With the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch the U.S. Supreme Court is back to full strength for the first time in over a year and is ready to make some much-anticipated decisions when it reconvenes in October.
Though there were a few important decisions during this session, the blockbuster issues that are sure to make a name for this court will have to wait till after the summer. Headlining those are a ruling on the right of a Colorado cake shop owner to decline to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding due to religious beliefs and President Trump’s hotly debated travel ban on six Muslim majority countries.
The Spring session of the Court set the tone for what might be to come in the Fall. In a sharply contentious 7-2 opinion the court ruled that Missouri could not exclude religious groups from secular public grant programs solely due to their religious status.
Speaker Paul Ryan (Rep – WI) and other Republican lawmakers praised the decision while dissenting justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said the ruling is contrary to the nation’s historical commitment to the separation of church and state.
“The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church,” Sotomayor wrote in the dissent that she delivered from the bench.
While the court did allow portions of the President’s ban on visas to terrorist supporting countries, three of the justices said they would have allowed complete bans take effect.
Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and recent appointee Gorsuch said the Whitehouse has shown it is likely to succeed on the merits of the case and that irreparable harm could be the result of failing to uphold Trump’s executive order.
In a rare appearance, Justice Thomas said the government’s interest in preserving national security outweighs any hardship to people denied entry into the country.
Another immigration case that will be heard in the Fall is whether immigrants can be detained for months or years during removal proceedings. Most Democrats argue such “visitors” should be entitled to a hearing to ask a judge for release. That decision would have a wide-ranging effect on Trump’s ability to get tough on immigration enforcement.
The justices have already decided to hear arguments about the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, or maps that benefit one political party to the detriment of another. The case takes on a longstanding question that could change the way states draw congressional and legislative districts.
Other issues on the docket include:
- A major privacy rights case about whether police must obtain a warrant to confiscate historical cellphone records to track someone’s movements and location.
- Whether Congress can make it illegal for states to pass laws allowing sports gambling.
- Whether victims of terrorism can enforce a $72 million judgment against Iran via artifacts that the country owns.
One glaring omission from court deliberations will be a case concerning concealed carry rights in the state of California. The Supreme Court declined Monday to take up a gun rights case that challenged restrictions on concealed carry and earned a stinging rebuke from Justice Clarence Thomas.
The high court let stand a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a California law that requires a gun owner to show “good cause” in order to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public. The California law leaves it to local authorities like police chiefs and sheriffs to determine what “good cause” is.
Again vocal, Justice Clarence Thomas let no doubt how he felt about that decision when he wrote:
“The Court’s decision to deny certiorari in this case reflects a distressing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right … For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous … the Framers made a clear choice: they reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense.”
After Democrats did everything they could to prevent a vote on Neil Gorsuch, the court appears poised to give those who voted for Trump what they hoped for – a reversal of the liberal slide of the nation’s highest court.
~ American Liberty Report