The case: A U.S. appeals panel concluded three people named to the NLRB lacked authority, because the presidential appointments were made while the Senate was technically in a "pro forma" session during the winter holiday break. That Board had ruled on a Washington state labor dispute, but the canning company filing suit claims the panel's members did not have a proper quorum.
The arguments: Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the past have used the "virtual Congress" tactic to block unilateral appointments by the president when the Senate is away. But GOP leaders here claimed the Obama appointments to the board created a panel that was overly pro-union, and an eventual high court ruling could invalidate hundreds of findings issued over the past two years.
The impact: The case sets up a high-stakes Supreme Court fight between the other two branches of government. What the justices decide could also put in jeopardy the recess appointment of Richard Cordray, who heads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a move also being challenged in a separate lawsuit.
Cases that might be added
HEALTH CARE REFORM
Liberty University v. Lew; Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.; Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.
At issue: A provision in the new health care reform law requiring companies and institutions of a certain size to provide insurance coverage for birth control and other reproductive health services without a co-pay. Can private employers refuse on the claim it violates their religious freedoms?
The case: Appeals by a Christian university in Virginia, an Oklahoma-based retail chain, and a Mennonite family-owned for-profit company. The petitions also make larger arguments in opposing other provisions of the Affordable Care Act, championed by Obama. These are among more than six dozen separate legal challenges to nearly every aspect of the healthcare law, including the "employer mandate" to provide a minimum level of health insurance for their workers, or pay a federal penalty.
The arguments: The high court in 2012 narrowly upheld the law's key funding section-- the "individual mandate," requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance or face a financial penalty. That ruling allowed other parts of the law to go into effect, but also allowed those pending lawsuits over its application to proceed.
The impact: These cases are coming to high court attention as conservative lawmakers in Congress seek to eliminate or severely eviscerate the ACA.
National Rifle Association v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
At issue: Appeal of a federal law banning sales of handguns to minors by licensed firearms dealers.
The case: Two 19-year-old individuals are part of the original lawsuit brought. A federal appeals court in New Orleans had upheld the law, saying "Congress designed its scheme to solve a particular problem: violent crime associated with the trafficking of handguns from federal firearms licensees to young adult." The ruling does not apply to licensed sales of long rifles, or private handgun sales or gifts to minors.
The arguments: The NRA says those age 18-20 are unfairly being singled out, while the court said Congress took a "calibrated, compromise" approach.
The impact: This could be one of the biggest Second Amendment legal challenges since the high court upheld an individual right to possess handgun for self-protection. It would further test the acceptable constitutional limits of state and national governments to pass "sensible" gun control legislation.
Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice
At issue: State discretion to limit or ban abortions performed with medicine, instead of surgery.
The case: An Oklahoma state law regulates the ability of doctors to prescribe a medication regime (the so-called RU-486 pills) to terminate early pregnancies. The law makes it a crime to deviate from the FDA-approved dosage and time limits of the drugs. But many physicians-- backed by abortion rights supporters-- say they routinely induce medical abortions through a combination of drugs they safer is simpler, safer, and less expensive.
The arguments: The high court has formally added this case to its docket, but put things on hold while it seeks procedural answers from lower state courts. This petition is the first of several restrictive abortion laws nationwide to get review by the justices.
The impact: The justices have already agreed to review a separate appeal: a free-speech challenge by anti-abortion protesters to a Massachusetts law permitting buffer or exclusion zones around facilities that perform abortions.
U.S. v. Wurie and Riley v. California
At issue: Separate appeals over whether police must obtain a warrant to search data on the cellphone of a person under arrest.