Supreme Court begins term with another Arizona case on the docket

September 29, 2012

By MARYANN BATLLE,  Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court begins its 2012 term Monday right where it left off the last term – hearing a case from Arizona.

The high court, which heard Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law this spring as one of its last acts in the 2011 term, is scheduled to hear arguments Oct. 9 on an Arizona death-penalty case.

Arizona has two other cases in the wings, challenging lower court decisions that voided part of the state’s voter registration law and another on benefits for same-sex partners of state workers. And it’s filed papers in support of an Alabama suit challenging federal oversight of some states’ elections procedures under the Voting Rights Act.

That doesn’t even count the likely appeals this year from Arizona death-row inmates of their sentences.

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said it is “relatively rare” to have multiple cases before the Supreme Court in the same term. He estimated that during his time as attorney general, from 2003 to 2011, the office averaged about one case a year.

“And I think that’s very high. Whenever you’re talking about multiple cases from one state, it’s very high,” Goddard said.

Toni Massaro, a constitutional law professor at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, could not say Friday whether Arizona’s caseload this term is unusual. But she said Arizona has taken a “leadership role” before the high court when it comes to states’ rights, the issue that was at the core of the SB 1070 case it argued in April.

“As the federal regulatory reach expands, collisions with state regulatory powers are inevitable,” Massaro said by email.

“It is fair to say that in the revival of interest in state’s rights and less federal power, Arizona is likely in many areas to take a leadership role in advancing states’ rights,” she wrote.

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