Supreme Court kicks Christian baker case back down; most divisive decisions remain pending

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The U.S. Supreme Court Building … Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This morning, court watchers were left to wait a bit longer for some of the most politically charged decisions to be made by the U.S. Supreme Court in years. Today’s list of court orders were lacking the session’s most anticipated rulings, but there are only two weeks left in the session, so it won’t be long now.

As the Supreme Court session approaches its summer recess two weeks from now, many opinions are yet to be announced, including decisions on …

  • Census citizenship question
  • Political and racial gerrymandering
  • Separation of church and state
  • Race, murder and jury selection
  • Native American rights
  • Patents for dirty words

As is often the case, some of the pending Supreme Court decisions could have significant ripple effect. For instance, the importance of the pending census citizenship ruling may determine a reapportionment of a few House seats among the 50 states. Some experts have said that California, Florida, Arizona, and Texas might stand to lose a seat in Congress if the citizenship question is permitted on the census. According to FiveThirtyEight, depending upon specific scenarios, Montana stands to gain one seat, while Ohio, Minnesota and Alabama are also potential winners.

As for what decisions were announced today, the Supreme Court, in an unsigned order, sent back to the Court of Appeals in Oregon a case about a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The appeals court had granted a $135,000 award against the bakery. The order indicated the lower court should reconsider its decision given the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in favor of a Colorado baker in a similar case.

The court also declined to overturn the “dual sovereignty” doctrine that allows states and the federal government to separately prosecute people for the same crime.

Court watchers have been particularly interested to see how the new conservative majority would rule on not only current cases, but to try to discern how the new make-up of the bench signals how they might rule on issues the justices could take on in the future.

For this session, Justice Brett Kavanaugh succeeded retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, presumably giving conservatives a 5-4 majority on the bench.

Chief Justice John Roberts began this session in the fall of 2018 seeking to send the message that the court does not “serve one party or the other.” In fact, it is expected that Roberts himself could assume the nebulous role of “swing vote” on the court, as perhaps the most centrist among the justices.

Earlier this month, long-time Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg commented that she expected split decisions forthcoming on the court this term. She also noted that the 2018 retirement of swing vote Kennedy has had the “greatest consequence for the current term, and perhaps for many terms ahead.”

The toughest, most divisive decisions remain to be announced, saving the best for last. Could it be those decisions may require that those folks in the black robes get out of Dodge as soon as possible after they are announced and lay low?

Could be.

The job ain’t for wimps … ask the Kavanaughs.

 

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