Like Countable?

Install the App
TRY NOW

Supreme Court’s Epic Term: Cases To Watch

by Countable | 10.4.17

"There is only one prediction that is entirely safe about the upcoming term," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently said, “and that is it will be momentous."

For the majority of last term, the Supreme Court only had eight justices rendering opinions, resulting in a number of split 4-4 decisions. But now that Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch is on the bench – replacing Antonin Scalia – SCOTUS once again has five conservatives and four liberals.

Here are some of the cases to watch:

Gerrymandering - Gill v. Whitford

What’s at stake?

Is partisan gerrymandering - the intentional reorganizing of legislative districts to privilege a single political party – constitutional?

What’s the backstory?

The court has already begun to hear arguments in Gill v. Whitford. Democratic voters in Wisconsin are arguing that certain maps were drawn to benefit Republicans, which they believe is unconstitutional. A lower court ruled that the map "constitutes an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander" because it intentionally “dilutes the voting strength of Democratic voters statewide” and “is not explained by the political geography of Wisconsin nor is it justified by a legitimate state interest.”

Who’s on each side of the v.?

Both sides are looking to swing-voting Justice Anthony Kennedy. In 2004, Kennedy said he’d be open to SCOTUS resolving the issue of redistricting if a "limited and precise" system, based on a “clear, manageable and politically neutral standard,” could be found to determine if partisan gerrymandering had occurred.

Wisconsin democrats claim they’ve found such a system in the "Efficiency Gap." It’s calculated by taking one party’s wasted votes, subtracting the other party’s wasted votes, then dividing that number by all the votes cast in the election. Votes are “wasted” when there are more votes than needed to elect a candidate or when there are too few.

Officials from Wisconsin, who are appealing the lower court decision, argue that under the plaintiff’s standard, one-third of all redistricting plans in the last 45 could be challenged.

In the past, the Supreme Court has set standards that limited the overreliance on race to draw electoral maps. However, as CNN noted, SCOTUS "has never been successful in developing a test concerning the overreliance on politics" in redistricting.

The Fabulous Baker Boys - Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

What’s at stake?

Can a baker refuse to create a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his religious beliefs? Can an artist be forced to paint?

What’s the backstory?

Jack Phillips owns and operates the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. In 2012, Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, arguing it violated his religious beliefs. The couple filed an anti-discrimination complaint with the state, and two lower courts ruled in their favor.

Who’s on each side of the v.?

Phillips’ lawyers argue that their client is an artist, and that baking a wedding cake (or any business based on artistic skill) is a form of free speech. Therefore, requiring a Conservative Christian baker to create a gay wedding cake is tantamount to denying their First Amendment rights. The Trump administration agrees—in briefs filed to the court, acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall wrote, "The government may not enact content-based laws commanding a speaker to engage in protected expression: An artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to play, and a poet cannot be forced to write."

A lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the couple, said in an interview that, "When you look at it, they are saying there is a constitutional right, whether it's rooted in speech or religion, to discriminate. A ruling for the bakery would have implications far beyond LGBT people and would put in jeopardy our longstanding laws against discrimination."

Union Blues - Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31

What’s at stake?

Do labor rules requiring public sector workers to contribute to a union violate First Amendment rights?

What’s the backstory?

Last term, the justices deadlocked on a similar case - Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association – thereby affirming the lower court ruling that public-sector workers have to pay union dues.

Now, Mark Janus, a child support specialist who works for the state of Illinois, is arguing that labor rules forcing him to contribute to a union violate his First Amendment rights. Prairie State law requires that government workers who decide not join unions still "pay their proportionate share of the costs of the collective bargaining process, contract administration and pursuing matters affecting wages, hours and other conditions of employment."


Who’s on each side of the v.?

Janus and his lawyers claim that unions often take political positions, and requiring workers to pay union dues forces people like Janus to support political positions they may disagree with. In a statement, the president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represents Janus, said that SCOTUS agreeing to hear the case means "we are now one step closer to freeing over five million public sector teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other employees from the injustice of being forced to subsidize a union as a condition of working for their own government."

Unions reject the First Amendment argument. As the New York Times explained, unions "are saying that collective bargaining is different from political activity. They said the plaintiffs were seeking to reap the benefits of such bargaining without paying their fair share of the cost." Lee Saunders, the president of the union in the case, said in a statement that “this case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor.”

GPMS - Carpenter v U.S.

What’s at stake?

Do police need a warrant to get location data from a cellphone?

What’s the backstory?

Timothy Carpenter was convicted of robbing various stories in Michigan and Ohio in 2010 and 2011. Using the Stored Communications Act, police were able to obtain Carpenter’s cellphone records which placed him near the locations of the robberies around the time they occurred. Lower courts ruled that Carpenter had no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding his cellphone location.

Who’s on each side of the v.?

Carpenter claims that police violated his Fourth Amendment right against "unreasonable search and seizure" when they accessed his cell’s GPS location.

U.S. law enforcement officers argue that that the Stored Communications Act requires probable cause and a warrant to search a suspect’s cell phone communications—but the act doesn’t require either to obtain a suspect’s cellphone records (like a GPS location).

Tell your reps whether they should pursue legislation related to these cases using the Take Action button.

—Josh Herman

Related Reading

AT&T Petitions SCOTUS To Kill Net Neutrality

From Supreme Court to Food Court: Catering to New Justices

Trump Files Travel Ban Appeal With Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Hear Partisan Gerrymandering Case This Fall

Gorsuch Sworn In, Restoring Top Court's Conservative Tilt and More in Politics Today

(Photo Credit: IvonneW / iStockphoto)

Countable

Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(47)
  • Penny
    10/05/2017
    ···

    It feels somewhat illegitimate since Gorsuch is occupying a stolen seat.

    Like (54)
    Follow
    Share
  • Pego
    10/04/2017
    ···

    This is the menace of a single party nation, that the party in power kill democracy, kill freedoms, kill our protections against their cronies. The Republicans have long enacted and protected unfair elections to claw their way into power over us all without the decency to represent us all.

    Like (46)
    Follow
    Share
  • RadicalModerate
    10/04/2017
    ···

    Here we go folks. Big business and big religion are gonna bend us over. Every thing is going according to plan. When the dust settles and everyone sees how fucked we are. We'll all blame trump. That's why the United Corporations of America appointed him supreme leader. Then the CIA will disappear him like every other patsy ever.

    Like (35)
    Follow
    Share
  • Azrael
    10/04/2017
    ···

    If we lose trust in our courts, we lose our democracy I hope they love the law, our country and our freedoms

    Like (24)
    Follow
    Share
  • Claude
    10/04/2017
    ···

    The courts should make rational, legally based constitutional decisions. However, the reality is they represent Two Political Parties. Both want their own way. The GOP denied Obama his appointment. What does that say about who they replaced him with. He’s compromised already. Shame, But they want us to trust them. No! They must Earn the Trust of the People.

    Like (21)
    Follow
    Share
  • Chips
    10/05/2017
    ···

    Rulings by a Supreme Court that had a seat stolen from a sitting president, absolutely disgraceful, I hope that the Court rules that Gerrymandering is illegal.

    Like (19)
    Follow
    Share
  • Laura
    10/05/2017
    ···

    The SCOTUS is illegitimate since Gorsuch is occupying a stolen seat. Thank you to the GOP for letting the big corporations buying the SCOTUS and for letting the Russians in buying the POTUS. My father didn’t fight in Vietnam to have the Russians remove our Democracy and falsely trust in the Electoral College to give electorates to the fake POTUS due to gerrymandering.

    Like (9)
    Follow
    Share
  • Stephen
    10/05/2017
    ···

    Gerrymandering is destroying our country and does violate the Constitution

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Peggy
    10/05/2017
    ···

    Gerry meandering needs to go.

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Caren
    10/05/2017
    ···

    In regard to religious rights, if persons feel their rights are being violated then the homosexual individuals should respect their rights peacefully and find another business to provide the services they seek. While I think homosexuals have the right to be respected and should not be denied insurance, housing, the right to work, and basic services like heterosexual individuals and should be treated fairly; I also think Christians should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs. The same to be true of any other religion as long as it doesn’t violate individuals their basic rights or cause harm. No one should be forced to do something that conflicts with their morals.

    Like (6)
    Follow
    Share
  • Brian
    10/05/2017
    ···

    Why do we need all these convoluted systems. There needs to be one factor in districting and that is population density. Feed it to a computer along with a map and let the computer mathematically draw the districts to be equal in numbers. This will result in smaller urban districts and larger rural districts that all have the same sway. But each will be true, random, and fair. Yes there will be some that will always be blue or red and others that morph back and forth. But each will be a slice of the demographic uncorrupted by politics. We need to take politics out of districting if what we strive for is the best representative democracy we can achieve.

    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
  • Dave
    10/05/2017
    ···

    People died for the rights to assemble, unions brought you a lot of the benefits you have today. You have lost some because the attack on unions by corporations and the wealthy, which support the right to work, go figure!

    Like (4)
    Follow
    Share
  • Thelaststripper
    10/05/2017
    ···

    Prevent gerrymandering, it threatens democracy and cheats Americans.

    Like (4)
    Follow
    Share
  • Chester
    10/05/2017
    ···

    The Supreme Court is not the ultimate and final decision maker of Constitutionality. It is the job of all three branches of government to interpret the Constitution. Checks and Balances. But most of the time our Congress is too lame to fight a decision made by the Supreme Court, just like Obamacare which the Supreme Court made Law from the bench which is Congress’s job. Obamacare should have been sent back to Congress for Legislation passage!

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
  • Abbi
    10/05/2017
    ···

    Sorry but yes police need a warrant to get your data. Gerrymandering is a threat to democracy, and if you have a store that caters to the public sorry but you have to serve the public. You can be upfront about being uncomfortable making the cake they will have to decide whether or not they are comfortable buying from you cause in the end they found another cake maker but what if there was none? It's like when pharmacies could refuse an order for birth control if they were the only pharmacy that woman was forced to live with their stupid beliefs. Even if she needed it to control ovarian cysts.

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
  • L0u15e.N032L
    10/06/2017
    ···

    Stop being partisan Supreme Court. We need reasonableness and compromises. Keep your religion out as the Constitution dictates. Separation of Church and State.

    Like (1)
    Follow
    Share
  • Tinamarie
    10/05/2017
    ···

    Welp, let's get to work! #united

    Like
    Follow
    Share
  • Loretta
    10/05/2017
    ···

    It's very telling that the only "sin" they are concerned with is homosexuality. Why not divorce? Why not cohabitation? Why not have confessionals outside of shops?.

    Like
    Follow
    Share
  • Vanessa
    10/05/2017
    ···

    We are fortunate our Supreme Court is so Intelligent. They will discuss the law and make the right decisions, (without the influence of party politics and a tweeting reality star.)

    Like
    Follow
    Share
  • Kathy
    10/05/2017
    ···

    Gerrymandering is absolutely illegal and should be done by either Party. But let be real clear the Republican Party knows that the less people vote the better the outcome for them. Gerrymandering is ice on the cake to insure they keep control of Congress. They are so full of BS, they know the don't win on their ideas. We have Citizens United thanks to the Supreme Court. Yet now some of the Justices want to say they shouldn't get into politics. To bad that wasn't what those on the bench in 2000 felted.

    Like
    Follow
    Share