The U.S. Supreme Court begins a new term on Monday, October 1st, 2012.  While most Americans are focused on the Presidential Election, we probably should pause and focus instead on some very important court cases the justices will hear this term.

Two cases involve the 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. In Florida v. Jardines, the issue is whether police violated the Constitution by using a drug dog to sniff for drugs outside a house where suspected marijuana was being grown. The Court must decide whether the sniff test was unreasonably intrusive because there was no hard evidence that illegal activity was occurring, or was it not a search because it occurred outside the house? (The Florida Court held that the search was illegal).

The 2nd case, Missouri v. McNeely, asks whether the police can forcibly draw someone’s blood, in a DUI stop, without first getting a search warrant from a judge. (The Missouri Court held that an officer should first get a search warrant, even though the State argued that by delaying the test, some possible evidence of blood alcohol level would be lost.)

You will recall that last term the Court came out with some major decisions, including the decision on health care. This term the Court will decide not only the above two cases, but may also issue decisions on affirmative action, same sex marriage, and the Voting Rights Act.

Chief Justice Roberts has said that the role of the US Supreme Court is similar to that of a referee. As we have seen recently with the NFL’s replacement refs, referees can have an important impact, whether we are talking about a football game, or about the type of country in which we live. It is important to at least keep an eye on the US Supremes and their decisions, even in a Presidential election year.