A full-strength Supreme Court will take the bench Monday for what could be the most consequential term in decades, as the ideologically split justices consider cases as diverse as religious liberty, immigration, cell phone privacy, voting rights and possibly the legality of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban.
“There is only one prediction that is entirely safe about the upcoming term, and that is it will be momentous,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said at an event at Georgetown Law recently.
The justices spent most of last term with only eight members rendering narrow opinions — at times — in an attempt to ward off 4-4 splits.
But that’s all over now.
Justice Neil Gorsuch has settled into his new role as a staunch conservative, filling the role previously held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
That means there are five conservatives and four liberals on the bench, with Justice Anthony Kennedy resuming his post as the swing vote from the conservative- to liberal-leaning side. Sources say he has been seriously considering retiring, and liberals fear that their last remaining chance at a win on issues — like LGBT rights — might rest with him.
Here are the big issues this year:
Leading the docket, until recently, was a challenge to Trump’s signature policy: the travel ban. The justices were scheduled next week to hear oral arguments and decide whether the President was legally justified when he temporarily blocked travel from several Muslim-majority countries, citing national security concerns.
Challengers argue that the executive order violates the the Constitution. They say the President was motivated in part by religious animus and point to some of the things Trump said during the campaign calling for a Muslim ban.
“The President has claimed limitless authority to exclude any alien he wishes,” Neal Katyal, the lead lawyer for Hawaii, wrote. “This court has the power and the duty to police these excesses.”
But the administration says the White House has the authority to act to restrict immigration.
“The Constitution and Acts of Congress confer on the President broad authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens outside the United States, when he deems it in the Nation’s interest,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall wrote in court papers.
Late last spring the justices allowed part of the travel ban to go into effect, pending appeal, for foreign nationals who “lack any bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States.” They were scheduled to hear oral arguments October 10 — but that’s now been postponed.
The twist: Last month, the President replaced a major provision of his controversial March executive order with new restrictions that have yet to go before any court.
Now, the justices must decide whether they should hear the challenge, or send the case back down to the lower courts to take a fresh look.
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SOURCE: CNN, Ariane de Vogue