5 Supreme Court Decisions to Watch in 2018

Down a justice, the Supreme Court’s power was diminished in 2016, with many cases resulting in a tie and therefore deferring back to the lower court ruling for a winner. Now with a complete roster, the Supreme Court is pushing full steam ahead and early 2018 will bring some monumental rulings.

Some of the cases still need to be heard by the Supreme Court, others were heard in 2017 and are just waiting for the decisions to be announced. Regardless, all five of these cases have the potential to shake the United States to its core.

1. IS GERRYMANDERING UNCONSTITUTIONAL?

Certainly, gerrymandering is destroying fair representation across the country, but does partisan redistricting defy the Constitution? Federal judges have begun to agree that rigged districts go against the notion of one person, one vote, but some of them have balked at the idea of having to determine what constitutes a fair district.

In Gill v. Whitford, retired law professor William Whitford contends that there is a reasonable way to judge whether districts have been gerrymandered. He believes the solution is to give the map three stress tests:

  • What was the intent in making the map?
  • Is there a discriminatory outcome from these boundaries?
  • Are there geographic reasons (rivers, mountains, etc.) for why a district has a weird shape?

No matter which side prevails, the fallout from this case will be monumental. If the Supreme Court agrees that there is a fair way for judges to assess when partisan redistricting has occurred, that’ll give citizens a better way to fight against this unethical practice. If they disagree with Whitford, look for it to be open season on gerrymandering!   

2. CAN THE GOVERNMENT TRACK YOUR LOCATION WITHOUT A WARRANT?

When the Fourth Amendment was written centuries ago, there was no reasonable way for America’s founders to understand how far technology would advance. Nowadays, cell phones keep accurate tabs on their owners’ whereabouts – should the police have access to data of your GPS history without a warrant?

That’s precisely what Carpenter v. United States, what Atlantic calls the “most important electronic-privacy case of the 21st century,” attempts to settle. Americans now hand over a lot of personal information to third party companies, without necessarily realizing the implications. It’ll be up to the justices to decide whether the authorities can access these endless troves of data without due cause.

3. HOW QUICKLY CAN YOU PURGE VOTERS?

The days of disenfranchisement are not over, though voter-blocking tactics have taken different forms. In addition to making it more difficult to register to vote, conservative officials in certain states have tried to kick voters off of voting rolls more quickly than appropriate.

The Husted v A. Philip Randolph Institute case involves a civil rights group suing the state of Ohio for being too aggressive in “tidying up” the voter rolls. In the state, missing just one federal election (which occurs every two years) is enough to trigger the voter removal process. A notice is sent to the address to check whether the voter still lives there, but it’s not entirely clear from the letter that the voter even needs to respond (or vote in a subsequent election) to keep his or her status active.

Lower courts have differed in whether they think it’s appropriate for Ohio to move that quickly on assuming voters have either moved or decided to permanently stop exercising their right to vote. The Supreme Court’s decision on this matter will have an impact not just on Ohio, but how other states handle their voter rolls.

4. CAN A BUSINESS REFUSE TO WORK FOR A GAY WEDDING?

The case you’re most likely to have already heard of in the news is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This issue asks the Supreme Court whether Jack Phillips, the cake shop owner, had the right to refuse to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple because of his strongly held religious beliefs.

The hearings devolved into some weird topics, like whether or not making a fancy cake constitutes free speech in a way a basic cake would not, but don’t let the nuance fool you – depending on how the Supreme Court rules, it could open the floodgates to a number of businesses finding reasons to deny service to LGBT people.

This case will be the first to deal with gay marriage since the Supreme Court legalized it two summers ago. It’ll also be the first time that Neil Gorsuch, who has an anti-LGBT reputation, will get a chance to weigh in.

5. DO ALL UNION DUES HAVE TO BE VOLUNTARY?

Mark Janus works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, but declines to belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union. While he has every right to opt out, the law requires him to still pay an “agency fee” to the union to cover the union’s non-political expenses. Janus doesn’t think that’s fair since the union is inherently political.

The ruling in Janus v. AFSCME will have a big impact on the way unions function. Unions are likely to see a significant amount of their dues dwindle if compulsory pay is tossed out.

A similar case went before the Supreme Court last year, but with just eight justices, it ended in a deadlock. With Gorsuch on the bench, it looks like the conservative judges are prepared to put this issue to bed, and unions are worried that their power will be diminished moving forward.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

47 comments

Janis K
Janis K17 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jim V
Jim V18 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim V
Jim V18 days ago

thanks for sharing

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RONALD Walker
RONALD Walker19 days ago

The big question is Unions. Now for years, there has been nothing but bad news of unions. Most are true! Now Unions have clean up there act. People must understand big business really don't care about there employees. Here what is happening in many companies. Control of the pay of each employee. That equals more money to the companies upper management. In many companies, Upper management makes more money than all the lower employees. Right now Japan and Germany employees make more money than Americans do and has free health Insurance. Both counties have better health care than we do here in America. Can anyone see the problem yet? Just so you know Japan and Germany are all Union!!! Still can't see the problem yet? How about this information, many CEO do not pay much in taxes! If you are making over Million dollars a year and paying more than 5 % in taxes! Fire your accountant! Good news the rich just got another tax cut.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R19 days ago

Thank you for posting.

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Freya H
Freya H19 days ago

1) Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
2) No, no, no, no, NO!
3) It's one thing to remove names of people who have moved or died, but it's another to strip out names in order to dilute votes from groups you don't like.
4) No, no, NO!
5) NO! You want union benefits, you should pony up.

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Margaret G
Margaret G20 days ago

Those who live in a political jurisdiction and benefit from its activities should pay the taxes to fund those activities. For instance, I live in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, USA and use its roads and pay its taxes. Those who benefit from a union's activities should pay their taxes (otherwise known as union dues) to support those activities. .

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Janis K
Janis K21 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Paulo R
Paulo R22 days ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R22 days ago

ty

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