Supreme Court opens next month, big cases coming

Wednesday - 9/1/2010, 4:48pm EDT

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  • The opening of the next Supreme Court term is still over a month away, but we're getting previews of some of the bigger cases coming up. The Wall Street Journal points to what's sure to be a fascinating case scheduled for October 6th. The case, called Snyder v. Phelps, will ask the justices to consider whether or not - and to what degree - protesters who yelled inflammatory words during the memorial service of a fallen Marine are protected by the First Amendment. The service was held back in 2006. A fundamentalist pastor, Fred Phelps, and his followers yelled at Albert Snyder, whose 20-year-old son was being buried. Phelps was generally protesting what he perceives to be the military's tolerance of gays and lesbians. The fallen soldier, Matthew Snyder, was not gay. But his funeral in Maryland gave Phelps the chance to broadcast his message. Among the signs he brought were some that said, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." Albert Snyder subsequently sued Phelps over, what he claims, was distress caused by the protests. He won a $5 million verdict in 2007, but a federal appeals court overturned the judgment last year, saying the Phelps protest was protected by the First Amendment.

  • The system that automatically awards disability benefits to some veterans could be crippling the Veteran Affairs Department budget -- That's according to Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson. Simpson is also on the President's Deficit Commission. The benefits are awarded to Vietnam Vets who were exposed to Agent Orange -- the herbicide used by the US military during the 13-year war. Agent Orange has be proven to be a factor in contracting Hodgkin's disease, soft-tissue cancers and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. But there's a problem -- an Associated Press report found diabetes was the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans -- even though decades of research couldn't find a link between Agent Orange and diabetes. The cost to supply the automatic benefits for diabetes is at least 850 million annually. Navy Times reports, that there is no final word yet whether the automatic benefits issue will be part of the President's deficit commission. But Simpson stresses that a change needs to be made.

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