Tense Times for Supreme Court

Nnpa | 12/22/2011, 11:25 a.m.

With many preoccupied by the holiday season, making ends meet and the clowning of the endless Republican primary debates, few are paying close attention to what's been happening in the Supreme Court lately. As if the Court is brewing up a 21st-century remake of the Civil War, the august body of for-life judges have decided to review three of the most volatile cases you could pick to review during a presidential election year.

It started with the announcement that the High Court (also known affectionately as SCOTUS) would review the Affordable Care Act, a lightning rod law of political animus and controversy since the heated Health Care Reform Wars that, literally, cost Democrats their House majority in 2010. Derisively picked on by Republicans as "Obamacare" -- one of the GOP's most widely used talking points -- the law has been repeatedly poked at by everyone from conservative think tanks and legal experts to state's Attorneys General and political candidates looking for an election year base booster.

Many states scoffed at the Constitutionality of the individual mandate inserted in the law, accusing the Obama Administration and the federal government of overstepping bounds. The Administration barked back and now, after much political wrangling and changing of the guard on Capitol Hill, it's up to the SCOTUS to cast final judgment.

But, they didn't stop there.

Along comes the infamous Arizona state immigration law, technically known as "S.B. 1070" for its state legislature designation. Republican Governor Jan Brewer's masterpiece of questionable and virtually unenforceable immigration detainment became the cause of a Latino community already under siege from increased deportations. The law caused a national firestorm over how far authorities could go in seizing illegal immigrants and whether police identification by race was even legal.

After many boycotts, national outrage and Brewer's face on dart boards, Arizona suffered a huge economic setback from S.B. 1070 and became the poster kid for racism in the United States.

Now, it's under SCOTUS' review.

But -- wait -- there's more.

Going further down south in the big state of Texas is where current Republican Governor Rick Perry, R-Texas, also a fledgling GOP primary candidate, pushed an appeal against a lower court which refused to let the state use state and congressional legislative maps drawn by an even lower court. While that court found the new Census-driven maps suspiciously drawn to diminish the influence of Black and Latino voters in the Lone Star state, Perry argued that the judges should have kicked it to the state legislature which is, incidentally, dominated by Republicans.

Observers worry that the High Court is taking on politically and emotionally charged cases during an election year that promises to be as hot as the previous Presidential cycle in 2008. Healthcare, immigration and redistricting also touch on sensitive issues of access, race...and more race.

The healthcare debate is immersed in a murky mix of Constitutional arguments and spicy political hand-to-hand, a key issue Republicans plan to use against Democrats, specifically President Obama, in 2012. How the Court decides on the Affordable Care Act could tip the electoral scales in dramatic fashion.