The Supreme Court has a little more than a week left to hand down its remaining rulings from this term, including four broaching the contentious issues of race and marriage equality.
The court's most hotly-debated and complicated rulings always come down at the end of its term, which comes to a close in late June. This year, the final rulings are almost sure to be two cases hitting on the issue of same-sex marriage. Two other cases that will be decided this month address affirmative action and the historic Voting Rights Act.
Here's a look at the four big cases soon to be decided:
As early as Thursday, the Supreme Court will issue a ruling that could potentially change the way schools across the nation talk about race.
Back on October 10, the Supreme Courtin the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which asks the court to rule on whether the university's consideration of race in admissions is constitutional.
Abigail Fisher, a white woman who applied to UT Austin as a high school senior in 2008, filed suit against the school after she was rejected. Fisher argued the university's consideration of race didn't meet standards previously set by the high court. The Supreme Court set a precedent for the use of affirmative action in college admissions in 2003, when in Grutter v. Bollinger it rejected the use of racial quotas but said that schools could consider race as part of a "holistic" review of a student's application. In 2003, however, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the swing vote in favor of the "holistic" approach. This year, the court's balance is tipped towards conservatives.
If the Supreme Court concludes that the university's system does meet the standards set by Grutter, then Fisher's lawyers argue that the precedent should be clarified or overruled. Even "clarifying" the ruling, however, could have a huge impact -- given that UT Austin claims it already strives to consider race as a part of the "holistic" picture, a new standard would leave schools hard pressed to defend any consideration of race.
Given that the court has waited until June to issue a ruling in this case -- even though it was argued at the very start of this term -- it's unlikely the justices will come anywhere close a consensus on this issue. There could be more than two opinions, or it could be split four-to-four since Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from the case. If the court splits, it would let the university system stand without setting any kind of precedent.
During the arguments, several justicesabout the 2003 decision, with the conservative justices asking for how much longer universities should consider race in admissions. "What's the logical end point?" asked Chief Justice John Roberts.