The 5 Supreme Court cases all Americans should be watching

Many of the cases landing on the justices’ tables could either expand, or limit, Americans’ rights.
October 2, 2017, 6:00amUpdated on October 2, 2017, 2:35pm

With the addition of Neil Gorsuch to the bench in April, the Supreme Court became one of the most conservative-leaning in modern history.

Starting Monday, the full nine-justice panel will hear dozens of cases for its 2017-2018 term — and the schedule grows every week. Many of the cases landing on the justices’ tables could either expand, or limit, Americans’ rights.

We’re watching these five cases, especially, this term.

Employee contracts

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Oct. 2 for National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., a case that’ll determine whether contracts that prevent employees from filing class-action lawsuits against their employers violate protections in the National Labor Relations Act. Class action suits against employers do happen, even at large organizations, like Google and AT&T.

The decision will also determine the labor disputes of Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis and Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris.

The National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency tasked with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, opened the case after becoming aware of the stipulations in Murphy Oil’s employee contracts.

Originally, the Department of Justice sided with the National Labor Relations Board. But in a rare move, the department — under newly appointed leadership — switched sides over the summer and filed an argument in support of Murphy Oil.

Deportation eligibility

Without Gorsuch on the bench last term, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on Sessions v. Dimaya, an immigration case that will clarify current law regarding who can face deportation.

So the judges ordered reargument for Oct. 2, their first day back.

James Garcia Dimaya — a permanent resident of the United States who immigrated from the Philippines — was convicted of two unarmed residential burglaries. After that, the Department of Homeland Security initiated deportation proceedings against him, arguing that Dimaya’s burglaries violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, which stipulates non-citizens involved in “crimes of violence” can face deportation.

Dimaya, however, appealed his deportation to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — a traditionally liberal panel — which decided the term “crimes of violences” was, in fact, unconstitutionally vague.

Now, the High Court justices will have a chance to weigh in, potentially affecting thousands of deportation cases.

Warrants for cellphone data

Carpenter v. United States will determine whether the government requires a warrant to legally access people’s cellphone location records.

That data from Detroit resident Timothy Ivory Carpenter’s cellphone helped convict him for a series of armed robberies. Carpenter, however, petitioned that the government violated his Fourth Amendment right to a reasonable search and seizure — and should require search warrants before obtaining people’s cellphone location data.

Although Fourth Amendment protections include private conversations, no national legislation defines how and when the government can use people’s location data. So far, those laws exist only at the state level.

A date hasn’t been set for the case yet.

Free speech and discrimination

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission will determine whether the First Amendment’s right to religious freedom protects artists — in this case, bakers — from producing work that conflicts with their beliefs.

When a gay couple asked Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado to bake a cake for their wedding, the owner, Jack Phillips, refused, citing his right to religious freedom. But the state decided he had violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by discriminating against people for their sexual orientation.

So Masterpiece Cakeshop took the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to court; the state shouldn’t be involved “in forcing artists to express ideas that they consider objectionable,” Phillips asserted in written arguments.

While a date hasn’t been set yet, the case was granted a hearing this summer. The High Court, however, previously declined to hear similar cases of discrimination and religious beliefs, like Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock, where a New Mexico photography studio rejected same-sex couples as customers because of religious beliefs.

Trump’s travel ban

Lawsuits across the nation were awaiting a decision in Trump v. Hawaii, which would have determined the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s March 6 executive order that limited travel from six majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

But then Trump issued a third version of the travel ban on Sept. 24 that excluded Sudan but added Chad and the non-majority-Muslim countries, North Korea and Venezuela. That prompted the justices to drop the case’s hearing, previously set for Oct. 10. The parties involved now have to file new arguments, limited to 10 pages, by Oct. 5 about whether the development makes Trump v. Hawaii moot.

Even in that case, organizations have already amended their challenges or filed new ones against Trump’s third attempt, which could make their way to the Supreme Court as well.

Advertisement