In the summer of 2012, the average American paid more attention than ever to the nation’s highest court. That’s when the justices were deciding the fate of Obamacare, which impacts virtually every American.
But Americans should be keeping a close eye on the court in 2013, too.
Business Insider reached out to some of the nation’s top Supreme Court experts to find out which cases will be the biggest game-changers. Here are the cases that could change your life:
1. Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Inc. — The Supreme Court is going to decide whether biotech companies can patent genes.
The case turns on two Myriad Genetics patents for genes that show whether women have an increased chance of getting breast or ovarian cancer. Cancer groups say allowing companies to patent “products of nature” could interfere with research into potential cancer cures.
“The cures to many illnesses and conditions affecting human health lie within genetic research and how the court decides the fundamental question of patentability will have enormous implications for the future of that kind of research,” top Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips told BI in an email message.
2. Fisher v. University of Texas — The Supreme Court is going to decide whether colleges can consider race as one factor in the admissions process.
3. Shelby County v. Holder — The high court is going to consider the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination against minority voters to get permission from the federal government before they change their election laws.
“Section 5 is the most effective bulwark against discriminatory election laws (like voter ID laws and discriminatory district maps) … mostly in the South. Without it we would see more aggressive attempts to marginalize black and Latino voters,” Supreme Court lawyer Paul Smith told BI in an email message.
4. U.S. v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry — The Supreme Court is going to hear two huge gay marriage cases this year: a challenge to the federal defence of Marriage Act and a challenge to California’s gay marriage ban Proposition 8.
If the court overturns DOMA, American gay couples will get the same federal tax, immigration, and health care benefits that straight couples enjoy. And same-sex couples could be screwed if the high court affirms California’s gay marriage ban.
5. Maryland v. King — The Supreme Court is going to decide whether police can sample suspects’ DNA without a search warrant.
SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein told BI the King case is the “most important, overlooked” case of the term. “[T]he decision will both determine the validity of a lot of federal and state laws allowing for DNA testing of arrestees, and also set precedent on the privacy each of us has in our DNA,” Goldstein said in an email message. “So it has enormous implications.”
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