From Gerrymandering to Gay Rights, Supreme Court Faces ‘Blockbuster’ Term

“Blockbuster” and “epic” are the words being used to describe the cases on the U.S. Supreme Court docket this term.

We discuss key cases before the court with Michael Scodro, partner at Mayer Brown and formerly the Illinois solicitor general and a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor; and Travis Lenkner, managing director at Burford Capital and previously a clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Below, some of the most notable cases the court has to consider.

Gill v. Whitford

This case questions the constitutionality of gerrymandering in Wisconsin and, by extension, every state in the union. Oral arguments in this case were heard on Tuesday. The case centers on political maps drawn in Wisconsin after the 2010 census. Despite getting less than half the statewide vote in the 2012 elections, under the redrawn maps, Republicans won 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin assembly. In 2014, Republicans won 52 percent of the votes but 63 seats.

Challengers argue that the new maps amounted to unconstitutional and partisan gerrymandering.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

A Colorado baker refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple because he said to do so would go against his Christian faith and violate his right to free speech. On one side of the issue are Christians who argue that the government shouldn’t force them to violate the teachings of their faith, while lawyers representing gay and lesbian couples argue that they are entitled to equal treatment from businesses that serve the public.

Janus v. AFSCME

The Supreme Court announced on Sept. 28 that it would take this case but is not expected to hear oral arguments until early next year. The plaintiff is Mark Janus, an employee at the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represents Janus along with 35,000 other state employees in Illinois. Janus argues that he should not have pay so called “fair-share fees” to the union since, in his words, “The union voice is not my voice. The union’s fight is not my fight.”

The union maintains that Janus and other state employees they represent should have to pay fair-share fees because they benefit from contracts the union negotiates.


Related stories:

US Supreme Court to Take on Union Fees Case Janus v AFSCME

Sept. 28: An Illinois case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it could have huge ramifications for public unions.


Supreme Court Hands President Trump a Partial Victory

June 26: The Supreme Court has given President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban a split decision. Analysis of that and other big decisions at the court.


Supreme Court Crunch Time

May 30: A look at the cases to watch as U.S. Supreme Court decisions start rolling in.