2013: A year for big issues in the courts

By Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst

December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)

Chief Justice John Roberts re-administers the oath of office to Barack Obama at the White House on January 21, 2009.


  • Jeffrey Toobin: 2013 will see pivotal decisions in several key areas of law

  • He says Supreme Court could decide fate of same-sex marriage

  • Affirmative action for public college admissions is also on Court's agenda

  • Toobin: Newtown massacre put gun control debate back in the forefront

Editor's note: Jeffrey Toobin is a senior legal analyst for CNN and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where he covers legal affairs. He is the author of "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court."

(CNN) -- What will we see in 2013?

One thing for sure: The year will begin with Chief Justice John Roberts and President Obama getting two chances to recite the oath correctly.

Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin

After that, here are my guesses.

1. Same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court. There are two cases, and there are a Rubik's Cube-worth of possibilities for their outcomes. On one extreme, the court could say that the federal government (in the Defense of Marriage Act) and the states can ban or allow same-sex marriage as they prefer. On the other end, the Court could rule that gay people have a constitutional right to marry in any state in the union. (Or somewhere in between.)

CNN Opinion contributors weigh in on what to expect in 2013. What do you think the year holds in store? Let us know @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook/CNNOpinion

2. The future of affirmative action. In a case pending before the Supreme Court, the Court could outlaw all affirmative action in admissions at public universities, with major implications for all racial preferences in all school or non-school settings.

3. Gun control returns to the agenda. The Congress (and probably some states) will wrestle with the question of gun control, an issue that had largely fallen off the national agenda before the massacre in Newtown. Expect many invocations (some accurate, some not) of the Second Amendment.

4. The continued decline of the death penalty. Death sentences and executions continue to decline, and this trend will continue. Fear of mistaken executions (largely caused by DNA exonerations) and the huge cost of the death penalty process will both accelerate the shift.

5. Celebrity sex scandal. There will be one. There will be outrage, shock and amusement. (Celebrity to be identified later.)

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeffrey Toobin.

Part of complete coverage on

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)

Aaron Carroll says most of the changes in 2013 will be in preparation for 2014 when the Affordable Care Act really kicks into effect.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1351 GMT (2151 HKT)

Don't look for dramatic change in the troubled politics of the Middle East, says Aaron Miller.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)

Sheril Kirshenbaum says natural gas fracking, climate change and renewables are likely to drive discussions of energy in the new year.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1354 GMT (2154 HKT)

Former CIA director Michael Hayden says the controversy over the film is one of two Washington debates in which politics obscures the real role of intelligence agencies.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)

Even for someone who has written more than 2,000 columns over the last 20 years, sometimes the words come out wrong, says Ruben Navarrette.

Get the latest opinion and analysis from CNN's columnists and contributors.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0307 GMT (1107 HKT)

Kerry Cahill and Keely Vanacker, whose father was shot dead at Fort Hood, say the nation must address problems that lead to massacres.

December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon says it's vital that the withdrawal of NATO forces by 2014 doesn't endanger the progress Afghan women have made.

December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)

Jeffrey Toobin says key rulings will likely be made regarding same-sex marriage and affirmative action for public college admissions.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0041 GMT (0841 HKT)

Frida Ghitis says that after years in which conservative views dominated the nation, there's now majority support for many progressive stances.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0316 GMT (1116 HKT)

John MacIntosh says gun manufacturer Freedom Group should be acquired by public-spirited billionaires and turned into a company with ethical goals.

December 26, 2012 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)

Dean Obeidallah says "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Promised Land" present hot button issues that fire up people from the left and right.

December 22, 2012 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)

David Gergen says the hope for cooperation is gone in the capital as people spar over fiscal cliff, gun control, and nominations

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