Supreme Court new term: What to expect

Oct. 15, 2013

Emory University law experts are available to speak on a number of cases going before the U.S. Supreme Court this term.

Campaign Finance Reform

Michael Kang, an expert in election law, believes the Supreme Court will strike down contribution limits from individuals in the McCutcheon v. FEC case, but the reasoning in this matter is what's more important, he says. "The Court could head in the direction of a broad ruling that would cut away at the constitutionality of contribution limits in general, or it could issue a more limited ruling specific to aggregate limits." Kang has written extensively on campaign finance law and the Citizens United case.

Affirmative Action

Robert Schapiro, dean of Emory Law School, is an expert on federalism, constitutional law, federal courts and civil procedure. He believes the Roberts Court will side with Michigan voters in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend after voters amended the state constitution in 2006 to prohibit Affirmative Action at state universities. "Others could try to persuade the University of Michigan to give an admissions preference to alumni children or violinists or linebackers, but those backing racial diversity now need a constitutional amendment to advance their cause," he says.

Charles Shanor, professor of law, is an expert in constitutional law, employment discrimination and labor law. He has written extensively on constitutional law including "American Constitutional Law: Structure and Reconstruction" (5th ed., West, 2013). Shanor also is the co-director of the Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans and has expertise in counterterrorism law.

Abortion Rights

Constitutional law expert Michael Perry says the buffer zone argued in McCullen v. Coakley is as much a First Amendment issue as it is an abortion rights issue. "The appellants may be 'abortion opponents,' but they are supported in this case by those who are not abortion opponents but who agree with the appellants' First Amendment argument. I fit that profile."

In Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Perry doesn't believe there's much of a chance the court will side with the Oklahoma law that nearly stops most medical abortions by banning off-labels drugs that end pregnancies. "The Oklahoma state law is a transparent attempt to interfere with a woman's right to procure an abortion, and there is no constitutionally adequate justification for the attempt."

Perry also is available to speak on the Town of Greece v. Galloway case which will decide if the town of Greece, N.Y., is allowed to continue using local clergy to pray at town board meetings.

Greenhouse Gases

William Buzbee is an expert in environment law, regulatory reform and federalism. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent clean air proposal determines how power plants are regulated, focusing on both coal and gas-powered plants. "This is the most recent major step after the Supreme Court confirmed the EPA had power to regulate greenhouse gases." Buzbee is director of the Emory Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program and director of Emory's Center on Federalism and Intersystemic Governance.

Patent Law

Tim Holbrook, a leading patent law scholar, is paying close attention to several cases: Medtronic v. Boston Scientific, Highmark v. Allcare, and Octane Fitness. Holbrook says in Highmark and Octane the court may attempt to fight the "patent troll problem." He defines "patent troll" as a person who only owns a patent and has far fewer litigation expenses. "The cases involve when it is appropriate to make a plaintiff pay for the defendant's legal expenses," says Holbrook. "This ‘fee shifting' is one way experts think the playing field could be leveled."