Abortion, Religion, Gun Rights: Top 5 Supreme Court Cases to Follow this Term

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    The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is set to hear several major cases during its 2021-2022 term, which began on Monday.

    The court’s nine justices will decide on a range of cases, which cover polarizing topics like abortion, religion, and gun rights. The court’s rulings in these cases could fundamentally change the way the U.S. constitution is interpreted going forward.

    Here are the cases to look out for within the next several months:

    1. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization 

    Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is arguably the most anticipated case of the entire SCOTUS term because it poses the most significant challenge in decades to the right to abortion created by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

    The case brings into question the constitutionality of Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which would make abortions performed after 15 weeks of pregnancy unlawful. The Court announced in May it will decide “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional” in the United States.

    According to the petition for review filed at the court:

    Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act brings into sharp focus the conflict between this Court’s suggestion that states cannot prohibit pre-viability abortions, Roe v. Wade…and the Court’s repeated admonition that states have legitimate interests “from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the mother and the life of the fetus which may become a child.”

    Oral arguments have been scheduled for December 1. The term continues to the end of June.

    The case is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

    2. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York

    In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York, the Court will decide if the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms extends beyond the walls of a citizen’s home, such that he can carry his gun with him as he goes about his daily activities.

    The case was brought by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and private citizens Brandon Nash and Robert Koch. Nash and Koch were denied a concealed permit based on the “proper cause” requirement, Breitbart News previously reported.

    The defendants are Keith M. Corlett, in his official capacity as superintendent of New York State Police, Richard J. McNally Jr., in his official capacity as Justice of the New York Supreme Court, Third Judicial District, and Licensing Officer for Rensselaer County.

    According to the petition:

    New York prohibits its ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying a handgun outside the home without a license, and it denies licenses to every citizen who fails to convince the state that he or she has “proper cause” to carry a firearm. In District of Columbia v. Heller, this Court held that the Second Amendment protects “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

    The petitioners are ultimately seeking a ruling as to “whether the Second Amendment allows the government to prohibit ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense.”

    The case is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York, No. 19-156 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

    3. Carson v. Makin

    The Supreme Court agreed in July to hear a major case from Maine on whether students can use state aid to attend schools that provide religious or “sectarian” instruction, reviewing a Christian school that has been banned from an education program.

    SCOTUS must decide if the Maine law at issue violates the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The case is the latest installment in an ongoing battle over whether a school being religious bars it from receiving state funds.

    The cert petition filed by First Liberty Institute and the Institute for Justice concluded:

    Whether there is a constitutionally significant difference between discrimination based on “religious status” and discrimination based on “religious use” is a profoundly important question, especially in the context of student-aid programs—programs that operate on the private choice of individuals.

    …States should not be permitted to withhold an otherwise available education benefit simply because a student would make the private and independent choice to use that benefit to procure an education that includes religious instruction.

    The Supreme Court will likely hear the case in December or January and decide the case by June 2022.

    The case is Carson v. Makin, No. 20-1088 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

    4. United States v. Zubaydah

    SCOTUS will decide if an alleged associate of Osama bin Laden can access government information classified as state secrets. 

    Abu Zubaydah was caught after the 9/11 terror attack and detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison. According to the Associated Press, Zubaydah was first captured in Pakistan and kept in a CIA detention facility abroad where he was reportedly tortured.

    Zubaydah and his lawyer “want to question two former CIA contractors about the operation of a secret CIA facility in Poland where they say Zubaydah was held and tortured,” according to the report.

    In 2019, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the two contractors could face limited questioning.

    The U.S. government is arguing that “certain categories of information—including the identities of its foreign intelligence partners and the location of former CIA detention facilities in their countries—could not be declassified without risking undue harm to the national security.”

    The case is United States v. Zubaydah, No. 20-827 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

    5. Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga

    The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on the controversial 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which will be the first of its kind.

    The 1978 FISA allows federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to secretly gather information on persons suspected to be foreign agents engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States. To obtain a FISA surveillance warrant, the Justice Department must present evidence to a secret FISA court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

    The case under review involves three Muslim American men who accused the FBI of illegally using a paid confidential informant to surveil them after the 9/11 attacks. Their case against the FBI was dismissed based on state-secrets grounds then revived by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court will now review the Ninth Court’s ruling.

    Currently, that evidence is kept secret under the state-secrets privilege. However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is arguing that a federal judge must be able to review that evidence to determine if the surveillance was justified. The Supreme Court will decide if the FISA’s Section 1806(f) displaces the state-secrets privilege and authorizes a federal judge to consider the privileged evidence in order to resolve the merits of a lawsuit challenging the lawfulness of the government surveillance.

    The case is Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga, No. 20-828 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

    A few other notable cases this term include:

    SCOTUS will consider whether to reinstate “Boston Bomber” Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence.

    The case is United States v. TsarnaevNo. 20-443 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

    Lower courts originally struck down a law in Kentucky “prohibiting abortions in which an unborn child is dismembered while still alive.” In response, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is challenging the federal courts’ ability to override state law.

    The High Court only agreed to hear the case on the latter procedural question, avoiding the basis of the original case. The Court will decide if a state official can bring a case to the Supreme Court when no other state actors will defend the law in question, according to PBS News Hour.

    The case is Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical CenterNo. 19-5516 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

    The justices will consider whether a school board’s censure of one of its members over his speech violates the First Amendment.

    “The issue may have greater salience at a time when school board meetings have become hotbeds of conflict and strife over issues such as pandemic protocols and teaching about race,” Education Week reported.

    The case is Houston Community College System v. Wilson, No. 20-804 in the Supreme Court of the United States. 

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