By Sam Baker - 12/17/12 05:32 PM EST
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Feb. 27 in a lawsuit that challenges a central provision of the Voting Rights Act.
The court announced the scheduling Monday. The case, Shelby County v. Holder, is just one of three high-profile civil rights cases on the court's docket next year. The justices are also set to rule on affirmative action and same-sex marriage.
The court came close to striking down that provision once before, and in the context of affirmative action, the court's more conservative justices have questioned whether civil rights programs from decades past are still necessary in an era of more rapid demographic change.
A ruling is expected near the end of the court's term, around the end of June.
Oral arguments can be a misleading guide to how the justices will ultimately rule — pundits and lawmakers expected the court to strike down President Obama's signature healthcare law following arguments in March — but they at least offer clues about the issues the justices are most focused on and give the justices a chance to tease out weaknesses in either side's legal reasoning.