The first Monday of October is always a memorable day for fans of the Supremes – as in the nation’s high court and not the 1960s trio featuring Diana Ross. This season for the U.S. Supreme Court promises to be quite interesting since we now have Sonia from the Bronx on the bench and she may likely butt heads with the conservative majority. However, more important, are the arguments the justices will take up, including: dog-fighting videos (no, not videos of Congress at work); a cross in the desert; and whether juveniles should be sentenced to life without parole for serious crimes like rape and robbery.
1. Animal Cruelty in U.S. v. Stevens is first up and will look at whether the government can ban photos of animal cruelty. The government banned such photos in 1999 but the only man ever prosecuted challenged to protect his right to sell dog-fighting videos. An appeals court ruled the ban violates First Amendment rights but the government argues that much like child pornography, such images contain no redeeming value and might fuel further harm to animals.
2. A cross in the middle of a desert takes center stage in Washington on Wednesday in Salazar v. Buono. Park officials erected a cross in the Mojave National Preserve and Congress supported them doing so, but an appeals court ruled that maintaining a Christian symbol on public property violates the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state. First the high court must decide if an individual can bring a suit like this before it even gets to the argument about the cross itself.
3. In November, juvenile sentencing comes before the panel when they must decide if kids can go to prison for life without the possibility of parole for serious crimes when no one dies – crimes like rape and murder. In 2005 the Supremes ruled it unconstitutional to execute juveniles and now they will look at strict sentencing in Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida and whether such sentencing mandates would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishments.”
So, should we lock up kids forever for something they did when they were 16? What do you think? Click on the poll below to cast your ballot.
All of this makes me wish I lived closer to Washington just so I could visit the Supremes more often.