Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court returned to the bench for a new term Monday with a number of cases on the docket that could affect the Nation for decades to come.
An article published in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday concedes that the court’s conservative justices — if they agree among themselves — have the opportunity to “shift the law to the right on abortion, contraception, religion and campaign funding.” Journalists writing for Buzzfeed, The Washington Post and The New York Times’ editorial board have expressed similar sentiments upon reviewing the list of cases the Nation’s highest court is slated to hear in the current term, which extends into summer.
Here’s a look at a few of the cases on the docket:
Today, the court is set to hear arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, a follow-up to the famous 2010 Citizens United case. In McCutcheon, the justices will decide whether aggregate limits on campaign contributions — that is, setting limits on the total amount a citizen can contribute over two years to everyone combined — is a violation of 1st Amendment free speech rights.
Scotusblog’s Lyle Denniston writes of the case: “By now, especially in the wake of the Citizens United decision nearly four years ago, no one can seriously doubt that the Court may once again decide to act boldly in declaring the current constitutional law of campaign finance. There are narrower ways to decide the McCutcheon case — perhaps the most inviting being to simply reaffirm Buckley v. Valeo based upon the concept of stare decisis. But there are abundant opportunities in this new case to go back to core understandings, and start over.”
Next, the court will take up the issue of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. In that case, the court will determine whether Michigan violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment in barring racial preferences in government programs and college admissions.
International Treaties And Americans’ Rights
In November, the court will shift focus to a case that could have major implications for Americans’ rights. The court will hear Bond v. U.S. on Nov. 5. The case concerns a woman poisoning her husband’s mistress, but posits whether Congress can pass Federal laws to fulfill a treaty when those laws would be unConstitutional if applied only domestically.
Talk Radio News Service summarizes the case as follows: “After discovering that her best friend and husband were having an affair, Carol Anne Bond attempted to poison her friend by spreading chemicals on her mailbox, car door and front door. This resulted in a federal prosecution under the Chemical Weapons Act. Bond now disputes Congress’s power to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty by creating a law to enforce it. She argues that the federal government lacks a plenary police power and that Congress’s authority to pass treaty-implementing legislation should not be an end run around its enumerated powers.”
The court will also hear Greece v. Galloway during November, determining whether prayer before a town board meeting is protected under the 1st Amendment.
Legal analyst Ken Klukowski writes of the case on Scoutusblog: “Greece’s town board opens each meeting with a prayer. The town clerk invites every house of worship within city limits to volunteer, and also allows any citizen of any faith to volunteer. Prayer-givers are then scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The town is roughly ninety percent Christian. Aside from the predictably Christian majority of volunteers, they’ve had Jewish and Ba’hai prayers, and even a local Wiccan (i.e., witch/pagan). A local atheist even signed up and was scheduled to “pray,” but (understandably) withdrew at the last moment. No one is turned away.”
On Nov. 13, the justices will decide if the 4th Amendment requires a tenant to be present and to object to police entry if a co-tenant invites them to enter in the case of Fernandez v. California.
The Chicago-Kent College of Media Law’s Supreme Court Media website summarizes the case: “On October 12, 2009, Abel Lopez was attacked and robbed by a man he later identified as Walter Fernandez. Lopez managed to call 911, and a few minutes after the attack, police and paramedics arrived on the scene. Detectives investigated a nearby alley that was a known gang location where two witnesses told them that the suspect was in an apartment in a house just off the alley. The detectives knocked on the door of the indicated apartment, and Roxanne Rojas answered. The detectives requested to enter and conduct a search, at which point Walter Fernandez stepped forward and refused the detectives entry. They arrested Fernandez and took him into custody. Police officers secured the apartment, informed Rojas that Fernandez had been arrested in connection with a robbery, and requested to search the apartment. Rojas consented to the search verbally and in writing. During the search, officers found gang paraphernalia, a knife, and a gun.”
Another privacy-related issue likely to be heard in the current term involves law enforcement’s ability to perform warrantless searches of a suspect’s cellphone. Petitions for a writ of certiorari have been filed in Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, asking the court to clear up incongruence between Federal appellate courts and State supreme courts on whether cellphones are like ordinary containers, allowing police to review the digital contents without a warrant.
The Supreme Court will likely hear NLRB v. Noel Canning in January, determining whether President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board without Senate approval, as one Senator held a nominal session to prevent the action, was Constitutional. If the decision is made that the President’s action doesn’t pass Constitutional muster, all NLRB actions over the past two years would be illegal and void.
Other cases of note:
- McCullen v. Coakley, in which anti-abortion protesters have challenged a Massachusetts law requiring a 35-foot “buffer zone” around healthcare clinics.
- Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, which challenges the Constitutionality of an Oklahoma law requiring doctors to use abortion-inducing drugs precisely as the Food and Drug Administration approved more than a decade ago.
- DaimlerChrysler AG v. Bauman, determining whether the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause is violated when an American court claims jurisdiction over matters involving a foreign corporation.