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Supreme Court Set to Announce Significant Decisions After Memorial Day, With Our Predictions

As is customary, the Supreme Court will hand down many of its most consequential rulings after Memorial Day and there are some high profile decisions coming in the next few weeks. Here are three of them.

Religious Liberty vs. Same-sex Discrimination: One of the most contentious cases this term is Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Religious conservatives view this case as a harbinger of religion's place in a nation which is becoming more secular. The case began when Colorado cake shop owner Jack C. Phillips refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, contending that it violated his religious beliefs. The couple argue that Phillips's discrimination violated a Colorado law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation [businesses open to the public]. The Court will decide if the Colorado law violates the free speech or free exercise clauses of the First Amendment.

Prediction: A religious-based right to discriminate will triumph over the rights of the same-sex couple. But, it will likely be a temporary victory and a decade from now Masterpiece Cakeshop will be overturned.

Partisan Political Gerrymandering; The cases with the most far-reaching consequences this term involve political gerrymandering, the practice of creating election districts to give an advantage to the majority party in the state. The Court heard two partisan gerrymandering cases: Gill v. Whitford, which considers whether Wisconsin’s districts were drawn to unfairly benefit Republicans, and Benisek v. Lamone, which involves Maryland’s congressional map to determine whether it unfairly assists Democrats.

The Supreme Court has been hesitant to interfere with political gerrymandering in the past because there was no appropriate test to determine whether such gerrymandering was in violation of the Constitution. In other words, how much partisanship is too much? Several conservatives on the Court will also contend that it's simply not appropriate for the Court to interfere in such a political matter and that changes should come from the state legislatures.

Prediction: The fact that the Court is considering two cases; one which would help Democrats and one which would assist Republicans, may give away the result here. I think Justice Kennedy, maybe joined by Roberts, will swing the Court to curtail partisan gerrymandering and outline a test to be employed by the Federal District Courts in evaluating voting districts.

Trump's Travel Ban: The case, Trump v. Hawaii, involves Trump’s travel ban, announced in September 2017, in which the President restricted travel from predominantly Muslim countries, Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. Several lower federal courts struck down the restrictions because they appeared to be based on the religion of the travelers.

Prediction: The Court will approve the travel ban as within the President's constitutional powers, but expect some vehement dissents and maybe even some negative comments about the underlying rationale for the ban within the majority opinion.


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