The U.S. Supreme Court is prepared to issue decisions on several hot-button issues as justices hear several important cases this month.
With a clear conservative majority on the nation’s highest court, rulings related to religious liberty, LGBTQ rights, health care, voting laws, and other topics could draw criticism from the left.
“Kept their head down”
Meanwhile, a growing number of progressive politicians and pundits are pressuring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer to step down prior to next year’s midterm elections so President Joe Biden and a Democratic-controlled Congress can secure his replacement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to the Supreme Court, which has largely operated remotely since the outbreak of the pandemic. Furthermore, Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the bench following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last year added another layer of complexity to the court and its ideological makeup.
Despite its conservative majority, however, the court has disappointed some on the right — particularly by refusing to hear cases of alleged election fraud related to November’s presidential race.
Paul Smith of the Georgetown University Law Center explained that justices “kind of kept their head down with regard to the election, and didn’t involve themselves with anything in respect to the aftermath of the election, and were hoping to not be too visible.”
Nevertheless, he predicted that the court is “headed in the direction of an absolutely blockbuster term” as it begins “to gather momentum” with its newfound 6-3 right-wing advantage.
Progressives advance their plans
With more than two dozen merit cases awaiting a decision this year, the court has an opportunity to set long-lasting precedents.
Among the most notable cases stands to determine whether a city can cancel a contract with a social services agency over the organization’s religious beliefs. A Catholic charity made its argument after it faced discrimination claims for refusing to screen same-sex couples in Philadelphia as possible foster parents.
A voting rights case in Arizona seeks to uphold a state law outlawing so-called ballot harvesting and counting ballots in the wrong precinct. A lower court ruled that the restrictions somehow discriminated against Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
The possibility that major precedents will be set by the conservative majority has sparked a desire among progressives to forcibly change the makeup of the court.
In addition to a campaign to convince Breyer to retire, some Democrats are pursuing legislation that would add additional seats to the court with the hopes of offsetting former President Donald Trump’s addition of three conservative justices.