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By , September 25, 2012 10:08 am

by Emily Smith

In June, a lot of us rushed to retrieve copies of National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius (better known as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of “Obamacare”) for our attorneys or professors. It was a highly anticipated decision, so happily for ease of retrieval the text of the opinion was seemingly everywhere upon its release. As fall rolls around, I’m always prompted to think about what significant (or more esoteric) Supreme Court opinions we might be asked to track down for our patrons this year. As always, SCOTUSblog comes to the rescue with a cheat-sheet of the cases scheduled for argument during the October 2012 term. Because the first oral argument is just around the corner (on October 1) I took a quick peek last week. Depending on your interests you might find other cases more noteworthy, but here are some docket items that caught my eye:

  • Lovers of the Fourth Amendment (or dogs): the 2012 term finds the Court hearing argument on two cases involving the use of narcotics detection canines. The first, Florida v. Harris, will address whether a drug dog’s alert can establish probable cause to search a vehicle for contraband. A second case from the Sunshine State, Florida v. Jardines, tackles the question of whether a dog sniff at a suspected grow house is a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
  • Federal judges and judicial clerks (who process mountains of habeas corpus petitions filed by state prison inmates) will be interested in some of the cases on the federal writ that the Court has elected to hear this term. In particular, Johnson v. Williams will find the Court interpreting a section of the U.S. statute that gives federal courts their threshold authority to issue the writ.
  • In May, Supreme Court commentator Linda Greenhouse predicted that the 2012 Supreme Court term would be about race. Her prediction was prompted (in part) by the Court’s grant of cert in Fisher v. University of Texas, which involves a challenge to the school’s use of race in making undergraduate admission decisions. Although it’s only been nine years since the Court last addressed the issue, the Justices are apparently poised to revisit it.

Finally, I know there are Court watchers out there (myself included) who thought our free time better spent enjoying a real Seattle summer than catching up on the minutiae of the Court’s last term – let alone looking ahead to the next. If you find yourself in that group, the University of Washington’s Gallagher Blogs recently recommended the Federal Judicial Center’s 90-minute video overview of the Court’s 2011-12 term. (The panel includes law prof Erwin Chemerinsky, whose one-volume treatise on federal jurisdiction is a veritable bible for many law clerks – and incidentally is a great resource to recommend to any law firm associate who needs to brush up on her federal court procedure.)

Oyez, oyez – let the term begin!

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