The Wall Street Journal has a nice summary of the four cases:
Voting Rights: The Supreme Court is deciding on the constitutionality of a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires some localities, particularly in the South, to get approval in advance from Washington for changes to their voting laws. At arguments in February, conservative justices suggested the provision had outlived its relevance and was imposing undue burdens on these localities. Supporters say the law is still needed to ensure voting rights. The case is Shelby County v. Holder.WSJ coverage is here.
Affirmative Action: More than seven months have passed since the justices heard arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, challenging the university’s consideration of race in an admissions formula. Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed skepticismabout the formula, and the court’s five conservatives appeared headed toward a major ruling that would curb racial preferences in university admissions. Whatever the outcome, it appears the majority and dissenters are using all their available time to polish their opinions on this hot-button issue.
Gay marriage: In late March the court heard arguments on whether to nullify a federal law that bars recognition of gay marriage and a California law banning gay marriage in the state. In the California case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the justices appeared divided and at times almost regretful they waded into the issue amid fast-changing public opinion. They also questioned whether the case over the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. v. Windsor, belonged before them, raising the possibility of a ruling that would focus on procedure rather than fundamental rights, as Jess Bravin wrote in his analysis of the arguments.
Gene patents: The justices will decide whether human genes can be patented. At arguments in April, justices were skeptical that merely extracting DNA from a body would make the product a patentable invention, as asserted by patent holder Myriad Genetics Inc. Myriad sells a test for its patented breast-cancer genes. Actress Angelina Jolie recently made news after getting a mastectomy based on her test results.