Here are summaries of five of the biggest cases awaiting rulings by the Supreme Court. Decisions will be released between now and the end of June.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
AT ISSUE: A challenge to the school's race-conscious admissions policies.
THE CASE: Abigail Fisher individually sued the flagship state university after her college application was rejected in 2008 when she was a high school senior in Sugar Land, Texas.
THE ARGUMENTS: Fisher claims she was turned away in part because she is white, despite being more qualified than some minority applicants. The school defends its policy of considering race as one of many factors -- such as test scores, community service, leadership and work experience -- to ensure a diverse campus.
THE OUTCOME: It appears the conservative majority has the votes to strike down the school's policy in some form, and it's a good bet Justice Anthony Kennedy is writing the opinion. His moderate-conservative outlook could mean a limited ruling: striking down this university's efforts but allowing affirmative action to continue in some circumstances.
THE IMPACT: The appeal raises anew thorny, unresolved questions over race and remedies. Justice Elena Kagan did not hear this case because she had dealt with the issue while she was President Barack Obama's solicitor general. That would make a 4-4 tie possible, meaning the university would prevail, but no important precedent would be established. The high court will revisit the issue this fall in a separate appeal on whether Michigan's voter-approved ban on affirmative action is constitutional.