Supreme Court Prepares to Hear Historic Cases
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The newest Supreme Court term will no doubt make a significant impact on the nation’s laws, as the justices are set to hear a number of controversial issues.

Summary: Justices are set to hear a number of controversial issues in the Supreme Court’s new term.

Brace yourself for a cat fight. The Supreme Court’s new term started Tuesday, and things could get ugly.


Snark reached new levels last term, when Justice Antonin Scalia called Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion in the same-sex marriage case, “pretentious,” “egotistic,” and “incoherent.” Many predict the justices will clash even more this term than they did last.

The current court is actually the first in history to be split along party lines. Typically, justices’ political ideology can be linked to the party of the president who appointed that justice. However, last term, Justice Kennedy, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, voted with the court’s liberal justices on many issues.

Irving L. Gornstein, the executive director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, comments, “The story of the last term is that the left side of the court did a lot of winning. This term, I would expect a return to the norm, with the right side of the court winning a majority but by no means all of the big cases, with Justice Kennedy again the key vote.”

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What cases will the nine justices hear this time around? Here are a few of the big ones they may decide:

1. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

This case may bring a significant blow to organized labor. According to John P. Elwood, an attorney with Vinson & Elkins, “It could set the stage for a Citizens United-style reconsideration in the area of union dues.”

The case reconsiders a 1977 matter, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. In that case, the court held that public workers who declined to join a union could be required to pay for the union’s bargaining efforts to prevent freeloading and to ensure peace among workers. However, nonmembers could not be forced to pay for the unions’ political activities, since this would equal compelled speech under the First Amendment.

In the current case, California teachers argue that collective bargaining itself is political, since it deals with seniority, class size, and spending. The court has hinted that it may overrule Abood.

2. Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

In this case, the court will address the highly contested issue as to whether the Constitution allows public colleges and universities to consider race in admission decisions.

In 2013, the court refused to decide whether the admissions plan at the school, which combines both racially neutral and racially conscious means to achieve diversity, is constitutional. Project on Fair Representation, a small advocacy group, brought the suit. The Supreme Court will hear the issue again now that an appeals court sustained the college’s admissions process. According to the Chicago Tribune, Kennedy’s vote against the practice may mean the end of affirmative action.

3. Evenwel v. Abbott

In this case, the court will address the issue of “one person, one vote.” The court has never addressed whether state voting districts should have the same total number of individuals, including children, unauthorized immigrants, and others not authorized to vote, or whether they should have the same number of voters. If states count only their voting populations, political power may shift to rural areas. This would probably benefit Republicans.

California recently reversed a policy that prohibited former inmates from voting.

4. Hurst v. Florida

According to Sun Sentinel, this case will address Florida’s death penalty system. Timothy Hurst was convicted for murdering a co-worker in a Popeye’s restaurant in 1998. In two trials, Hurst was given the death penalty, but the jury’s decision was not unanimous. In the first trial, it was 11-1, and in the second trial, it was 7-5. In both cases, however, the judge sentenced Hurst to death. The Supreme Court’s job is to consider whether Florida should require a unanimous verdict before sentencing a defendant to death. In fact, it is the only state that does not have such a requirement.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the death penalty.

5. Whole Woman’s Health Center v. Cole

This case may be selected by the Supreme Court to address abortion issues. Texas recently passed a law increasing restrictions on abortion clinics, which cut the number of abortion clinics in the state from over 40 to roughly 10. This case could produce the most important decision on abortion since 1992, when Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed that citizens have a constitutional right to abortion.

Read about the Texas law here.

The issue in this case is whether two parts of a 2013 state law placed an “undue burden” on the right to abortion. One part of the law requires clinics to meet standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” and the other requires that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital close by.

If each of these cases is heard, which decision would you anticipate the most?

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Source: New York Times

Photo credit: Wikipedia


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