 1993 so-called "bubble law," which calls for a protective zone of eight feet around people who do not consent to be approached within 100 feet of an entrance to a health-care facility.

Does Colorado's law infringe upon protesters' free-speech rights?


Charles Thomas Dickerson, who was indicted for robbery in Virginia, claimed that he had not been read his Miranda rights and that a statement he gave to police could therefore not be used against him. A federal appeals court ruled that the rights embodied in Miranda v. Arizona were overturned by a subsequent statute (the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968).

Did the 1968 statute supersede the Miranda ruling?