By June we'll probably have the latest word from the Supreme Court on two of constitutional law's most volatile issues: abortion and affirmative action. In Gonzales v. Carhart, the court will rule on the first federal law banning an abortion method, so-called partial-birth abortion. The ban applies even when a mother's health is at stake, usually a no-no under Supreme Court precedent, but things could change with two new Justices on the bench. In Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No. 1 and a companion case, the court will decide whether school districts can condition students' choice of public schools on racial diversity. Can race be a tiebreaker when too many students choose one school? Programs like this are widespread, so lots of districts will be watching.
Also in June, the Supreme Court will speak on global warming for the first time, in Massachusetts v. EPA, a case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's refusal to limit greenhouse gases from automobiles. The agency argues that carbon dioxide and the like aren't pollutants under the Clean Air Act, so it has no power to regulate them and even if it did, it wouldn't. A ruling against the EPA probably wouldn't force the agency to order cuts in the gases, only to reconsider its position. And the decision could be a dud if the court rules that states that filed the case haven't shown standing (that they have been hurt by greenhouse gases). One thing is certain: whatever decision the court makes will only lead to more debate.
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