It’s getting close to the end of the Supreme Court term, and this is when controversial cases start coming out.
Although a few cases were handed down today, they weren’t the ones on my particular radar. The ones of national import, I believe, are:
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (argued December 9, 2015). This case, a challenge to the university’s consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process, is on its second trip to the Court. In 2013, the Court sent the case back to the lower courts for a more critical look at whether the university really needed to consider race to achieve a diverse student body. After the Fifth Circuit once again upheld the policy, the Court agreed to weigh in. Unlike some of the Court’s other high-profile cases this Term, no one expects the Court to deadlock: Justice Elena Kagan is not participating, which in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death leaves the Court with just seven Justices to decide the case.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (argued March 2, 2016). This is a challenge to the constitutionality of two provisions of a Texas law regulating abortion in that state. One provision requires doctors who perform abortions to have privileges to admit patients to a local hospital; the other requires abortion clinics to have facilities that are comparable to outpatient surgical centers. Texas contends that these new laws are constitutional because they were intended to protect women’s health, while the challengers argue that the law was actually intended to close most clinics and therefore limit women’s access to abortions.
United States v. Texas (argued April 18, 2016). This case is a challenge to an Obama administration policy, announced in November 2014, that would allow some undocumented immigrants to apply to stay in the country and work legally for three years. Before the policy could go into effect, Texas and a large group of other states went to court to block its implementation, arguing that the administration lacks the authority to issue a policy like this. But before the Supreme Court can weigh in on that question, it will also have to agree that the states have the legal right, known as “standing,” to challenge the policy at all; the lower courts ruled that they did, because at least Texas would incur additional costs from the undocumented immigrants who would become eligible for driver’s licenses if the policy goes into effect.
So…. basically, affirmative action, abortion, and immigration. Hot topics in an election year.
None of that came down today. In fact, the biggest news out of the Supreme Court this morning may be a case that they refused to take up:
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a Connecticut law banning many semiautomatic rifles. The law, enacted in 2013 in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., made it a crime to sell or possess the firearms, which critics call assault weapons.
The decision not to hear the case, not long after the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., does not set a Supreme Court precedent. But it is part of a trend in which the justices have given at least tacit approval to broad gun-control laws in states and localities that choose to enact them.
The case, Shew v. Malloy, No. 15-1030, was brought by four individuals, a business and two advocacy groups. They said the ban was irrational, ineffective and unconstitutional.
“Connecticut dubs a semiautomatic firearm” with one of several common features “an ‘assault weapon,’ but that is nothing more than an argument advanced by a political slogan in the guise of a definition,” they told the Supreme Court in their petition seeking review.
Last October, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, upheld the ban almost entirely. It acknowledged that the affected weapons were in common use and assumed their possession was protected by the Second Amendment. But the appeals court ruled that the Connecticut law passed constitutional muster.
The law was “specifically targeted to prevent mass shootings like that in Newtown, in which the shooter used a semiautomatic assault weapon,” Judge José A. Cabranes wrote for the court.
“Plaintiffs complain that mass shootings are ‘particularly rare events’ and thus, even if successful, the legislation will have a ‘minimal impact’ on most violent crime.
“That may be so,” Judge Cabranes continued. “But gun‐control legislation ‘need not strike at all evils at the same time’ to be constitutional.”
It has been eight years since the Supreme Court recognized an individual right to keep guns at home for self-defense in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down parts of an exceptionally strict local law. Since then, the justices have said almost nothing about the scope of that right.
So….a victory for gun control.