ON TRIAL

CIVIL RIGHTS

Romer v. Evans: A referendum to prohibit state laws protecting homosexuals was passed by Colorado voters but struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court. If the US Supreme Court upholds the ban, other jurisdictions could initiate similar measures. Gay-rights proponents say such a ban would deny their civil rights. Opponents say that homosexuals should not be allowed special legal, political, and social rights. It will be one of the most highly watched cases of the term.

Shaw v. Hunt; Bush v. Vera: In a landmark ruling, the Court ruled last term that Georgia could not create districts designed solely to elect minorities to Congress. The Court will now turn its attention to other redistricting cases in North Carolina and Texas. The justices will further define how or whether such districts can be formed to favor racial minorities.

PUNITIVE DAMAGES

BMW of North America v. Rhode Island: Pressure is increasing to limit multimillion dollar punitive awards in cases of wrongdoing. The Court will examine a case in which an Alabama jury ordered BMW of North America to pay $4 million to a car owner from whom a faulty paint job had been concealed at time of purchase. Dozens of companies have rallied in BMW's defense.

FIRST AMENDMENT

US v. Chesapeake; National Cable TV Association v. Bell Atlantic: Both these cases ask whether phone companies should be allowed to provide video programs, something they currently are barred from doing. Did Congress abridge First Amendment rights with such limitations? Phone companies with fiber-optic trunk lines say they can provide better and lower-cost service. The Clinton administration is concerned that the companies would use the business to create monopolies.

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