Week Ahead at SCOTUS: 2017 Finale

  • United States
  • 12/04/2017
  • Bloomberg Law

The U.S. Supreme Court’s final oral arguments of 2017 are coming up, and the court has saved some of the best for last. With the justices also considering whether to add more potential game-changers to docket, there’s so much to cover. So… let’s get to it.

The Wait is Over: Unlike last term, when the short-handed Supreme Court was seemingly playing it cautious, this term is chock-full (subscription required) of high-profile cases. Perhaps the biggest case of those, Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colo. Civil Rights Commission, will finally be heard on Dec. 5.

In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Christian baker Jack Phillips refused to make a wedding cake for two men, Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that Phillips violated that state’s anti-discrimination laws.

The case is a major clash between the right of gays and lesbians to be free from discrimination and the free religion and speech guarantees of the First Amendment.

The case also pits two conflicting theories of economics against one another: law and economics theory and behavioral economics. Two amicus briefs (out of approximately 100) ask if there’s an economic fix (subscription required) to this delicate battle.

One of the advocates arguing the case, Kristen K. Waggoner, is just one of two women arguing during the entire two-week oral argument sitting. But though women are underrepresented at Supreme Court arguments, two women factor prominently (subscription required) in this blockbuster case.

With sports betting, federal power, and controversial New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Christie v. NCAA has all the elements of a showstopper, too.

The case asks if the federal government can prohibit the Garden State from legalizing gambling related to professional and amateur sports.

The case has united recent foes President Donald Trump and the NFL.

It may even have the power to unite Democrats and Republicans. At heart is the “anti-commandeering doctrine”—which has traditionally been associated with the GOP, but has recently been embraced by , too.
The case will be argued Dec. 4.

Almost lost in the mix is Rubin v. Iran, also set for argument Dec. 4, in which terrorism victims are seeking redress from Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism.
A federal court said the country was liable for a 1997 terrorist attack. The problem: The victims haven’t been able to get any compensation.

Bloomberg Law’s Melissa Stanzione explains what’s in the way of their recovery in this Cases and Controversies podcast.

Game-Changing Grants: The justices met for their sort-of weekly conference Dec. 1, when they consider which cases to hear during the remainder of the term.

The court granted review in Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District SolarCity Corp., asking if orders denying state-action immunity to public entities are immediately appealable, or if those entities must have a trial before they can challenge the denial of immunity.

In addition, there are several fascinating first timers up for conference, including this potential death knell for the death penalty, Hidalgo v. Arizona. We could hear on Monday whether the court will deny review in these cases or give them a coveted slot among the court’s relists for Dec. 8.

The court will also consider a petition about the reach of its recent same-sex marriage cases in Turner v. Pidgeon. The case was brought by two taxpayers who oppose Houston’s decision to provide benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees.

As if sports fans didn’t already have enough to delight about with Christie, the justices’ consideration of whether to toss minor league baseball’s longtime exemption from antitrust laws is sure to be a hit.