Supreme Court sets argument dates for two major cases involving free speech and state election laws

The Supreme Court on Tuesday released its schedule for oral arguments in December and it included two cases with the potential to be landmark precedent-setting rulings.

The first case deals with First Amendment rights versus state anti-discrimination laws while the second involves the rights of state legislatures with regard to regulating elections, the Conservative Brief reported.

Free speech vs. anti-discrimination laws

On December 5, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which deals with “Whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”

SCOTUSblog reported in February that the case involves a graphic design artist who intends to develop wedding-specific websites but, due to their religious beliefs, doesn’t want to design websites for same-sex marriages and plans to make that preference known via a message posted to her own website.

That, however, would seem to run afoul of a Colorado law that prohibits businesses that are open to the public from actually discriminating against potential customers based on sexual orientation or even announcing an intent to do so.

The question to be decided here is whether that state law violates the First Amendment free speech rights of the artist by compelling her to either speak or remain silent, not to mention her rights with regard to the free exercise of her religious beliefs and freedom to pick and choose who she will associate and do business with.

The “independent state legislature” theory with regard to election rules

On December 7, the Supreme Court will then hear arguments for the case of Moore v. Harper, which seeks to settle the question of whether state legislatures or state courts have the final say in establishing the rules and regulations of federal elections in that state.

SCOTUSblog reported in June that this case promises to be the first big test of what is known as the “independent state legislature” theory, which posits that the U.S. Constitution granted sole authority to the state legislatures to regulate the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives” without being interfered with or overridden by state courts.

At issue here are new congressional district maps for North Carolina drawn up by the Republican-controlled state legislature that was challenged by Democrats, tossed out by the state’s Supreme Court, and ultimately replaced by district maps drawn by court-appointed experts.

Several of the Republican-appointed justices on the nation’s high court have already signaled their support in prior cases for the “independent state legislature” theory and the idea that, per the U.S. Constitution, the state legislatures have superiority over state courts in establishing the rules and regulations for how elections are conducted in that state.

Potential to set major precedents

Depending upon how the Supreme Court rules in these two cases, both have the potential to establish landmark precedents on the central issues they deal with.

There will undoubtedly be plenty of media attention for the oral arguments in both of these cases in December, but everyone will likely have to wait until next Spring or Summer for the final decisions in those cases to be released to the public.