“I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech, the better. That’s what the First Amendment is all about.”

— Antonin Scalia

“The President and the Congress are all very well in their way. They can say what they think they think, but it rests with the Supreme Court to decide what they have really thought.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

The United States Supreme Court, a justice short since the shocking February death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, started its 2016-17 term this week, overshadowed in the news by a strengthening hurricane and an impending presidential election. Here are some of the cases that you might keep an eye on:

Golden Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections and McCrory v. Harris: Following the 2010 Census, the commonwealth of Virginia and the state of North Carolina redrew their voting districts. Multiple residents have sued the states arguing that the new district lines are drawn in violation of the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition against ‘retrogression’ in racial fairness. The Court is asked to determine how much weight should be given to race and how other factors should be balanced when redrawing lines.

Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools: Parents of a Michigan girl who was born with cerebral palsy wish to sue their local school district under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the ADA has requirements about what plaintiffs have to do before they can sue. The High Court will determine when those requirements apply, whether they are constitutional and whether they apply in all cases.

Jennings v. Rodriguez: The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that if non-citizens who are subject to deportation are held for prolonged periods of time pending adjudication of their immigration status, they are entitled to a bond hearing and should be released if they pose no danger. Several confined persons sued and a federal appeals court required that bond hearings be set if potential deportees were held for more than six months. The Supreme Court will now decide whether that lower court holding was correct and whether a new bond hearing must be held every six months.

Manuel v. Joliet- Elijah Manuel was pulled out of a car in Joliet, Illinois following a traffic stop. He claimed that police officers falsified evidence of drugs which resulted in his arrest. The state of Illinois later dismissed his criminal charges when drug tests were negative. The Court is asked here to determine whether Joliet’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable

search and seizure continues beyond the dismissal of his criminal case and allows him to bring a federal malicious prosecution claim based on the Fourth Amendment.

Moore v. Texas: Bobby Moore was convicted in 1980 of killing a 72 year-old store clerk. His attorneys raised a claim that he had an intellectual disability that would have made him ineligible for the death penalty. That claim was denied, but it was denied using a medical standard that is now outdated and deemed inaccurate. The High Court will determine here whether Moore can be executed by Texas or whether he is entitled to a new review of his death penalty eligibility.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri operates a preschool and day care. The State of Missouri offers a program where organizations can apply for a grant to get recycled tire material to use as the surface of a playground. Trinity applied but their application was denied because the Missouri state constitution prohibits the use of state funds to support religious organizations. Trinity sued claiming that the state constitutional provision violates the federal Constitution’s Due Process Clause as well as the First Amendment protections of freedom of religion. The Supreme Court will decide whether a policy that applies equally to all religions violates the 1st Amendment and, even if it doesn’t, if this policy violates the 14th Amendment.

Visa Inc. v. Osborn: This case seeks to determine whether policies enforced by Visa and MasterCard relating to the regulation of ATM fees violate the Sherman Antitrust Act.

These are only a selection of the cases before the court and other may be added before the term concludes. Because the Court continues to operate with only eight Justices, it is possible that any of these cases could end in a 4-4 tie, which would result in the lower court decision remaining undisturbed. Supreme Court cases are decided through the year, with those argued latest, and those that are most contentious, usually being decided in mid to late June just before the end of the term.


David Hejmanowski is Judge of the Probate/Juvenile Division of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.