A “Momentous” Supreme Court Term

The United States Supreme Court was back in action on Monday, October 2, 2017, and is now moving into what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says is going to be a “momentous” upcoming term. This will be the first full term for Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who replaced Justice Scalia, providing an extended look at his jurisprudence. The upcoming term also promises to showcase cases touching several hot button issues. Here is a quick overview of some of the notable cases coming before the Supreme Court.1

Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161, which is being argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, could have important impacts in how elections are conducted. In this case, the Supreme Court is being asked to rule that extreme political gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has never struck down a voting map on the ground that politics overly impacted how it was drawn, but Justice Kennedy has expressed uneasiness about this issue in the past. The decision in this case has the potential to not only reshape voting maps, but in so doing, shift the political landscape.

The Supreme Court will also hear Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111. This high-profile case involves a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, stating it violated his faith and right to free speech. Justice Kennedy could be the deciding vote in this case, which will likely split the Supreme Court on ideological grounds.

The Fourth Amendment, reasonable expectations of privacy, and cellphone data come to the forefront in Carpenter v. United States, No. 16-402. In this case, the Supreme Court is being asked to determine whether a warrant is required to obtain location data transmitted by a cellphone and held by the cellphone company. Mr. Carpenter is arguing that the failure to obtain a warrant for the information violates the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Supreme Court has a full slate of cases set for its new term. Cases such as Masterpiece Cakeshop and Carpenter, have yet to be set for argument. However, the Supreme Court’s docket, opinions, transcripts of oral arguments and other information can be found on the Supreme Court’s website at https://www.supremecourt.gov. For more coverage of the Supreme Court and the cases before it see SCOTUSblog at http://www.scotusblog.com.


 The overview in this blog post summarizes many of the points made in the following articles: “Back at Full Strength, Supreme Court Faces a Momentous Term” by Adam Liptak, New York Times dated October 1, 2017 accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/01/us/politics/supreme-court-term-2017.html; and “Supreme Court to Open a Whirlwind Term” by Nina Totenberg, NPR dated October 1, 2017 accessed at https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/10/02/npr-supreme-court-to-open-a-whirlwind-term .

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