The Supreme Court began its 2019-2020 Session on October 7. There has been much talk about this upcoming session with the addition of Justice Kavanaugh. Recent health scares involving Justice Ginsburg and a docket with several highly charged legal and political issues to be reviewed by the Court have drawn particular attention. Pundits on both sides of the issues believe that a five Justice “conservative majority” now sits on the Court with the retirement of Justice Kennedy and the addition of Justice Kavanaugh. As the Court begins its session on the “first Monday of October” the following is a brief review of some of the major cases the Court will face and decide, presumably by next summer.
The Court agreed to hear to a case involving an abortion law in the state of Louisiana which requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in order to perform an abortion. Advocates claim that this restriction would leave the state with only a single clinic legally able to perform abortions. The law is similar to one in Texas which the Court struck down in 2016, however, this was before Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined the bench.
Discrimination in the workplace for LGBTQ individuals is also on the Court’s docket. The issue at stake is whether Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based upon their sexual orientation and status as a transgender person. According to briefs filed in the case, the law explicitly bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin, but does not specifically mention sexual orientation nor gender identity.
Other topical cases to be heard involve several lawsuits challenging the Administration’s efforts to end DACA, the immigration program that effects roughly 700,000 children who are undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. DACA was a program enacted under the Obama Administration which shielded these children, many of which are now adults, from deportation.
Some other interesting cases to watch which the Court will be reviewing in this session involve financial issues faced by Puerto Rico and whether appointments that were made to its Financial Oversight and Management Board were constitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had ruled earlier that the appointments were not constitutionally sound because the Senate did not confirm them. The Administration has claimed that if the decision stands, it could have serious ramifications for the constitutionality of territorial self-governance.
In another case involving the U.S./Mexico border but on a different issue, the Supreme Court will hear a case and decide whether families of Mexican teenagers who were shot by United States Border Agents can sue in U.S. courts for damages. The Administration argued below that the fact that the teenagers were shot on Mexican soil should result in a dismissal of cases with the United States courts lacking jurisdiction.
Finally, for those who remember the “D.C. sniper” attacks in the D.C. metropolitan area back in October 2002, the Court will hear the appeal of Lee Malvo to review his sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Malvo was convicted as a teenager when he received this sentence before the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision which made automatic or mandatory life without parole sentences for teenage defendants unconstitutional. Malvo’s attorneys are asking the Court to apply their decision retroactively to Malvo’s sentence which occurred in 2006. He was 17 at the time he committed the murders.
As always, the Court has a varied but politically charged docket. This will be the first full session with Justice Kavanaugh, and so eyes are on the Supreme Court to see just how the Court will rule on these various issues going forward which could have broad reaching legal, political, and cultural effects for years to come.