Impact Equality

Here’s What Went Down Before SCOTUS Peaced Out for Summer

What's legal, what's not -- recapping the Supreme Court summer throwdown.

by Kimberly Lawson
Jun 28 2017, 4:00pm

After handing down some final rulings on Monday, the supremes threw up two fingers and said they were out of here for summer break. Many experts say it's been a lackluster term—the New York Times said the high court set "modern record for consensus" because it ran with only eight justices for most of the term. But at least one law professor called SCOTUS the "most functional, branch of government" this year. Damn.

Here are a few of the big things that went down before the justices left the bench.

What happened Monday

In what seems like a pretty intuitive ruling, the Court found that same-sex couples should enjoy the rights of any other couple and have both of their names listed on the birth certificate of their child. Duh.

But in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley, the Court sided with the church (reminder: a Missouri church asked the state for money to pay for playground renovations, and the state denied that request, citing separation of church and state) and decided that churches are eligible for some public funds.

As one professor of First Amendment law put it, "The noble and essential idea of a wall separating church and state is left in disarray, if not shambles."

Looking ahead

October is shaping up to be full of drama for the supremes, as many of the scheduled cases will touch on deeply divisive legal issues. For example, a Colorado baker will finally get his day in court as SCOTUS has agreed to hear arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Civil Rights Commission. The court will decide what carries more weight: a man's religious freedom or a same-sex couple's right to live life free from discrimination.

Two immigration cases have been scheduled to be argued again so that newly robed Justice Neil Gorsuch can really get his hands dirty. One of those cases, Jennings v. Rodriguez, looks at whether a detained immigrant has the right to a bond hearing. Meanwhile, thousands of immigrants sit in detention centers, some of them indefinitely.

Another contentious item is the issue of Trump's Muslim travel ban that supposedly isn't a Muslim travel ban. While the supremes unblocked parts of the second ban (visa applications from Muslim-majority countries Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen will once again be temporarily suspended), they expect to hear arguments that ultimately pit presidential power against religious discrimination. As analysis from the Washington Post points out, these bans were designed to be temporary and should have expired by now anyway.

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And, thank the election gods, the high court has agreed to take a look at (potential) constitutional limits on partisan gerrymandering—you know, when Republicans redraw district lines in their favor.

"This will be the biggest and most important election law case in decades. However the Court rules will affect elections for years to come," Josh Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, told CNN.

What didn't happen

Despite rumors swirling at the proverbial water cooler, Justice Anthony Kennedy maintained his unpredictability (as the often swing vote on an equal court) and did not announce his retirement on Monday. That's not to say it still can't come later this summer: Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to ever rock the robe of a Supreme Court justice, announced she was stepping down in July 2005.

You can follow up on the action here or even take a trip to DC and check it out for yourself.

supreme court
Religious Freedom
free speech
LGBTQ rights
anthony kennedy