Significant cases on the Supreme Court’s agenda
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court term that, by law, begins on the first Monday in October includes several high-profile cases dealing with controversial social issues that have the potential to affect millions of Americans. The justices probably will not hear the dispute over President Donald Trump’s travel ban, originally scheduled for October, now that he has issued a new policy that has yet to be examined by lower courts.
A look at some of the biggest cases the Supreme Court will hear in the new term (argument dates are in parentheses):
Wedding cake for same sex couple (unscheduled): The case stems from a Colorado baker’s religious objections to making a cake for a recently married same-sex couple. At issue is the baker’s claim that he should not be forced to produce a message with which he disagrees and the Colorado law that bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Trump administration is backing the baker.
Partisan redistricting (Tuesday): The legal fight over redistricting in Wisconsin has the potential reshape American politics. The justices could, for the first time, impose limits on drawing political maps for partisan advantage. Democratic voters sued over redistricting plans that entrenched Republicans’ hold on state government in a state that is otherwise closely divided between the parties.
Employee rights (Monday): The term’s first case pits employers against their workers. To be decided is whether businesses can enforce part of a contract with their employees that prohibits workers from taking complaints about pay, working conditions and other issues to court, and also forces them to engage in individual arbitration, rather than a group effort. Workers say the provision contained in millions of contracts violates federal labor laws. Employers argue that the federal law encouraging arbitration trumps the labor laws. The administration is supporting the employers, reversing the position taken by the Obama administration.
Sports betting (unscheduled): Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., is appealing court rulings that effectively prevent the state from making it legal to bet on pro and college sports games at casinos and racetracks. Christie, whose term expires at the end of the year, almost certainly will be out of office when the case is decided, but it could lead several states to seek a share of the estimated $150 billion that is bet illegally on sports each year. The NCAA and the major professional sports leagues oppose Christie’s effort.
Cell tower site records (unscheduled): In a case about privacy in the digital age, a Michigan man who was convicted in a string of robberies of stores selling cellphones and other equipment says the police should not have been able to obtain months’ worth of records of his cellphone use without first getting a search warrant. The records helped place him in the proximity of the stores when they were robbed. The decision is likely to affect the privacy rules for a raft of digital data held by large institutions, including banks, telephone companies and internet providers.
Ohio voter purge (Nov. 8): Ohio is asking the court to OK a procedure for culling the state’s voter rolls that begins by identifying registered voters who have not cast a ballot in the past two years. A lower court found that the practice was barred by a federal voter registration law. Civil rights groups portray Ohio’s effort as part of a Republican push to restrict voting. This is another case in which the Justice Department, which had backed the civil rights groups, has switched sides since Trump became president.
Union fees (unscheduled): The court could deal a blow to Democratic-leaning unions that represent government workers and overturn a 40-year-old precedent. The justices will take up an appeal from a government worker in Illinois who objects to paying fees to the union that represents government workers to help pay for contract negotiations and other nonpolitical union tasks. The same issue was before the court last year and the unions seemed headed for defeat when Justice Antonin Scalia died. The court split 4-to-4. New Justice Neil Gorsuch could be the fifth vote the anti-union side needs to win.