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To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.



Pass. That's what the Supreme Court has decided to do with a copyright dispute case stemming from a classic football video game.

The court said Monday it won't take up the case involving John Madden Football.

A computer programmer behind the original 1988 hit game for the Apple II computer wanted the court to take up his case. Robin Antonick sued video game company Electronic Arts in 2011 claiming it acted improperly by failing to give him royalties on a version of the game for the Sega Genesis game system which copied his game's computer code. Lower courts ruled against Antonick.

Antonick wanted the Supreme Court to address the issue of expert testimony in the case and whether the games' code had to be introduced as evidence.



Florida Gov. Rick Scott has won the first round in a legal tug-of-war over his mandate that nursing homes and assisted living facilities install generators.

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Thursday rejected a legal challenge to emergency rules put in place by the Scott administration. A panel of judges split 2-1 over the challenge. The court has not yet issued a full opinion explaining the decision.

Groups that represent nursing homes and assisted living facilities asked the appeal court to review whether or not there was an emergency that warranted the rules. A separate legal challenge to the actual rules is still ongoing.

Scott issued his order after residents at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died in the days after Hurricane Irma wiped out power to much of South Florida.




The Supreme Court won't take up a challenge to a Michigan law that allows the state to temporarily take away local officials' authority during financial crises and appoint an emergency manager.

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear the case. Voters and elected officials were challenging a state law that says that to rescue financially stressed cities and school districts the state can reassign the governing powers of local officials to a state-appointed emergency manager. An emergency manager was in place during the water crisis in Flint.

Those bringing the lawsuit said emergency managers have been appointed in a high number of areas with large African-American populations but not in similar areas with majority white populations.

Lower courts said lawsuit was brought under a federal law that didn't apply.



A Cleveland abortion clinic asked Ohio's high court on Tuesday to grant it legal standing to sue over abortion-related restrictions tucked into the state's 2013 budget bill.

Preterm of Cleveland argued that the provisions impose added administrative and caseload burdens that clearly qualify the clinic to proceed with its constitutional challenge to the manner in which the bill was put together.

The clinic's attorney, B. Jessie Hill, told justices significant new hurdles are not required to meet the legal burden for standing.

"We have to do something we didn't have to do before: We have to enter into a new contract every two years," she said. "That's all we need to demonstrate."

The clinic disputes budget provisions that required more frequent renewal of a clinic's emergency transfer agreement with a local hospital after prohibiting public hospitals from participating and required testing for a fetal heartbeat before an abortion can be performed.

The state's attorney, Ryan Richardson, argued the clinic has not demonstrated true or threatened harm and so can't legally sue.

"As this court has said, really the essence of standing is having a plaintiff that has a direct and concrete stake in the issues, so that the plaintiff is able to properly sharpen the issues for the court's resolution," she said. "Bringing a plaintiff who is not directly affected impacts the ability to properly present the facts and legal issues that the court needs to properly adjudicate the case."

The lawsuit comes amid abortion clinic closures across Ohio that have coincided with falling abortion rates.


Court records show the FBI searched the Capitol office of a former Oklahoma senator in March because a campaign aide allegedly saw child pornography on his computer.

Republican Sen. Ralph Shortey resigned in March after being arrested when police in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore found him in a motel room with a 17-year-old boy he had allegedly hired for sex.

The Oklahoman reports that the FBI seized a CD-ROM and an SD card from Shortey's office the day after his resignation. The newly released court records show that someone contacted Moore police about the alleged pornography after seeing news about Shortey's arrest.

Shortey faces three child pornography counts and one child sex trafficking count. He's pleaded not guilty.



The Arizona Supreme Court is letting stand a lower court's ruling that the state's medical marijuana law is constitutional in requiring counties to approve reasonable zoning regulations.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery had appealed a Court of Appeals ruling last December that rejected his argument that the state medical marijuana law is pre-empted by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

That federal law still makes marijuana illegal. The case in the appeal decided by the appeals court started with a legal dispute over whether Maricopa County officials had to approve zoning for a medical marijuana dispensary in Sun City.

Montgomery argued that allowing Arizona's medical marijuana program to stand despite the federal law undermines federalism and the "fundamental principle of the rule of law."


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