The Supreme Court has just begun its new term, with major issues that have reached the court in previous terms back in new cases.
Other cases involve the stalemate in Congress, giving the highest court in the nation a chance to rule on the limits of presidential powers and how much political spending is too much.
The nine justices have started this term by hearing a case that could remove limits on how much the wealthy can give directly to candidates and political parties. The potential geyser of new funding would make any politician weak in the knees. And it would make the moneyed donors who would further cement their power in this country happy. Very happy. Regular folks, not so much.
National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning deals with the president’s ability to bypass the recalcitrant Senate by making recess appointments. Opponents of President Obama’s appointments to the NLRB say the Senate was not in recess at the time.
There are plenty of other tantalizing cases to occupy the court.
Two cases concerning abortion are sure to increase the volume on the volatile issue. One case challenges a Massachusetts law that restricted protests near reproductive health care facilities. The court upheld a similar Colorado law in 2000 in Hill v. Colorado. Thirteen years later, we’ll see if the court tweaks its opinion. The other involves whether states may limit the use of abortion-inducing drugs.
Up for review is another attempt to allow race-based preferences in college admissions, and the legality of town officials opening public meetings with prayer. That case comes from Greece, near Rochester, which since 1999 has opened its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month,” nearly always a Christian. And on technology and privacy, the justices are expected to grapple with cases challenging warrantless police searches of the information on cellphones.
The Supreme Court is already scheduled to hear more than 40 cases, with more to be added. The decisions in some of them will undoubtedly reverberate for years.
One example from last term was the decision to overturn the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. It also most disappointingly undercut a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
The Affordable Care Act got an unexpected boost when the Roberts court upheld most of the president’s signature health care reform law, including a hotly debated requirement that all Americans buy medical insurance. However, the court also ruled that states could opt out of an expansion of Medicaid. Further challenges to Obamacare are in the pipeline, and could reach the court this term.
As usual, expect a lot of 5-4 decisions, a split that seems to mirror the political divide in America these days.