The future of abortion rights is in the hands of a conservative Supreme Court that begins a new term on Monday that also covers major issues of gun rights and religion.
The court’s credibility with the public may also be on the line, especially if a divided court is based in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade’s decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion nationwide.
Justices are returning to the courtroom after an 18-month absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the possible retirement of moderate Justice Stephen Breuer, 83, also looms.
This is the first full term with the court in its current alignment.
Justice Amy Connie Barrett, the last of former President Donald Trump’s three high-court appointments, is part of a six-judge conservative majority. Barrett was nominated and confirmed last year amid the pandemic, a little more than a month after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.
Trump and the Republicans who controlled the Senate moved quickly to fill the seat shortly before the 2020 presidential election, leading to a dramatic change in the court lineup that set the stage for a potentially law-changing word of mouth on several high-profile issues. prepared.
University of Chicago law professor David Strauss said abortion, guns and religion are already on the agenda, and awaiting a challenge to affirmative action, the court will answer an important question next year. “Is this the word in which the culture wars largely return to the Supreme Court?” Strauss said.
Mississippi Abortion Case
There is no bigger issue than abortion.
Justices will hear arguments on December 1 for Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Lower courts blocked the law because it was inconsistent with higher-court rulings that allow states to regulate but do not prohibit abortions before viability, the point at approximately 24 weeks of pregnancy when the fetus is still within gestational age. can survive outside.
Mississippi is taking what conservative commentator Carrie Severino called a “rip-the-band-aid-off” approach, asking the court to drop its support for abortion rights placed in Row and Planned Parenthood in 1992. It was in the case of the father. How.
Mississippi is one of 12 states with so-called trigger laws that would go into effect reversing the cry and banning abortions outright.
By a 5-4 vote in early September, the court has already allowed a ban on most abortions in Texas, although no court has yet ruled on the essence of the law.
But that vote and the Mississippi case highlight a potential risk to the court’s reputation, said David Cole, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. Cole said the arguments made by Mississippi were considered and rejected by the Supreme Court in 1992.
“The only difference between then and now is the identity of the judges,” he said.
Jeff Wall, a top Justice Department attorney under Trump, said the court could rapidly expand gun rights and eliminate the use of race in college admissions, but only to shift public perception of the court from abortion. is likely to. “I still don’t think it’s going to create some groundwell in the public, unless there’s some kind of watershed ruling on abortion,” Wall said.
New York law challenge
In early November, the court will challenge New York’s restrictions on carrying a gun in public, a case that gives the court a chance to expand gun rights under the Second Amendment. Before Barrett joined the court, judges turned down similar cases over the dissatisfaction of some conservative members of the court.
Until Barrett came along, some judges who supported gun rights questioned whether Chief Justice John Roberts would provide a fifth, majority-making vote “for a more detailed reading of the Second Amendment,” the George Washington University law. Professor Robert Cottrell, who said he hoped the court would now expand gun rights.
More than 40 states already make it easier to be armed in public, but New York and California, the nation’s two most populous states, are among the few states with stricter rules.
Gun control advocates are concerned with the case.
“A detailed Second Amendment decision by the Supreme Court could restrict or restrict sensible solutions that have been shown to end gun violence,” said Jonathan Lowy, vice president and lead counsel for gun violence prevention group Brady. Lowy included state laws requiring justification for carrying a gun as an example of such a “sensible solution”.
A case in Maine gives the court another opportunity to weigh religious rights in education. The state excludes religious schools from the education program for families who live in cities that do not have public schools.
Since even before Ginsberg’s death, the court has supported claims of religion-based discrimination and the expectation among legal experts is that parents in Maine who sued religious schools would be able to access taxpayer money. did, although it is not clear how widely the court could rule.
Affirmative action isn’t on the court’s agenda yet, but it could still get the word out in Harvard’s lawsuit over the use of race in college admissions. Lower courts upheld the school’s policy, but that’s another case in which a change in the composition of the court could prove decisive. The court recently upheld the same race-conscious admissions policies as five years ago, but before Trump’s three appointments increased the court’s conservative leanings.
federal death penalty
In other notable cases, judges will consider reinstating the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Biden administration is pushing for the death penalty, even as it has suspended federal executions and President Joe Biden has called for an end to the federal death penalty.
The court will also weigh two cases involving “state secrets”, the idea that the government can block the release of information it claims would harm national security if disclosed. One case involved a Guantanamo Bay detainee who was tortured in CIA custody by a trial court. Another involved a group of Muslim residents of California who alleged that the FBI targeted them for surveillance because of their religion.
Decisions in most large cases won’t come before spring because judges typically spend months drafting and revising majority opinions and disagreements.
Around that time, Breyer may indicate whether he plans to retire from his job since 1994. Retirement announcements often come in the spring, to give the President and Senate enough time to choose and confirm a nominee before returning from court. The cases begin to be heard again during the summer vacation and in October.
Tom Goldstein, founder of the Scottsblog website and frequent attorney before the court, said the consequences of Barack Obama’s stay on court through his presidency and his death during Trump’s stay in the White House cannot be lost on Breuer.
“There is a strong possibility that he will retire from this position,” Goldstein said.
The court is still closed to the public, but live audio of the court’s arguments will be available and journalists who regularly cover the court will be in attendance. The convention-bound court first provided live audio in May 2020, when the court began hearing arguments by telephone during the pandemic.
After testing positive for COVID-19 despite vaccination, Justice Brett Kavanaugh will participate remotely from his home during an oral debate next week. The court said on Friday that the 54-year-old Justice has no symptoms.