One of my hobbies is being a US Supreme Court watcher. I understand that for most college students this sounds like watching paint dry… Even in my PS103 classes I do everything I can to hype up the Court, but in the end most students are more familiar with pop culture icons than the Justices on the Court. While I would argue that no one year on the Court is boring, I do believe this term is shaping up to be what CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue calls a “Blockbuster term.” If you don’t believe CNN, how about the Notorious RBG (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) who shared a few weeks ago that this term will “momentous.”
So why all the hype, and why should a college student care?
Do you care about religious freedom, anti-discrimination and public accommodations? If so you will want to pay attention to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that asks does a business that refuses to serve people based on sexual orientation violate anti-discrimination laws or are they allowed to refuse service based on the business owner’s religious beliefs or under the first amendment and forced expression.
Do you care who is in Congress and the laws they pass? So I get that talking about gerrymandering may not make you popular at the next party, but if you want to know what Congress will look like for the next 20 years, the case Gill v. Whitford, matters. This case asks how much politics can play in setting up congressional districts. This decision will shape elections for many years to come, and this is the case I am watching as it has the potential to change Congress in the way it has not changed in recent memory.
Do you support/not-support unions/organized labor? Perhaps a case that some of you or your parents/guardians are paying attention to is Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. This case will have a major impact on unions/organized labor around the nation. The question being asked is can people be required pay into a union, often called “agency fee” as a condition of their employment. These fees are required because the employee is covered by the labor agreement the union negotiates even if they are not a full paying member of the union. This case is addresses the common “right to work” issue that many States have proposed/passed legislation on.
Do you think the issue of privacy and how you can be tracked is important? So if privacy or the rights of criminally accused and law enforcement are your thing, perhaps you should to pay attention to Carpenter v. United States. This case centers on whether police can access cell phone location information without a warrant. This case has implications for privacy and the ability of third parties, like your cell phone provider, to share information without your knowledge or without a police warrant.
These are just a couple, there are are also cases like the Travel Ban and many others that only serve to affirm Justice Ginsburg’s claim that this will be a momentous term!