High court will hear number of key cases

Some high-profile cases that the Supreme Court will take up in its term that begins Monday:


The Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms has never been held to apply to state and local laws restricting guns. The court is taking up a challenge to a handgun ban in Chicago to decide whether this right, like many others in the Bill of Rights, acts to restrict state and local laws or only federal statutes.

Animal cruelty videos

A 1999 federal law bars depictions of acts of animal cruelty, including pit bull fights. A federal appeals court overturned a Virginia man's conviction and struck down the law because it impermissibly restricted his First Amendment rights. The Obama administration says courts should treat this issue the same as child pornography and rule that pictures and videos deserve no constitutional protection.

Mutual fund fees

A fight over the fees paid to an investment adviser gives the court a timely chance to weigh in on compensation paid to financial services executives.

Life without parole for juveniles

In two cases from Florida, the justices will explore whether the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment bars sentences of life without parole for people who were under 18 when they committed a crime.

Child custody

The court will take its first look at how American authorities handle an international treaty on child abduction, aimed at preventing one parent from taking children to other countries without the other's permission.

Honest services fraud

Newspaper baron Conrad Black and a former Alaska legislator separately are challenging their fraud convictions under an open-ended federal law that says that depriving the public or shareholders of your honest services is a crime. Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out recently that, taken to its extreme, the law could be used to prosecute any employee who has ever called in sick to attend a ballgame.

Vioxx suits

Merck & Co. shareholders sued the drugmaker for securities fraud after its former blockbuster painkiller Vioxx was pulled from the market. At issue before the court is whether the shareholders waited too long to file their suits.


The court could decide the validity of a part of the Sarbanes-Oxley anti-fraud law, enacted as Congress' response to the wave of corporate scandals that started with energy giant Enron's collapse. The court is considering whether the board established to oversee the accounting industry by the 2002 law violates the constitutionally mandated separation of powers between the branches of government.

NFL merchandise

A business case for sports fans gives the court the chance to decide whether NFL teams can get together to license the sale of caps and other gear without violating antitrust laws.