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Sizing up the Supreme Court

Monday, October 03, 2011

After a summer of political discord and dysfunction in the other two branches of government, the grownups in town — the nine robed justices of the U.S. Supreme Court — return to the bench Oct. 3.

But even as they got ready last week in private conferences, it became clearer than ever that before too long, the Court will become entangled in one of the disputes that first soured the mood of the nation's capital: the fight over President Barack Obama's health care reform legislation.

Perhaps resigned to the inevitable legal showdown, the Obama Justice Department on Sept. 28 asked the high court to decide the constitutionality of the law on a timeline that is likely to end with a decision next June — right in the middle of the presidential campaign.

Before the Court reaches that quagmire, though, it has a host of other issues on its docket. Does constant GPS surveillance of a suspect violate the Fourth Amendment? In the coarsened state of modern language, should broadcast television still be a haven where the "F-bomb" should not be heard? And, as with health care reform, other cases not yet docketed promise to dominate the coming term, from affirmative action to immigration enforcement.

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