Can the federal government and a state government prosecute an individual for the same crime? Does a cross that is part of a war memorial unconstitutionally endorse Christianity? Does the excessive fines clause in the United States Constitution’s Eighth Amendment apply to the 50 states?
The Supreme Court of the United States has decided to hear cases that could spur its nine judges, including new justice Brett Kavanaugh, to answer the above questions during its 2018-2019 session. Typically, SCOTUS, the acronym that many observers use to refer to the nation’s highest court, hears cases early in its sessions, which begins in October, and announces its decisions publicly near the end of its sessions in late June.
In the next few weeks, SCOTUS will also make decisions on whether to hear other important cases during the 2018-2019 session. One possible case pits Medicaid recipients who want Planned Parenthood to provide their non-abortion medical services against states that oppose Planned Parenthood because of their outrage over allegations that the controversial abortions provider sold organs of aborted babies. Another possible case is about whether gays are protected from discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Most importantly for President Donald Trump’s fans and foes, SCOTUS could decide a wide range of questions by late June, 2019, about Trump’s presidential authority. The questions include:
* How much power does the executive branch have to formulate immigration policy?
* Can the Trump administration ban transgenders from the military?
* Does Trump have to comply with subpoenas issued by special prosecutor Robert Mueller?
* What is the extent of Trump’s constitutional power to pardon people?
Many SCOTUS observers say they believe that the current court could be more conservative and more pro-Trump than the previous court because Kavanaugh, a conservative, has replaced Anthony Kennedy, a moderate who was often the swing vote in 5-4 decisions. Ironically, Kavanaugh was a clerk for Kennedy during the 1993-’94 session. Trump’s other Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, also clerked for Kennedy during the 1993-’94 session.
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told The Washington Times that SCOTUS’ schedule for the early part of its session “seems almost tailored for Kavanaugh to have a significant impact early.”
“This docket is like having a left-handed pitcher throw to a righty batter,” Turley said. “it is maximizing the likelihood that Kavanaugh’s vote will be determinative.”
Turley specifically pointed to the Nielsen vs Preap case, which is about whether the Department of Homeland Security headed by Kirstjen Nielsen can detain an illegal immigrant who has been convicted of a crime without a bond hearing during the deportation process. Kavanaugh argued during SCOTUS’ hearing that immigrants can be detained for any amount of time. The five conservative judges all indicated they supported the Trump Administration’s case.
The Double Jeopardy Case:
SCOTUS ruled in 1959 that the U.S. government and a state government are separate entities so the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause doesn’t apply if they charge someone with the same crime. In the Gamble vs. United States case, Terance Gamble is challenging the USA charging him with possessing firearms because Alabama charged him for the same crime.
This case could be VERY important to Trump because he can only pardon people for federal crimes and his pardon authority would be limited if a state can charge Paul Manafort and others with crimes that they were pardoned for.
The Establishment Clause Case:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is a crucial part of the First Amendment, but many legal scholars believe that many courts have gone too far in prohibiting expressions of religious beliefs.
In The American Legion vs. American Humanist Association case, the Fourth Circuit Court ruled that Maryland endorsed Christianity by owning and maintaining a war memorial that includes a 40-foot cross. The Peace Cross memorial has been displayed in Bladensburg, Md., since 1925 to honor soldiers from the town who were killed during World War I.
The Excessive Fines Case:
The Bill of Rights has been applied to prevent states from violating Americans’ rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the Eighth Amendment’s protections against excessive bail as well as cruel and unusual punishment. SCOTUS, though, has never ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s protections against excessive fines apply to states.
In Timbs vs. Indiana, the court will look at the case of Tyson Timbs, who argues that Indiana seizing the car he was driving when he was arrested for selling heroin was an excessive fine.
The Planned Parenthood Case:
Medicaid recipients can receive services from the medical care provider they choose unless the provider is unfit. Arkansas, Kansas, and Louisiana decided Planned Parenthood was unfit when they canceled contracts with the group. One appeals court ruled that Arkansas Medicaid recipients don’t have the right to Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services. Two other appeals courts ruled that Kansas and Louisiana residents have that right. SCOTUS has delayed deciding on whether to hear the Andersen vs. Planned Parenthood of Kansas case several times.
The Gay Rights Case:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employment discrimination “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” The Heritage Foundation points out in “Overview of the Supreme Court’s 2018-2019 Term” that no federal appeals court ruled that gays were covered by the 1964 law until the Second Circuit Court ruled in 2017 that discriminating against gays was the same as discriminating on the basis of sex. SCOTUS is scheduled to decide whether to hear the Altitude Express Inc. vs. Zarda case during the current session.
All of the above cases are important, but the Trump Administration wants SCOTUS to rule on other issues that are not on the docket. On Nov. 23, it asked SCOTUS to listen to arguments for banning most transgender people from serving in the military. District courts have blocked Trump’s 2017 policy and the president wants SCOTUS to hear appeals of their decisions before the appeals courts do so the matter can be decided ASAP.
The Trump Administration asked SCOTUS on Nov. 5 to rule on whether it can end President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is better known as the Dreamers program. Under the program, about 700,000 children of undocumented immigrants remained in the U.S. if they came here by 2007 and they were 15 years old or younger when they came here.
Trump tried to end the program in 2017, but federal courts have blocked him. His administration asked SCOTUS to hear the case before the appeals courts do. Some legal experts expect SCOTUS to rule on the issue this session before or after the appeals courts make their decisions.
“The most contentious matter the justices are likely to confront this term is whether Mr Trump acted legally when, a year ago, he rescinded DACA, Mr Obama’s executive action of 2012 shielding undocumented immigrants who arrived in America as children,” concluded The Economist in “What to look for in the Supreme Court’s 2018-2019 term.”