Washington — The Supreme Court is set to gather on Monday to begin its new nine-month term, which is expected to bring another round of divisive rulings on hot-button issues such as affirmative action, voting rights, elections and LGBTQ discrimination, Cases that may demonstrate the power of the court’s six-judge conservative majority.
But as the justices prepare to take up the bench – before the public for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – the court is also facing a historically low level of public confidence, both before and after the June ruling. I had decreased. Constitutional right to abortion.
The last term of the High Court presented no shortage of blockbuster decisions, , to combat climate change and And judges are hardly getting away with politically charged cases.
There is already a challenge on the dockControversy in selected universities A website designer against anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and a Which can limit the authority of state courts to review election rules approved by state legislatures under state constitutions.
“I don’t think it’s going to be like a Supreme Court slumber,” William & Mary Law School professor Alison Or Larson told CBS News. “The cases he has taken are ideologically charged, and there are probably going to be even more divisive questions he will have to answer about the Second Amendment and abortion fights in the wake of the big decisions of his last term. There is no evidence yet that this court is going to pump the brakes on deciding high-profile, divisive issues too soon.”
Judges have been asked to weigh in on controversies over a firearms ban on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bump Stock, a Florida law regulating how social media companies handle their content and whether unborn entitled to constitutional protection. The cases the court has decided not to hear could illuminate whether conservative judges want to keep up their fast pace of reshaping the law.
“One question would be whether there is a feeling in the court that after Dobbs, they need to cool the temperature somewhat, and that may be either in the decisions they make or the cases they take, Said an appellant Sean Marotta. Hogan Lovells’ attorney. “The restraint may not be in the matters which they decide, but in the matters in which they decide not to decide.”
One of the most closely watched legal battles heard by judges isChallenging race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard College, a private school, and the University of North Carolina, a public institution, are set to be argued on October 31.
Fair Admissions for Students, the organization that brought the suit, argues that schools violate the 14th Amendment and federal law through their admissions programs, which have been used to promote diversity among university student bodies. .
Students for Fair Admissions is asking justices to overturn their 2003 decision in Gutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the use of race as a factor in student admissions by the University of Michigan Law School.
Court watchers expect the Supreme Court to overturn its nearly 20-year ruling, especially given that court membership has changed since the 2016 decision in the case of Fisher v. last said that race-conscious admissions programs are legal.
“Chief Justice Roberts, his vote is not really in question on race-based affirmative action. Most of the times, he has been skeptical of race-based affirmative action and there are no surprises there,” Larson said. “I can’t count to five in any way that would preserve the grater or the fissure. I think the safe bet is that those cases will be reversed.”
In January the court consolidated the two cases for oral argument, but separated them in July after Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson., as he distanced himself from the controversy surrounding Harvard because of his role on the school’s board of overseers. Jackson University of North Carolina may attend the hearing of the case.
Devon Westhill, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity and general counsel, said she believes it is important for Jackson, the first black woman to serve on the court, to express her views on race-consciousness in American life. .
“I think that as we continue to think about concerns about the legality of the court, that it will really be a black mark on the court if the first black woman doesn’t have the opportunity to weigh in on a major race issue.” It’s like affirmative action,” he said during a preview of the court’s tenure organized by the Federalist Society.
Freedom of Expression and LGBTQ Rights Conflict
Judges will also consider whether anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people may require a business owner to convey a message they do not wish to convey under the First Amendment.
The case, which involves a website designer in Colorado, comes four years after Justice heard a similar dispute involving a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. But in their 2018 ruling, the judges left unresolved issues central to free speech.
“Those big First Amendment questions are now back in front of the court, but in front of a new court,” said Amanda Shaner, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which focuses on constitutional law, during a Federalist Society preview. .
The case, 303 Creative v. Alenes, “is within the realm of both speech security and economic life, particularly for business owners, but also the extent to which businesses may refuse to serve customers,” she said.
The website designer involved in the controversy, Laurie Smith, does not want to design websites for same-sex marriage, and asked a federal court in Colorado not to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination law against her. However, the lower courts sided with the state.
While Shanor said there is “good money” on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Smith’s favor, the details of the decision will be important.
“How it does, or if it does, could have broader implications for expressive and collaborative rights in other economic settings, and for other anti-discrimination laws,” she said. “And part of the question is, how are you going to eliminate this kind of exception?”
elections and voting rights
In the first week of their oral arguments, the courtIncluding a congressional map drawn by Republicans from Alabama, in which a lower court ruled that a 1965 law violates a single district where black voters make up the majority of the district.
Then, in the coming weeks, it will consider a North Carolina election law dispute involving congressional maps made by the state court for the 2022 midterm elections. That legal battle calls for the so-called independent state legislature doctrine, which states that under the US Constitution, only the state legislature has the authority to set federal election rules, to ensure that they comply with state constitutions. , remove oversight from state courts.
A version of the theory was proposed by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist in his consensus opinion in the 2000 case Bush v. Gore, and the four current judges – Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.Said in March that the Supreme Court would soon have to address the limitation of the authority of state courts to review election rules adopted by state legislatures.
The case has attracted the attention of a wide range of voting groups, among them the Conference of Chief Justices, an organization made up of the country’s highest judicial officers.
In a friend-of-court brief filed in support of either side, the group told the Supreme Court that the U.S. Constitution “does not exercise the authority of state courts to decide what state election law is, in which it complies with state.” does or not. And the US Constitution.”
A new term begins with a new justice
In addition to starting his new term, the judges are also welcoming a new memberwho replaced the now retired Justice Stephen Breyer.
Jackson’s appointment is historic, as she is the first black woman to serve on the High Court, and she also brings the Supreme Court closer to gender equality.
While she doesn’t change the ideological structure of the court—republican-appointed judges still hold six of the nine seats—she does offer a new vantage point given eight years as a federal judge on the trial court in Washington. Huh.
“That perspective can be really valuable – the type of trials the court is going to announce or the amount of respect on questions of fact, or the willingness to leave questions open, are more subtle issues, but I doubt that care a lot about them,” Larsen said. “In the conference room, it can make a difference to have a colleague say, ‘I have real-world experience on the trial court and the decisions you’re about to make here have practical implications.'”
Meanwhile, Marotta noted that as the court’s makeup has changed and its ideological leanings corrected, due to the appointment of three members by former President Donald Trump, discussions about its center swing from justice to central justice. has been transferred.
“Incrementalists don’t have the majority they once did. Most of it is up to Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett, because they have to decide how much they lay on the gas,” he said. “In some cases, they are more inclined to be more incremental and more cautious, and in others, they are more in favor of change.”