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What with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announcing her retirement and all of those rumors that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist soon will be cleaning out his desk and heading off for his vacation condo on a full time basis — rumors he recently put to rest — not many folks are actually paying attention to what happened during the 2004-2005 term of the nation’s highest court. But the Court did announce some important decisions this last term, the impact of which people will feel throughout this country. So to see if you’ve been paying attention and really understand the significance of these decisions, try your luck with the 2005 “Cert Denied” Supreme Court Aptitude Test. All you have to do is select the correct answer to each question. So sharpen those No. 2 pencils, and get ready to open the seals on your test books. Here we go! Question 1: In Kelo, et al. v. New London, et al., which involved a city’s efforts to condemn property for economic redevelopment, the court announced a new principle about the public use provision of the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment: (a) Cities may condemn private property for economic redevelopment, so long as the redevelopment project includes at least one art house movie theater showing stuff that will be on the Sundance Channel within a week of closing there; (b) In deciding whether land may be condemned for economic redevelopment, the need for another cluster of fungible mall-quality stores and food courts must be balanced against the likelihood that a really cool blues club, bar or mom-and-pop ethnic restaurant will be lost; (c) It was acceptable to condemn an abandoned military facility to create Neverland East; or (d) A Starbucks may be put anywhere without compensation to anybody. Question 2: In Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., et al. v. Grokster Ltd., et al., the court addressed the question of whether free file-sharing software providers were violating copyrights held by others. It ruled: (a) There is a violation, at least until Justice Antonin Scalia can successfully download every Britney Spears song onto his iPod; (b) There is a violation, because Scalia didn’t get an iPod for Christmas — even though he wanted one really, really bad — so no one can share files until he can share files; (c) There isn’t a violation because “programs don’t violate copyrights, people violate copyrights “; or (d) There isn’t a violation because, if the court had ruled there were, the law clerks would have threatened a work stoppage. Question 3: Two cases this term, Van Orden v. Perry, et al. and McCreary County, et al. v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, et al., addressed displays of the Ten Commandments on government property. The court ruled: (a) Seven of the Ten Commandments are unconstitutional; (b) In deciding whether to permit such displays, the tendency of such displays to advance religion must be balanced against the likelihood that workers would get a hernia trying to remove the thing; (c) The Ten Commandments may be displayed in public buildings so long as other significant legal documents, such as the Code of Hammurabi, Magna Carta and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (aka McCain-Feingold) receive equal prominence; or (d) The commandments can be displayed in Texas but not Kentucky, because all of the money allocated to remove them in Texas was spent on school finance reform. Question 4: In Spector, et al. v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., the justices addressed the issue of whether foreign-flag cruise ships must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. The court held: (a) Persons with disabilities on cruise ships had to be given equal access to shows by Celine Dion impersonators, whether they wanted to go or not; (b) Persons with disabilities on cruise ships were entitled to assistance from crew members while playing slot machines; (c) Persons with disabilities were entitled to special wheelchair-accessible lifeboats; or (d) Persons with disabilities on cruise ships were entitled to equal access to Leonardo DiCaprio for purposes of re-enacting that scene from “Titanic.” Question 5: Gonzales, et al. v. Raich, et al. involved the question of whether federal laws prohibiting the use of drugs could be limited by state laws permitting the medical use of marijuana. The justices ruled: (a) Under the federal drug laws, only senior federal government officials such as the attorney general and Supreme Court justices can get high; (b) No opinion could issue until the court got some Three Musketeers bars or something else, so it could get its mind off of its munchies and back to business; (c) Marijuana could be used for medicinal purposes if marketed like other popular drugs such as Viagra — we’ll call it Maragra; or (d) Like whoooooooa, dude, don’t Bogart that joint. So there you have it. Another term is in the can, as they say in Hollywood. And the correct answers? Who knows? I spent my time watching the most important legal event of the year, Michael Jackson’s trial, just like you did, and wasn’t paying attention to the high court. But, all kidding aside, one thing is sure. To Justice O’Connor, who brought wisdom, compassion and civility to the bench every day for 25 years, our nation owes its deepest debt. Tom Alleman is (a) a shareholder in the insurance industry and environmental practice groups at Winstead Sechrest & Minick in Dallas; (b) operating with a couple of cams seriously out of alignment; (c) someone who is only going to see the Supreme Court by taking the public tour; and (d) not speaking for Winstead, its clients or anybody associated with the Supreme Court Historical Society. “Cert Denied” appears monthly in Texas Lawyer.

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