SCOTUS: Five cases to watch as a conservative Supreme Court begins its new term

(The Hill) — When the Supreme Court begins its new term on Monday, the six Republican-appointed justices are expected to resume the project they began last term to remake U.S. constitutional law in a conservative image.

While many Americans still rely on a term that eliminated the federal right to abortion in the Dobbs decision, expanded Second Amendment and religious rights, and reduced the power of the US government to curb climate change, the conservative majority court 6-3 picked a set of hot-button cases that court watchers say are likely to shatter along ideological lines.

“In most of the high-profile cases outside of Dobbs, we’ve seen 6-3 decisions, with Republican-appointed judges on one side and Democratic-appointed judges on the other,” said Irv Gornstein, Executive Director of the Supreme Court Institute of Georgetown Law. recently from the tribunal’s previous term.

“There is no reason to think that this upcoming term, or any term for the foreseeable future, will be any different,” he said. “On the things that matter most, get ready for a lot of 6-3s.”

When the Tory dominance of the High Court burst into the open last quarter – the culmination of a decades-long, deep-pocketed effort by the Tory legal movement – ​​it left supporters ecstatic.

Opponents of the various rulings had a starkly different opinion, and the dissonance left the Supreme Court hitting historic lows in recent polls of public approval and trust.

The debate over how the court’s rightward shift affects its institutional health and standing with Americans has even led some justices to trade thinly veiled beards in public comments.

As the court enters another contentious term, here are five cases to watch.

Environment

The first Supreme Court case of the new term involves a major environmental dispute over the federal government’s power to protect the nation’s waterways under the Clean Water Act.

The central question is whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory reach extends to wetlands that are not connected to federal waters above ground, but are able to reach those waters below the surface.

If judges give a narrow reading of government authority, it could pave the way for more land development and ease the demands on companies that discharge pollutants. Conservation groups warn that such an outcome risks disrupting the environment and animal habitats.

The arguments in Sackett v. EPA will be heard on October 3.

affirmative action

A pair of cases will challenge the use of race-conscious admissions in higher education. Lawsuits against Harvard and the University of North Carolina ask judges to end affirmative action in college admissions decisions by overturning a long-standing precedent that allows schools to treat race as a factor when building a student body.

The Challengers, a group of Asian American students, claim in the Harvard case that the school violated civil rights protections by committing to racial balance and refusing to administer a gender-neutral approach. breed available for admissions.

Business, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, will be argued before the judges on October 31.

Election law

The justices will hear an election law case that could give state legislatures new powers over how voting cards are drawn and federal elections conducted.

North Carolina GOP lawmakers are appealing a ruling by their state’s highest court that found a new Republican-drawn electoral map amounted to an illegal partisan gerrymander. The Republican challengers urged justices to rule in their favor by finding that the Constitution’s Elections Clause gives state legislatures near total control over how federal elections are conducted in their state, a theory known as the “Doctrine of the Independent States Legislature”.

If the Supreme Court sides with Republican lawmakers, it could effectively block legislatures from having their election maneuvering reviewed by state courts, removing a key judicial check on lawmakers’ power.

The arguments in Moore v. Harper have yet to be scheduled.

Right to vote

Judges will assess a suffrage case that tests the legal limits of so-called racial gerrymandering, which involves drawing voting cards in a way that dilutes the voting power of racial minorities.

The case came after Republicans in Alabama asked judges to block a lower court ruling that found Alabama’s new electoral precincts likely violate voting rights law.

The central question is whether the mismatch between Alabama’s black population (27%) and its disproportionate representation in Congress (one of seven U.S. House seats, or 14%) violates the law . The arguments in Merrill v. Milligan will be heard on October 4.

LGBTQ discrimination

The Supreme Court will hear a First Amendment dispute over a Colorado website designer’s refusal to make his services available to same-sex marriages.

The case arose when web designer Lorie Smith’s plan to rule out same-sex marriages, based on her religious beliefs, ran headlong into a Colorado anti-discrimination law. This law prohibits businesses that serve the public from turning away customers based on their sexual orientation or other aspects of their identity.

The case will test whether Colorado law violates free speech protections by requiring people like Smith to engage in speech they oppose.

The argument in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis has not yet been scheduled.


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