Dreamers, Open Carry and Abortion: How the Supreme Court Could Change America in One Term

Chief Justice John Roberts cleared the court of controversial cases after the contentious confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Now, those cases are going to be heard.

U.S. Supreme Court building

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

The world has been keeping legal correspondents busy lately.

President Donald Trump has been re-shaping the entire American judiciary. Some huge cases are coming before the U.S. Supreme Court. And we’re heading toward an impeachment process that could test not just our legal system — but our entire democracy and its systems of checks and balances.

“We now have what I think is the biggest [Supreme Court] term we’ve ever seen in my career,” says Slate Senior Editor and Legal Correspondent Dahlia Lithwick, who joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson.

Lithwick is in Detroit on Thursday to serve as keynote speaker at the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan’s annual benefit luncheon, “Woman of Vision.”

Click on the player above to hear Slate Legal Correspondent Dahlia Lithwick on the Supreme Court’s current term.

Here are the Supreme Court cases to watch this term

LGBTQ rights in the workplace

Three consolidated cases will test whether the the Civil Rights Act protects people from being discriminated against in the workplace based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The New York Times reports that this is the first major case concerning LGBTQ Americans since justice Anthony Kennedy, a key vote in affirming LGBTQ rights, retired from the court. 

One case deals with employment rights for transgender workers is a Michigan case. Aimee Stephens, the transgender woman from Michigan at the center of that case, joined Detroit Today earlier this month.

Expanding gun rights beyond the home

Lithwick says this case over a now-repealed New York City restriction on the transport of guns outside city limits is “the biggest gun case that the court will hear in a decade.”

The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York, could establish the right to Open Carry, allowing gun owners to display arms in public areas.

Restrictions on abortion providers

Since conservatives took control of the high court last year, there has been much speculation about what that might mean for reproductive rights and Roe v. Wade.

Lithwick says a case the court has agreed to hear out of Louisiana is “without a doubt the biggest abortion case the court will hear for a long time.”

NPR’s Nina Totenberg reports that the Louisiana law at the center of the case “requires any doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.”

A similar Texas law was struck down in a 5 – 4 vote in 2016. At the time, the Supreme Court said the requirement imposed “a substantial burden” on a woman’s right to abortion.

“Louisiana has conceded that its law is virtually identical to the Texas law,” Totenberg writes. “The difference between then and now is that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast the decisive fifth vote in the 2016 Texas case, has retired and been replaced by Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh, who has indicated his willingness to undermine or discard the 2016 decision.”

Legality of deferred action for Dreamers, undocumented persons that were brought here as children

NPR reports that “while public approval for DREAMers is high — around 80% in most public opinion polls — the issues in the case are tricky.

Were the administration willing to concede that President Barack Obama acted legally in enacting the program, the Trump administration could rescind the program as long as it provided a good reason and followed the rules for such a policy reversal. But the administration has hinged its legal position on its contention that Obama acted illegally. And that is a tough sell, given that other administrations of both parties have used deferred action to permit certain large categories of people to remain in the United States.”


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