They’re Back!!! The other branch of government that has broken the contract with America. This year should be interesting considering the cases about campaign finance and the Second Amendment, and a justice about to turn 90 and showing signs of retirement.
After a holiday break, the Supreme Court returned to work Friday with unfinished business at hand, some of its toughest cases ahead and a looming decision that could rock the national political landscape in this year of midterm congressional elections.
But it is an old case that is puzzling court observers and consuming the political world: a pending decision on whether restrictions on corporate and labor union spending on political campaigns violate the First Amendment. It arose from a less significant question about whether a conservative group’s financing of and distribution plans for a documentary — “Hillary: The Movie,” a scathing account of Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s presidential pursuit — violated the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
The court heard oral arguments on the original question in March 2009, but adjourned in June without a decision. Instead, the justices said they would consider the larger question of whether it is constitutional to ban corporations and labor unions from drawing funds from their general treasuries to support or oppose candidates.
Let’s take that shot at the Second Amendment now, shall we?
The new year will bring at least a few new cases to a docket that is mostly full — the court traditionally stops hearing oral arguments in April. The court has already taken at least one case that will command the nation’s attention: whether the Second Amendment right to personal ownership of firearms that rendered unconstitutional the handgun ban in the federal enclave of Washington also applies to state and city attempts to severely restrict gun ownership.
And all will be watching Justice John Paul Stevens for additional signs that he plans to retire and give President Obama a second opportunity to nominate a justice. Stevens will celebrate his 90th birthday in April, and he has prompted the speculation by hiring only one clerk for the term that begins in October. Retired justices have one clerk; active justices hire four.