Next Supreme Court will face old issues and new technology

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2000

Ask Mandy Cowan of Vidalia about the upcoming presidential election and the U.S. Supreme Court, and she’ll be quick to answer that it’s not an issue to her.

&uot;There are other issues that are … maybe not more important, but affect me more,&uot; she said. &uot;Besides, once they get in there, they do what they want anyway.&uot;

But the issues likely to arise before the U.S. Supreme Court in the next four to eight years could affect Cowan’s life … in ways she and other voters have yet to imagine.

Email newsletter signup

Joseph Parker, professor of political science at the University of Southern Mississippi, expects the next Supreme Court to be faced with many of the same issues it has heard over the past decades, including cases on search and seizure, evidentiary laws and Miranda rights.

&uot;Also abortion is an issue that will keep coming up time and time again,&uot; Parker said.

Just as it has for the last 212 years, Parker said the court will continually be asked to define the nature of American federalism — states’ rights versus federal rights.

But, the Supreme Court of the 21st century will be faced with at least one topic it has not dealt with before — the Internet.

&uot;The communication revolution is affecting society in so many ways it eventually will come out in our laws,&uot; Parker said.

Privacy, copyrights and the nature of use of the Internet are just a few of the issues Parker foresees coming before the court. But, the justices will be operating off a &uot;blank slate&uot; with no case law to use as resource, he said.

&uot;You name it and the court eventually makes a ruling on it. It all gets there somehow,&uot; Parker said.

As an attorney practicing in Ridgecrest,&160;La., Guy Lain agrees that issues surrounding the Internet will face the next court, especially questions of privacy and copyright.

But, Lain said he does not predict much change in the way the Court will handle the issues from those of other media.

&uot;I think what we’re going to see is the principles of other media applied to the Internet, with some modifications,&uot; he said.

Joe Zuccaro, a former Mississippi Supreme Court justice living in Natchez, said both economics and technology will play a major role in what issues the Supreme Court will hear in the coming years.

&uot;There are new things coming up every year with technology,&uot; he said, echoing Parker’s predictions about the Internet. &uot;It’s going to be a case of first impressions on some of this.&uot;

Technological advances will also enter into criminal law with the advent of DNA testing, Zuccaro said. Just within the last few years, genetic testing has proven some criminals to be innocent of crimes for which they were sentenced to death, he pointed out. &uot;It’s limitless the things that will come up,&uot; he said.

Still, most voters are unaware of the critical role the presidential election will play in the makeup of the next court, Zuccaro said. &uot;Things are changing so rapidly right now, it’s too complex for may voters to understand,&uot; he said. &uot;They’re going to be voting on other things.&uot;