Now that a new year is upon us, the Supreme Court will soon resume its current term and issue rulings on a number of consequential cases, some of which have already been heard and others which have yet to be argued before the justices, The Hill reported.
Already in the pipeline for a decision in 2020 are cases involving pivotal issues like the Second Amendment, alleged workplace discrimination against members of the LGBT community, and the ultimate status of illegal immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, among other things.
Still on the docket are cases that touch on topics like abortion, executive immunity, separation of powers, religious liberty, and even tech copyright law and public corruption.
Arguments in the remaining cases should be heard in the winter and early spring months, with rulings announced by late spring to early summer — just ahead of the height of the 2020 election season where, once again, ideological control of the courts will be a dominant issue.
Trump taxes, abortion, and CFPB
One group of cases set for review that threatens to have an impact on the 2020 race is the fight over President Donald Trump’s financial records and tax returns, which have been subpoenaed by three Democrat-controlled House committees and a New York state prosecutor, according to NBC News. At issue is a question of executive immunity and whether it applies in cases involving congressional oversight and state-level prosecutions.
On the topic of abortion, the court will hear arguments for and against a Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and whether such a requirement constitutes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. A similar law in Texas was previously struck down, according to NPR, but the composition of the court has shifted to the right since then, and a favorable ruling for the pro-life side is now a possibility.
Another potentially consequential case before the high court is one questioning the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB), which was first created in 2011 and wields substantial influence over the economy with virtually no congressional oversight. It is worth noting that Republicans have opposed the CFPB since its inception, and the Trump administration has made no effort to defend it, CNBC notes.
Religious liberty, tech battle, and Bridgegate
There are also two cases on the Supreme Court’s docket that touch on religious liberty and the separation of church and state, the first of which comes out of Montana and involves the question of whether religious schools can be eligible for state-funded scholarship programs.
The other religious liberty case is centered around lawsuits filed by two former teachers against Catholic schools in which the educators claim they faced employment discrimination after their contracts were not renewed. The schools have claimed immunity from the discrimination laws, citing a “ministerial” carve-out, while the teachers have alleged that they don’t count as “ministers” or religious teachers even though religious aspects figure heavily in their jobs, according to The Washington Post.
Another potentially far-reaching case that might be overlooked by some observers due to its complexity is one involving a copyright dispute between tech giants Google and Oracle. Google was accused of illegally copying code initially produced by Oracle in creating an operating system for Google’s Android phones, but Google has argued that the old code is integral and necessary to the newer software built upon it and should therefore be available for use.
Finally, the old Bridgegate scandal from New Jersey — in which allies of then-Gov. Chris Christie (R) were charged and convicted of colluding to sabotage traffic in order to disrupt a political rival — will come before the court when an appeal of one of the convictions is heard, according to Politico. Arguments in the case will center around the appropriate scope and application of public corruption laws.
Each one of these cases, in its own way, could prove deeply impactful and precedent-setting for future controversies. While there is a 5–4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, there really is no predicting how any of the justices will come down on these varied and, at times, nuanced constitutional conundrums.