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After its summer recess, the Supreme Court will return in October to cases ranging from juvenile executions and racial segregation to wine trading and medicinal marijuana. More than 35 cases have been granted certiorari already, and the Court will continue to add to the docket in private conferences when they reconvene after summer recess. So far, a select few cases are likely to grab the spotlight during the 2004-05 term. “One thing that strikes me about this upcoming term is the high number of criminal cases,” says Georgetown law professor Richard Lazarus, “and the biggest criminal case is probably Roper v. Simmons [No. 03-633].” In Roper, the Court will rule on whether the death penalty for juvenile defendants constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth and 14th amendments. The Court declined to prohibit such executions in the 1989 case Stanford v. Kentucky, but it will revisit the issue to rule on whether 16- and 17-year-old defendants may be constitutionally put to death under the “evolving standards of decency” test. In Johnson v. California, No. 03-636, the Court will address whether California’s practice of segregating prisoners for the first 60 days of their incarceration violates the equal protection clause. Although Brown v. Board of Education abolished school segregation more than 50 years ago, government-supported racial segregation is still a common practice in the state’s prisons. The Court must decide whether this segregation is subject to strict scrutiny or whether a more lenient standard of review is appropriate. Additionally, on the heels of 2004′s General Dynamics Land Systems v. Cline, the Court will examine age discrimination against workers over the age of 40 in Smith v. City of Jackson, Mississippi, No. 03-1160. Currently, older workers must prove their employers’ intent to discriminate against them because of their age; merely demonstrating “disparate impact” does not establish a prima facie case under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The Court will decide whether the ADEA should be reinterpreted to allow these “disparate impact” claims. The Court will also determine whether to expand the reach of Title IX in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, No. 02-1672. Alabama high school coach Roderick Jackson alleges he was fired when he complained about unequal funding for his girls’ basketball team. The Court must decide whether Jackson can state a claim under Title IX despite the fact he was not a direct victim of gender discrimination. Also on the Court’s plate, so to speak, are cases involving food and drink. Veneman v. Livestock Marketing, No. 03-1164, and Nebraska Cattlemen v. Livestock Marketing Association, No. 03-1165, will challenge a mandatory fee imposed on cattle farmers for beef marketing and promotion. The farmers insist that they should not be forced to fund the generic advertisements because paying for advertising with which they do not agree is a violation of their First Amendment rights. “In terms of impact, all First Amendment cases, including these, tend to have quite an effect on the public,” says Lazarus. The Court will also consider laws that make it illegal for wineries to ship their wares directly to private out-of-state customers. Plaintiffs in New York and Michigan have challenged these laws in a series of three cases: Granholm v. Heald, No. 03-1116; Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association v. Heald, No. 03-1120; and Swedenberg v. Kelly, No. 03-1274. If the challenges are successful, wineries will no longer be forced to ship to licensed wholesalers in other states and will be able to ship directly to out-of-state customers through sales at wineries and on the Internet. Finally, in Ashcroft v. Raich, No. 03-1454, the Court will decide whether Congress has the power under the commerce clause to regulate the medicinal use of homegrown marijuana. The 1996 federal Controlled Substances Act currently prohibits patients from using marijuana for medical purposes, even in states where the voters or the legislature have approved the drug’s use under a doctor’s care. On appeal is a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that such marijuana usage is noncommercial and therefore outside the jurisdiction of Congress. A decision in the government’s favor would invalidate legislation in nine states that permits medicinal marijuana use. Although these cases will doubtless capture some public attention, Lazarus contends that these cases will not end up being the most important of the term. “If you look back year after year, the most high-profile cases have tended to be granted certiorari after the summer break,” he says. “Whether it’s abortion cases, prisoner detention, prayer in school, or even the Texas sodomy case, every single term, we’ve had to speculate until after the summer. There’s no rhyme or reason to this, but it’s been true every year.”

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