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Political Questions: More Politics for 2011 Supreme Court Term?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Constitution may bar the Supreme Court from considering political questions, but the Nine will be hearing several cases this spring that will have an impact on state and national politics.

From Texas redistricting in January to the Affordable Care Act in March to immigration reform in April, this Supreme Court term is shaping up to be the most politically-charged year since the 2000 Bush v. Gore season.

Pending the outcome of the Court's January 6 conference, the term could get even more political.

Before the Court meets to hear arguments in Perry v. Perez on January 9, the justices will debate certiorari in two more political cases, NATSO, Inc. v. 3 Girls Enterprises and Bluman v. Federal Election Commission.

In considering the NATSO petition, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in In Re: Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation warrants review. The central question in the case is whether lobbyists and trade associations can assert a First Amendment privilege against producing private political communications and strategies in discovery.

Trade associations argue that such disclosures will force them to self-censor when communicating with clients, "chilling the rights of speech, petition, and association," reports Washington Legal Foundation.

Bluman v. Federal Election Commission raises the question of whether a federal law prohibiting individuals, who are neither U.S. citizens nor permanent residents, from making campaign contributions or Citizens United-style non-campaign expenditures violates the First Amendment. The D.C. District Court ruled in August that the ban survives strict scrutiny.

SCOTUSblog suggests that both of these petitions have a "reasonable chance of being granted." Regardless of that likelihood, we doubt that Supreme Court reversals in either of these cases would sit well with the general populace. (Remember the discontent surrounding the Citizens United decision?)

For updates on all of the politically-driven pending petitions in the current Supreme Court term, add FindLaw's Supreme Court blog to your RSS Feed.

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