The Judicial Decision: Notable Upcoming Supreme Court Cases

The Judicial Decision: Notable Upcoming Supreme Court Cases

The Supreme Court, as the body to uphold our nation’s laws, is constantly turning out decisions on cases that are brought to their court. In the 2017-2018 term, the Supreme Court has a number of important (and widely covered) cases, whose verdicts could have powerful impacts. Let’s take a look at some of these cases and why they are controversial.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

If you’ve watched the news over the last few years, chances are you’ve heard about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. The case concerns whether creative businesses can refuse services based on religious beliefs, according to the First Amendment.

This problem arose when Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple from Colorado, visited the Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 looking for a custom cake for their upcoming wedding celebration. The couple would marry in Massachusetts, as Colorado did not allow for same-sex marriages until 2014. However, owner Jack Phillips refused to make their cake, stating that as a Christian his business would not make cakes for same-sex couples, but they could make other purchases at his store.

Phillips refusal of service to the couple, however, broke Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits businesses from refusing customers service based on characteristics such as race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, et. al. Thus, Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which found that the bakery had wrongfully discriminated against the couple. Despite a review being denied by the Colorado Supreme Court, the case granted certiorari (review by a higher court) by the Supreme Court in 2017.

This case is especially notable due to fight for legislation nationwide supporting same-sex marriages. In June 2015, the Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring same-sex marriage to be constitutional in all 50 states. However, some supporters of the bakery claim that the business was within its right to freedom of religion to refuse service to the couple, so the Court’s final decision is crucial.

Janus v. AFSCME

This case concerns whether it is lawful for labor unions to collect fees from non-union members for collective bargaining.

Mark Janus, a social worker from Illinois, argues that he should not have to pay fees to the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) as a non-member. Janus and supporters further this claim, stating that because unions can use this money to contribute to political campaigns, being forced to do so violates non-members’ rights to free speech, which was a major point in the 2014 case Harris v. Quinn. In that case, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Harris, stating that a fair share provision violated first amendment rights. Janus argues that this decision stands in favor of keeping the AFSCME and other unions from collecting fees from non-members.

This is not the first time collective bargaining has come up in a Supreme Court case. Abood v. Detroit Board of Education upheld a Michigan law concerning requiring fees from non-members, as under collective bargaining, they benefit from agreements made by the union with the employer on behalf of its employees. The court found then that requiring non-members to pay fees does not infringe upon their freedom of association, which was the concern of the teachers who filed the claim.

So why is the decision of this case so monumental? Well, if the Court rules in favor of Janus, it would strike a huge blow on worker’s unions, which have already been losing support and funding in recent years. However, unions are important because they fight for worker’s rights—so where will the court fall? A decision is expected in June.

Trump v. Hawaii

Ah, the frequently challenged travel ban. Trump v. Hawaii questions whether the President’s Executive Order banning travelers from seven countries from entering the United States was constitutional.

On January 27, 2017, Trump issued his first executive order, banning citizens from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) for 90 days from entering the U.S., citing these countries as posing a higher terrorism-related risks. This was immediately challenged, and a temporary restraining order was placed upon the ban.

The Ninth Circuit court then rejected the government’s motion to stay this order before rescinding it to issue another travel ban. Trump then issued his second executive order on March 6th, banning nationals from 6 of the 7 countries for 90 days and refugees from these countries for 120 days, pending standards for adequate screening to prevent terrorists from gaining access to the U.S. A memorandum was then requested, extending the ban until September 24th.

The President then introduced an indefinite proclamation that would restrict citizens from 8 countries (minus Sudan but now including Chad and North Korea) from entering the United States. When the Ninth Circuit once again shot down the proclamation, the Supreme Court granted review.

This case is important not only because it questions if President Trump exceeded his limits of authority, but it also challenges whether these bans were necessary to enforce national security.

The outcome of these cases is yet to be known, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be an interesting year for the Supreme Court.