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Supreme Court heads into final two weeks

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court heads into the last two weeks of its term today, facing a final round of decisions on matters as varied as violent video games, global warming, drug prescription records and alleged gender bias at Walmart stores.

In all, the justices are due to hand down decisions in 14 cases that have been argued since November. They will meet today and Thursday to announce opinions. The remaining cases are set to be decided the following week.

Here are the major cases pending:

Video games: The court will decide whether California and other states can limit the sale of ultraviolent video games to minors. Until now, all the state efforts to regulate video games have been struck down by lower courts on free-speech grounds.

Job discrimination: The court will decide whether 1.5 million female Walmart employees, past and present, can sue the retailer for gender discrimination in the largest employment class-action claim in U.S. history. Civil rights lawyers say only a class action can remedy systematic bias that results in lower wages for female workers. The company says such a huge claim is unwieldy and unfair.

Campaign funds: In a major test of the public financing of campaigns, the court will decide in a case from Arizona whether states and cities may give extra matching funds to candidates who face a well-funded opponent who relies on private money. The court's conservatives are skeptical of moves to equalize spending between candidates.

Global warming: The court will decide whether California, New York and four other states can sue the nation's five largest producers of the greenhouse gases that are widely blamed for causing climate change. The coal-fired power plants are concentrated in the Midwest and South. During oral arguments, the justices hinted they would toss out the suit.

Prescription records: The court will decide whether drugmakers have a right to buy from pharmacies the records of prescriptions that patients bring from their doctors. The data are valuable for drug company salesmen. Three New England states passed laws to restrict the sale of these private records, but Vermont's law was struck down as a free-speech violation.

Generic drugs: About 70 percent of the prescriptions now written are for a generic version of a brand-name drug, but it is unclear whether the makers of these copycat drugs have the same duty to warn patients about reported problems. The court will decide whether makers of generics can be sued for failing to warn patients about newly revealed dangers.

Crime labs: The court will decide an issue that has arisen in drunken-driving cases across the country. Must the lab technician who conducted a blood-alcohol test show up in court and testify as a witness for the prosecution? The justices split 5-4 when they required technicians' testimony in a related issue two years ago.

Supreme Court heads into final two weeks 06/19/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 19, 2011 10:53pm]
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