Keeping Up with the Court: A Mid-Term Roundup

February 26, 2016Tracy Wolf

The Supreme Court is in a bit of pre-June term height, having heard numerous important cases with many more to go, handing down some decisions, and continuing to prepare the docket for the rest of this term and the beginning of the next. There are a few cases in particular that we are following because they could significant impact our own social justice priorities: racial justice, reproductive rights, religious freedom and labor rights. To get caught up, here is a roundup of the cases we’re following this Supreme Court term:

  • The Contraceptive Coverage Requirement for Religious Non-Profits: Zubik v. Burwell, a follow up to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores (2014), focuses on whether the Affordable Care Act accommodation for religious non-profits to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
  • Access to Abortion Services: In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court will rule on whether a law in Texas aimed at closing abortion providers is unconstitutional.
  • One Person, One Vote: The case Evenwel v. Abott is focused on the redistricting process in Texas, and whether the Texas government violated the principle of “one person, one vote” when it drew district lines for the state legislature based on total population.
  • Unions and Worker Rights: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is a case that challenges the constitutionality of “fair-share” fees levied on members of public sector unions.
  • American Indian Tribal Sovereignty: Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians over whether or not an American Indian tribe has jurisdiction over civil claims brought against non-Indians.
  • Affirmative Action: The question at hand in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin is whether the use of race as one of a number of factors in the University’s holistic admissions evaluation process is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
  • DAPA and DACA: Immigration: This case questions the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs, which would up to five million undocumented immigrants, created by executive order.
  • Temporarily Halting the Clean Power Plan: The Supreme Court decided to temporarily halt the implementation of the Clean Power Plan pending further review.
  • Juvenile Justice and Life without Parole: The Supreme Court issued a very important ruling in the case Montgomery v. Louisiana, concerning the constitutionality of a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility for parole for juvenile offenders.

In addition to being in the midst of the term, the recent news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing shocked the nation. To learn more about what this means for upcoming cases and the court as a whole, read our blog post and this article from the New York Times.

Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of fair and impartial courts. In Exodus 18:21, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, advises him to choose capable, trustworthy and law abiding members of society as judges. Elsewhere we are taught of the ethical obligation to oppose unjust persons and unfair judgments; judges should neither “favor the poor nor show deference to the rich” (Leviticus 19:15). This idea is just as important today as our courts have jurisdiction on many aspects of our society. Educating ourselves about our judicial branch of government is one way to ensure that our courts function fairly.

To learn more about different Supreme Court Cases, visit the SCOTUSblog website. To learn more about judicial issues, visit our issue page.

Related Posts