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O’Connor to take bench again

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will be hearing cases once more, sitting in for two days on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. One case involves a right-to-life group that operates at Arizona State University, and two others concerning voting rights.

On Oct. 19, O’Connor will be part of a three-judge panel that will hear appeals from courts in Arizona and Nevada. The hearings will take place at Arizona State University’s College of Law, for which O’Connor is the namesake. She will be joined by 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta, both from Pasadena, Calif.

The panel will travel to Tucson Oct. 20 to the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. Typically, the court hears cases in four cities in California and Washington, but it occasionally travels across the circuit to hold court. The 9th Circuit includes the nine most western states, including Hawaii, and two Pacific islands, Guam and the northern Mariana Islands.

One of the cases to be heard at the UofA law school, ASU Students for Life v. Crow, deals extensively with the rights a university has to place insurance limits on off-campus groups.

Members of the ASU Students for Life attempted in December of 2005 to reserve several speech zones on campus to display a pro-life exhibit, according to the Alliance Defense Fund, which has been defending ASU Students for Life. ASU granted the group only one zone and required the group to show proof of insurance, an order not found in written policy.

Heather Gebelin Hacker, staff counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, will present oral arguments Oct. 20.

Hacker said, “Pro-life student groups shouldn’t have a price tag placed upon expression of their beliefs. Forcing any student group to pay for insurance in order to exercise their right to free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment is unconstitutional.”

The case was heard originally in March 2008 by an Arizona district court. The court did not support the ASU Students for Life’s claims, noting that the group was required to have insurance. It also found that the regulation was not viewpoint discrimination.

The original plaintiff in the case, Christopher White, graduated from ASU in 2006.

O’Connor, who is considered influential in past voting-rights cases, also will hear Gonzales v. The State of Arizona.

Gonzales v. Arizona deals with Proposition 200, a successful 2004 ballot initiative which required voters to show identification in order to vote. The state won the case was in August 2008. The plaintiff failed to show that the proposition was intentionally discriminatory.

Four of the five cases which O’Connor will hear deal with Arizona, the fifth coming out of Las Vegas, where a police officer alleged he was discriminated against after admitting alcoholism.

A separate case involves claims that the Maricopa Community College district failed to act against racially offensive e-mails.

Another is focused on convicted felons’ right to vote.

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