USA Today’s Richard Wolf reports from the Supreme Court after the case of Trump v. Hawaii oral arguments were heard before the court. It seems likely but not certain that the court will side with President Trump on the constitutionality of the ban. USA TODAY
WASHINGTON â€“Â It’s crunch time atÂ the Supreme Court.
In the next nine weeks, the justices must decide who can come intoÂ the United States and who can vote. They must define the powerÂ of the government to follow you, inform you and shut you up. They must settle disputes over basic activities of daily life â€”Â who can buy and sell goods in the public square, as well as who must collect and pay taxes.
After seven months in which the court heard 63Â oral arguments, 39 cases â€”Â 62% of the total â€”Â remain unresolved. That includes those featuring the most controversial issues â€”Â immigration, abortion, gay rights, partisan politics, the power of labor unions and the lure ofÂ sports betting, to name a few.
Only 23 cases have been decided, the lowest number at this point in a term since at least 1900, according to an analysis by University of Southern California political scientist Adam Feldman, who operates the blog Empirical SCOTUS.
The biggest case disposed of to date â€”Â concerning the federal government’s effort to obtain emails stored in a Microsoft server overseas â€”Â was rendered moot this month when Congress amended the law governing such electronic information. The three-page verdict, therefore, was not a heavy lift.
Perhaps more than in recent years, the justices seem stumped byÂ some cases â€”Â such as how state legislatures should draw election districts â€”Â and inexplicably stalled by others. The first case argued when the term began on Oct. 2 remains a mystery, even though court watchers expect aÂ winÂ for employers in a labor rights dispute.
There also are a handful of cases in which Justice Anthony Kennedy, as usual, may tip the balance in 5-4 decisions. At 81 and considering retirement, the court’s longest-serving justice may be writing his opinions and dissents with extra care.
Here’s a scorecard on the biggest issues facing the court in the next two months:
â€˘ Immigration: Is Trump’s travel ban against fiveÂ predominantly Muslim countries legal and constitutional? That question has lingered for 15 months as federal courts from Maryland to Hawaii have blocked it on bothÂ grounds. The high court’s conservative majority appears poised to overturn those rulings.
â€˘ Gay rights:Â Can a Colorado baker who specializes in customÂ wedding cakes refuse to create one for a same-sex couple? The court’s decision on Jack Phillips’ free speech and religious rights claims could set rules for other states with anti-discrimination laws.Â
â€˘ Politics: How partisan can state legislatures be when drawing election districts for Congress and statehouses without violating voters’ constitutional rights? The justices heard a Wisconsin case in October and a Maryland case in March, when they appeared baffled by imperfect solutions. They also must rule onÂ election maps in Texas that challengers say discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities.Â
â€˘ Labor rights: Should public employees who choose not to join the labor union representing them have to pay “fair share” fees anyway? An Illinois child support services worker’s challenge to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees could upend a high court precedent that has stood for 40 years.
â€˘ Abortion: Can California requireÂ anti-abortion pregnancy centers to post notices informing clientsÂ about state-funded abortion andÂ contraception services?Â Challengers say the law forces them to promote procedures they oppose;Â the state says the centers often deceive and misinformÂ women.
â€˘ Privacy: Can government officials trackÂ criminal suspects by obtaining months of cellphone location data from service providers without getting a warrant? A series of armed robberies in Michigan led police to obtain 127 daysÂ of theÂ suspect’s cellphone records â€”Â a search most of the justices didn’t seem to like.
â€˘ Sports betting: Can the federal government block states from repealing laws that ban betting on college and professional sports? A 1992 law says so, but New Jersey‘s challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act could act as a springboard to legalized sports betting in other states as well.Â
â€˘ Taxes: Can states require online retailers to collect and remit sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence? South Dakota‘s challenge to Supreme Court precedents dating back 50 years would be a boon for state coffers, but it’s a threat to smaller sellers who would have to navigate state and local sales tax systems.
â€˘ Voting rights: Besides the partisan gerrymandering cases, the justices must decide a challenge to Ohio’s practiceÂ of purging voters from registration rolls based on their failure to answer warning notices. Also awaiting a verdict:Â a MinnesotaÂ law that bans voters from wearing “political” clothing or accessories at polling places.
â€˘Â Free speech: Can police stop someone from speaking at a public meeting if they believe he’s violatingÂ the law? Faced with Florida resident Fane Lozman’s second lawsuit to reach the Supreme Court, the justices appeared to think not.
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