Nina Totenberg

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At the Supreme Court today, the issue was bad language. Specifically, can the government refuse to grant trademark protection for brand names that include profanity? The immediate problem for the court was how to discuss the issue without using the actual words - how to discuss the F-word, for instance, without actually saying the F-word, which is a challenge that NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg faces in this report.

Two Supreme Court decisions just hours before a scheduled execution. Two decisions just seven weeks apart. Two decisions on the same issue. Except that in one, a Muslim was put to death without his imam allowed with him in the execution chamber, and in the other, a Buddhist's execution was temporarily halted because his Buddhist minister was denied the same right.

The two apparently conflicting decisions are so puzzling that even the lawyers are scratching their heads and offering explanations that they candidly admit are only speculative.

The Supreme Court appeared sharply divided on the question of whether there's any limit on what the courts can impose on partisan redistricting, also known as gerrymandering, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the newest member of the court, appearing at least somewhat conflicted.

"I took some of your argument in the briefs and the amicus briefs to be that extreme partisan gerrymandering is a real problem for our democracy," Kavanaugh told the lawyers arguing the case, "and I'm not going to dispute that."

Partisan gerrymandering is back at the U.S. Supreme Court.

A year and a pivotal justice's retirement after the high court dodged the question, those seeking to break the political stranglehold over legislative redistricting are urging the justices to draw a line beyond which the Republican and Democratic parties cannot go in entrenching their political power, sometimes for decades at a time.

The U.S. Supreme Court signaled strongly on Wednesday that it is likely to rule for a death row inmate in Mississippi who was prosecuted six times for the same crime by a prosecutor with a history of racial bias in jury selection.

The arguments, more passionate and fact-filled than usual, also had a surprise ending when Justice Clarence Thomas posed a question — the first time in three years.

Every year, the Supreme Court hears dozens of cases, and while there will usually be a few blockbuster opinions, the majority garner little media attention. But these more obscure decisions can often illustrate something interesting, even unexpected, about one of the justices. And so it was on Tuesday with Justice Neil Gorsuch and a relatively obscure and underplayed Indian treaty case.

Late last year, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor issued a statement announcing that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. It was a poignant moment, a reminder that for decades O'Connor was seen as the most powerful woman in America.

Updated at 3:55 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared ready to let stand a 40-foot cross on public land in Maryland, but the justices struggled Wednesday to come up with a test to clarify the separation of church and state in this country.

Over the past half-century, the court has used a variety of tests — is the purpose of the contested symbol or program religious or not? Does it entangle government with religion? Does the government's action appear to endorse religion?

A giant concrete cross standing in the middle of a busy median strip is the latest symbol of a constitutional fight that has raged for decades. It's a fight over the concept of the separation of church and state and what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote into the First Amendment a ban on government "establishment" of religion.

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution's ban on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, thus limiting their ability to use fines to raise revenue.

The court's decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was announced by her on her second day back at the court. Ginsburg missed in-person arguments at the court for the first time in her quarter century on the Supreme Court bench after undergoing surgery for lung cancer late last year.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — the oldest, tiniest and possibly most well-known justice — returned to her perch on the bench Tuesday, asking questions in a firm and strong voice.

Before President Trump even uttered the words "national emergency" on Friday, there was already a lot of talk about legal challenges.

Here's the central question: Is it constitutional for the president to ignore Congress' decision not to give him all the money he wants for a Southern border wall — and, instead, get it through a declaration of a national emergency?

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For the first time in her 25-year career on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not on the bench to start the new year.

After the 85-year-old justice was operated on for lung cancer, she decided to work from home rather than return to the court two weeks after surgery. She's expected to make a full recovery and be back at the court soon. A fair amount is known about Ginsburg's cancers and surgery, but the history of Supreme Court justices and their health is murkier.

With the Supreme Court now having five justices who are less likely to approve of gun regulations and laws, it granted a major gun case Tuesday for the first time in nearly a decade.

The court granted a right-to-carry case out of New York that pits the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association against the City of New York. New York bans transporting permitted handguns outside city lines, even if the gun is not loaded and is locked in a container. The guns currently can only be taken to the handful of shooting ranges within city limits.

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has no remaining signs of cancer after her surgery last month, requires no additional treatment, but will miss oral arguments at the court next week to rest, the Supreme Court said Friday.

While odds for a recovery from the surgery she had are good, they go way up if the subsequent pathology report shows no cancer in the lymph nodes. On Friday, the court released a written statement saying there is no additional evidence of cancer.

Updated at 12:12 p.m. ET

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not taking part in Monday's oral arguments before the court.

The 85-year old liberal justice underwent surgery for cancer last month and also recently broke several ribs after a fall.

Ginsburg had not missed a day of arguments since she was confirmed to the court in 1993.

Despite not physically being at the court, she will be participating in the cases by reading the briefs and the transcripts of the oral arguments.

Updated at 10:28 p.m. ET

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery Friday for early stage lung cancer, a Supreme Court spokesperson tells NPR. Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital in New York performed a lobectomy, removing one of the five lobes of the lung.

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