The US Supreme Court is set to have a bumper year in 2015 with four key topics up for consideration. Sam Baker from the National Journal summarizes the cases.
This time, the challengers want the Court to invalidate the law’s premium subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own insurance exchanges. Most states didn’t establish their own exchanges, and more than 80 percent of enrollees are getting subsidies—so a win for the challengers here would likely make insurance unaffordable for about 5 million people and could make insurance markets unstable in most of the country.
Obamacare’s supporters are nervous about this case, King v. Burwell, not only because of its implications, but because of the way the Supreme Court decided to hear it. The justices took up the Obamacare case much earlier than many observers had expected, opting not to wait for a lower-court ruling that likely would have strengthened the Obama administration’s hand.
This case could be defining moment for Obamacare.
Same-sex marriage equality
The Court hasn’t yet said whether it will act on the latest round of appeals in same-sex marriage cases, but just about everyone wants it to. When the justices meet on Jan. 9 for a private conference to decide which cases they want to consider, challenges to several states’ marriage laws will be on the schedule—and even more states have asked the judges to just settle the marriage-equality question once and for all.
The Court had tried to stay away from the issue since its landmark rulings last year that struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and opened the door to same-sex marriage in the states without mandating it.
When a federal Appeals Court upheld same-sex marriage in several states, the justices declined to hear an appeal. But then the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan and Kentucky, as well as state laws in Ohio and Tennessee.
Looks like despite their apparent reluctance SCOTUS will have to get involved to bring some clarity to the law(s).
The Court has already heard oral arguments in a suit filed by an Arkansas inmate who wants to grow a beard, in accordance with his Muslim faith but in violation of prison rules. During oral arguments, the justices reportedly seemed to be siding with the inmate, questioning whether the prison system could ensure inmates’ safety without such strict rules against beards.
The Court has agreed to hear a second, similar case, but hasn’t yet scheduled oral arguments. This one concerns a woman who was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store because the head scarf she wore, as a practicing Muslim, wasn’t consistent with the company’s “Look Policy.” The question in the case is whether a business can discriminate against someone’s religion if it didn’t know that a religious accommodation was needed.
In 2014 SCOTUS heard the Hobby Lobby religious freedom case which was about the contraception mandate in Obamacare. So in 2015 the issue is back with these two cases likely to be fiercely debated.
Freedom of Speech
The first, in which the justices have already heard oral arguments, concerns social-networking sites and asks what type of messages constitute a “threat.” The case concerns a man, Anthony Elonis, who posted violent Facebook messages about an ex-wife, including some that discussed killing her. But the question is whether those messages meet the legal standard for a “threat,” which says that a “reasonable person” must conclude that the person making the statement is actually expressing an intent to commit violence.
This case was covered here at Kiwiblog in a previous post.
The second free-speech case the Court has agreed to hear deals with a Florida law that prohibits judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions—they have to set up a fundraising committee, to avoid situations in which a person wins and becomes a judge, then has to try to remain impartial while deciding a case that involves a major donor. The Roberts Court hasn’t found many campaign finance laws it likes.
Critics fear if SCOTUS rules against the fundraising ban judges independence could be under threat.
Finally, there’s the free-speech issue that never dies: the Confederate flag. Officials in Texas rejected a proposed license-plate design from a group called Sons of Confederate Veterans, which, unsurprisingly, included the Confederate flag.
There have been numerous cases in the US courts before this one so SCOTUS will have to provide a clear answer to the issue.
All four topics have been hot topics in the US recently so whatever the court’s decisions there will no doubt fuel further heated debates.
, US politics