Supreme Court Kicks Off Second Half of 2019-2020 Term
The Supreme Court is back in session, with the justices returning from their winter break on January 10, 2020. As the Court enters the second half of the 2019-2020 term, it will hear oral arguments in some of its most closely-watched cases.
Below are the top cases to watch for the remainder of the term:
Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue
The biggest religious case of the term involves whether states can be forced to use taxpayer funds to support religious schools. In 2015, the Montana Legislature enacted a tax-credit scholarship program that provides a tax credit—up to $150 annually—to individuals and businesses who donate to private, nonprofit scholarship organizations. Those organizations then use the donations to give scholarships to families who wish to send their children to private school.Shortly after the program was enacted, the Montana Department of Revenue enacted an administrative rule that prohibited scholarship recipients from using their scholarships at religious schools.
Parents of students who attend a private religious school sued Montana officials over the rule. While the trial court sided with the parents, theMontana Supreme Court reversed, strikingdown the entire tax-credit scholarship program.It held that the program’s inclusion of religious options “violates Montana’s constitutional guarantee to all Montanans that their government will not use state funds to aid religious schools.”The justices have agreed to consider the following question: “Whether it violates the religion clauses or the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution to invalidate a generally available and religiously neutral student-aid program simply because the program affords students the choice of attending religious schools.”
June Medical Services v. Gee
The abortion case is the first to be considered by the Roberts Court since Justice Anthony Kennedy retired and the conservative block gained the majority. The case challenged the constitutionality of a Louisiana abortion lawrequiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.While a district court struck downthe abortion law, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals distinguished the facts of the casefromWhole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S. Ct. 2292 (2016). In that case, the Court struck down a similar Texas law as unconstitutional because it imposed an undue burden on women seeking abortions.According totheFifth Circuit, the law passes constitutional scrutiny because it does not “impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women” in the state.
The justices have agreed to consider the following questions: “(1) Whether abortion providers can be presumed to have third-party standing to challenge health and safety regulations on behalf of their patients absent a “close” relationship with their patients and a “hindrance” to their patients’ ability to sure on their own behalf; and (2) whether objections to prudential standing are waivable – per the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th and Federal Circuits – or non-waivable per the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the D.C., 2nd, and 6th Circuits.”
Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP and Trump v. Vance
Whether it wants to or not, the Supreme Court will enter the political fray when it determines whether President Donald Trump should be forced to disclose certain financial records. In Trump v. Vance, President Trump is challenging a subpoena issued byDistrict Attorney of New York County Cyrus Vance to Mazars USA LLP, the President’s long-time accounting firm.In refusing to issue an injunction, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heldthatthe President was unlikely to succeed on the merits of his immunity claim. “After reviewing historical and legal precedent, we conclude only that presidential immunity does not bar the enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena directing a third party to produce non‐privileged material, even when the subject matter under investigation pertains to the President,” the Second Circuit held. On appeal, the justices will address the following question: “Whether a grand-jury subpoena served on a custodian of the president’s personal records, demanding production of nearly 10 years’ worth of the president’s financial papers and his tax returns, violates Article II and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.”
The consolidated cases of Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP and Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG involve Congressional subpoenas for the President’s financial records. The Congressional committees issuing the subpoenas maintain that the documents will inform its investigation into whether Congress should amend or supplement current ethics-in-government laws.However, President Trump argues that the subpoenas fail to serve a legitimate legislative purpose as required under Supreme Court precedent. The Court will decide the following: “Whether the Committee on Financial Services and the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives have the constitutional and statutory authority to issue a subpoena to creditors for President Donald Trump and several of his business entities demanding private financial records belonging to the president.”
Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The case involves the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) structure. The specific question before the justices is whether the vesting of substantial executive authority in the CFPB, an independent agency led by a single director, violates the separation of powers. The Ninth Circuit found that the structure of the CFPB did not violate the separation of powers, concluding that theSupreme Court’s separation-of-powers decisions, in particularHumphrey’s Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602 (1935), andMorrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988),must lead ittofindthat the CFPB’s structure is constitutionally permissible. The Supreme Court agreed to settle the matter. In addition to deciding whether the structure of the CFPB violates the separation of powers, the justices also directed the parties tobrief and argue the following question:“If the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is found unconstitutional on the basis of the separation of powers, can 12 U.S.C. §5491(c)(3) be severed from the Dodd-Frank Act?”
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- Establishment ClauseFree Exercise Clause
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Preamble to the Bill of Rights
Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.