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U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 Term: 5 Crucial Cases to Watch

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

The U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 Term is now underway, with the first oral arguments being heard today.

This term, Justices are set to consider dozens of important cases, some of which could potentially have a monumental impact on American life and law.

Here are five crucial cases to watch as Supreme Court oral arguments begin:

1. Individual Campaign Contribution Limits: McCutcheon v. FEC

The McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case deals with a complaint by the Republican National Convention (RNC) and Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon that current campaign financing laws are unconstitutional.

Particularly, the challenged law provides that individuals can only contribute a limited amount to candidates and organizations like the RNC every two years. Depending on how this case shakes out with the Court, we may have another Citizens United to contend with.

2. Affirmative Action: Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court recently allowed affirmative action to stand in Fisher v. Univ. of Texas, but the upcoming Schuette case may be a different story.

This case involves Michigan's constitutional amendment to prohibit race and sex-based preferential treatment in public university acceptance decisions (i.e., affirmative action.) Affirmative action was judged by many to be a very temporary fix, so the Court may be itching to re-evaluate with Schuette.

3. Recess Appointments: NLRB v. Canning

In one of the most politically charged cases to head to the Court, NLRB v. Canning deals with President Obama's appointment of three persons to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while Congress was on holiday break.

Canning argues that these recess appointments were unconstitutional because Congress was technically in session -- it held a few pro forma sessions around New Year's and Christmas. A High Court decision here might seriously limit the president's power to make recess appointments in the future.

4. Prayer at Public Meetings: Town of Greece v. Galloway

The High Court will also hear a case from Greece, New York, about whether opening town meetings with a prayer was in violation of the First Amendment prohibition against government establishing religion.

President Obama wrote a brief in support of town hall prayer in August, and depending on the way the Supreme Court decides, it may change the definition of "establishment of religion."

5. Abortion: Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice

Oklahoma is no stranger to laws restricting abortions, and the Cline case will ask the U.S. Supreme Court whether the state could ban "off-label" uses of the common medicinal abortion drug, RU-486.

This case has the possibility of giving Justices the chance to expand the abortion case law grounded by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Keep an eye on FindLaw's blogs as we cover these and other key U.S. Supreme Court cases in the coming months.

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