around the bar
September 23, 2011

2011 Supreme Court Faced Technology Challenges; Next Year, Immigration Likely on Docket

By Maria Gutierrez
_ News Service

A panel of analysts and reporters who cover the U.S. Supreme Court met Tuesday to talk about the hottest issues the high court faced last year and to predict the cases it might hear next year.

“Being a U.S. Supreme Court justice now days, because of rapidly evolving technology, must be one of the most difficult jobs in public service,” said panelist Neal Katyal, a professor at Georgetown University Law School. Katyal said that, as the area of patents becomes the centerpiece of the U.S. economy, “We now have a court that has been more exposed to making decisions on technological subjects.”

In the highlight of cases brought to the Supreme Court, University of Maryland Law professor Sherrilyn Ifill cited a case in which the Fourth Amendment and evolving technology meet: Can the police install a GPS tracking system in your car?

“This is a fairly complicated area of law because it is new, … and [it] is an area in which the landscaping is open for the court to make a determination on the use of new technology, and whether or not a search warrant has to be issued in order for the police to use this kind of technology,” said Ifill.

The panel, moderated by John Milewski, host of “Dialogue Radio & Television,” also discussed cases touching upon violation of speech rights and the First Amendment, and federalism and preemption.

Panelists agreed that this is “a court that is here to stay” and they do not foresee changes in the Supreme Court for this upcoming term.

Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, noted that with the appointment of two justices each by George W. Bush and Barack Obama, “What you now have are two pair of justices supporting each others’ decisions … and pair more than any other justices” of past courts.

“This is the first time there are no Protestants on the court, and who would’ve predicted that?” asked Joan Biskupic, reporter for USA Today, who has covered the United States Supreme Court since 2000.

Among the topics the panelists see as likely to reach the high court in the upcoming year:  the constitutionality of the health care plan, same sex marriage and immigration.

The program, the fourth annual in the “On the Docket” panel series, was hosted by the _ Standing Committee on Public Education and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.