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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear seven cases on Oct. 12. The justices will hear two cases related to the exhibition of the Ten Commandments in courthouses and public buildings. The justices will decide if a monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds represents an impermissible establishment of religion. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it doesn’t, noting that the monument shared the grounds with other monuments. Van Orden v. Perry, No. 03-1500. In the second case, the justices will review the constitutionality of a display in Kentucky of the Ten Commandments which includes framed panels containing secular documents. The 6th Circuit ordered the display’s removal because of a lack of analytical connection between the Ten Commandments and the other documents. McCreary County, Ky. v. ACLU of Kentucky, No. 03-1693. The justices will decide if Congress violated the establishment clause by enacting the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which requires state officials to lift government burdens on religious exercise by the institutionalized. The 6th Circuit said the act was unconstitutional because it favored religious rights over other rights. Cutter v. Wilkinson, No. 03-9877. The justices will hear a case brought by California farmers who sued when the water they received from a water district was reduced to save a breed of salmon. The farmers said that the reduction violated their rights under a federal compact creating the district. The 9th Circuit said that the farmers’ suit was barred by sovereign immunity. Orff v. United States, No. 03-1566. The justices will hear a case brought against the state of Hawaii over legislation that the state passed regulating the amount of rent an oil company can charge dealers who lease its service stations. The 9th Circuit called it a taking. Lingle v. Chevron, No. 04-163. The justices will hear a procedural case in which Saudi Basic Industries sued Exxon in Delaware state court over royalty payments. Exxon countersued in a New Jersey federal court. When the state court rendered a $416 million judgment for Exxon, Saudi Basic appealed. The 3d Circuit refused to exercise jurisdiction, claiming that federal courts were barred from conducting de facto appellate review of state court decisions. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries, No. 03-1696. The justices, in two consolidated cases, will decide whether litigants should have access to federal court when their cases don’t meet the legal requirements but allege the same basic facts as other cases that do. In one case, family members sued in federal court after a 14-year-old girl cut her finger on a Star-Kist tuna can, even though their alleged harm did not add up to the legally required $75,000. In the Exxon case, the justices will use a $500 million judgment for Exxon gas station dealers to clarify when class actions belong in federal courts. Because the judgment was divided among 10,000 station owners, not all of them met the minimum required for federal jurisdiction. Exxon Corp. v. Allapattah Svcs. Inc., No. 04-70 (11th Circuit), and Ortega v. Star-Kist Foods Inc., No. 04-79 (1st Circuit).

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