Justice Neil Gorsuch’s first full term on the U.S. Supreme Court promises to show just how much was at stake with his appointment.
The term that opens Monday is full of ideologically divisive cases that could turn on a single vote, starting with arguments over worker class-action lawsuits and political gerrymandering of election districts. The court will consider whether gay rights must yield to business owners’ religious beliefs, and the justices may add a fight over mandatory union fees for government workers.
The term “will be momentous,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicted this month in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center.
It might also be a conservative rout, given President Donald Trump’s selection of Gorsuch to fill what ended up being a 14-month vacancy. Gorsuch took a seat Democrats had tried to fill with Judge Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s nominee who never got a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. Since he was confirmed in April, Gorsuch has aligned himself with the court’s conservative wing.
Gorsuch’s presence could make the difference in many of the court’s biggest cases in the nine-month term. The scheduled argument dates are in parentheses:
Class Actions (Oct. 2)
The term starts with a case that could let companies enforce agreements in which workers
promise to pursue wage or job-discrimination claims in arbitration, and not in class-action lawsuits.
Employers want to extend 2011 and 2013 Supreme Court decisions in which a conservative majority said companies can channel disputes with consumers and other businesses into arbitration. But some lower courts have said workplaces are different because federal labor law gives employees the right to engage in “concerted activities.”
Companies say that provision must yield to a 1925 law that requires arbitration agreements to be enforced like any other contract.
“The employers have a few advantages going in here, particularly with a more receptive set of justices,” said Greg Garre, a Washington lawyer at Latham & Watkins LLP and former solicitor general under President George W. Bush.
The Trump administration is backing the employers. But in an unusual twist, the National Labor Relations Board is set to argue on the side of the workers. The independent agency has long said workers aren’t bound by arbitration agreements that prohibit group claims.
The NLRB could change…