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U.S. Supreme Court to Begin New Term

John Roberts to serve as new chief justice of United States

Posted: September 29, 2005 Related item: Senate Confirms John Roberts as Chief Justice of United States  


The U.S. Senate votes 78 to 22 to confirm Judge John G. Roberts as the 17th chief justice of the United States on Thursday, September 29. Roberts will succeed the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. The 50-year-old Roberts, who takes the bench on Monday, will be the second-youngest chief justice to lead the Supreme Court. (file photo AP/WWP)

Washington -- The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to begin its 2005-2006 term on October 3 with 48 cases on its docket. The justices will hear cases on issues including free speech, campaign finance, religious freedom and reproductive rights.

With the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice of the United States on September 29, the nine members of the court will begin this term with the first new member in a decade. The court in 2004, with William Rehnquist as chief justice, had been the longest sitting court since the 1820s.

The Supreme Court’s term begins the first Monday in October each year and the court typically remains in session until late June or early July. Hundreds of cases are sent to the Supreme Court each year seeking a “writ of certiorari” – or a decision by the court to hear an appeal from a lower court. Less than 1 percent of these cases are accepted for review.

Campaign finance laws are among the 48 cases slated to come before the court in the upcoming term, with two cases addressing whether campaign finance reform violates First Amendment rights of free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.

In Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. v. Federal Election Commission the court will decide if restrictions under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, on running certain political ads financed by corporations and about federal candidates who are to face a primary election in 30 days or general election in 60 days, are a violation of First Amendment free speech rights. (See related article.)

Randall & Vermont Republican State Committee v. Sorrell will address whether Vermont’s mandatory limits on candidates’ campaign spending is a violation of the First Amendment.

The court also will hear two cases related to the abortion issue. Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will explore the validity of certain parental notification laws for minors seeking an abortion in New Hampshire. Currently, minors – those under the age of 18 – are required to have parental consent before obtaining abortion in more than 30 U.S. states.

In the combined cases of Scheidler v. National Organization for Women and Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women, the court will decide if the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), which has been used to mount criminal prosecutions against those involved in organized crime, can be applied against anti-abortion groups.

In the closely watched Gonzales v. Oregon, the court will address the state of Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law. The Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether the lower federal courts properly ruled that former Attorney General John Ashcroft overstepped his authority as attorney general by issuing a 2001 directive that applied criminal penalties on doctors who participate in physician-assisted suicide in Oregon. Oregon is currently the only state in the United States to allow physician-assisted suicide.

Rumsfeld v. FAIR will address the constitutionality of a law that requires colleges and universities to offer equal access to their campuses to military recruiters as a pre-condition for receiving federal funding.

In Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Benificiente Uniao Do Vegetal, the court will decide if the U.S. government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- a law designed to protect religious freedom -- must allow the members of a Brazilian religious sect to use a hallucinogenic tea known as hoasca, an illegal drug banned in the United States

A complete schedule of oral arguments is available on the Supreme Court’s Web site.

For additional information, see The Supreme Court of the United States: Highest Court in the Land.

Alexandra Abboud
Washington File Staff Writer

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