Supreme Court’s New Term Tackles Guns, Abortion, Religious Expression

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High Court meeting for personal debate with Mask, Justice Amy Connie Barrett and a docket of divisive issues

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Justice Barrett kept a relatively low profile during his first term on the bench, when the court, working remotely, found common ground on several notable decisions. They included a 7-2 decision that dismissed another major challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

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Justice Barrett’s record as law professor and appellate judge and the ensuing docket mark a different turn for the court on some of the most divisive issues.

After his promotion, the court agreed to hear appeals that were clearly in Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling that women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy under certain circumstances, or to overturn centuries-old laws that prohibited the carrying of concealed weapons. .

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Previously, the court had routinely rejected appeals proposing the abolition of abortion rights or increased access to firearms, suggesting that the five judges were unprepared to consider such moves.

The gun case, challenging a New York state law limiting concealed carry weapons to people with “reasonable reason,” is slated for November and seeks to expand Second Amendment rights to allow handguns in public. could. In rulings in 2008 and 2010, the court recognized the constitutional right to keep handguns at home for self-defense.

In December, Mississippi will argue for reinstatement of its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, which lower courts struck down under Supreme Court precedents that prevent women from becoming pregnant before the viability of the fetus, or the ability to remain outside the womb. Allows pregnancy to terminate. Mississippi argues that the simplest solution would be to strike precedents whose law was found to be violated.

In September, the court, in a 5–4 vote, refused to block a more restrictive Texas abortion law, with Justices Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh part of a conservative majority, citing procedural reasons for the court not to intervene. Gave. Chief Justice John Roberts found himself in dissatisfaction with the three liberal justices, a lineup that suggested his ability to moderate the court’s actions as Justice Barrett replaced Justice Ginsburg.

The dwindling moderate presence in court has shed light on Justice Stephen Breuer, 83. Bill Clinton is facing pressure from the left to appoint him, while Democrats maintain a razor-thin Senate majority that could confirm a like-minded successor.

Several subsequent cases reflect the court’s concern for religious expression. In November, judges will consider a condemned Texas prisoner’s claim that the state should let its pastor lay its hands on him when he is executed; Prison officials say the request is disruptive.

A December argument challenges Maine’s public education system, which relies on in-state tuition vouchers for private schools. Half of the state’s school districts lack enough students to justify their own schools, so the state reimburses tuition at secular private schools. Parents who prefer religious schools argue that the tuition-reimbursement program is discriminatory; The state says this should be seen as equivalent to running its own schools, which cannot be communal.

And last Thursday, the court agreed to consider whether the city of Boston, which sometimes allows outside groups to fly its banners from flagpoles outside City Hall, allowed the cross-bearing “Christian flag” By dismissing it violated the First Amendment.

Like other workplaces returning to life after the coronavirus-driven shutdown, things will be different in the High Court. Only staff members, lawyers and accredited journalists can enter the Court, while the public can listen live for the first time through a link on the Court’s website. Lawyers are instructed to wear N-95 or KN-95 masks inside the courtroom, “except for presenting arguments,” but only those with a negative COVID-19 test are allowed inside.

Justice Kavanaugh, despite his January vaccinations, tested positive on Thursday and had to skip Friday’s ceremony at the courthouse. The court said it would dial in for further arguments.

Though the court did not schedule potential blockbusters for its first arguments starting Monday, it did include cases involving notorious inmates.

On Wednesday, the court will hear the government’s bid to block Guantanamo detainee, Abu Zubeida, from receiving statements from former central intelligence agency contractors who designed a torture program allegedly tolerated at a “black site” in Poland. did. Mr Zubaida wants testimony for a legal case in Poland that follows a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Polish authorities violated their treaty obligations. The US, claiming that the testimony could reveal state secrets such as the presence of black sites in Poland, argues that Mr Zubaida’s request should be turned down.

Next Wednesday, the Justice Department will seek reinstatement of the death penalty for Zhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured hundreds. A federal appeals court overturned the death penalty because the trial judge made several errors, among them insufficiently examining jurors with regard to pretrial propaganda.

write to Jess Bravin at [email protected] and Brent Kendall at [email protected]

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