WASHINGTON — A reinvigorated Supreme Court will burst back on to the national stage next week facing a battery of contentious issues and a president determined to bend the judicial branch to his will.
After a sleepy term in which a shorthanded court mostly avoided controversy, its new conservative majority will tackle major cases on voting rights, gay rights, workers’ rights and privacy rights — and, possibly, President Trump’s revised immigration travel ban. The court’s decisions could alter the powers of the president, state legislatures, corporations and police.
“There’s only one prediction that’s entirely safe of the upcoming term, and that is it will be momentous,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said last week.
The imposing docket arrives at a time when the court has recovered from the untimely death early last year of Justice Antonin Scalia, a 14-month political standoff between the White House and Congress, and ultimately the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, who showed signs of filling Scalia’s shoes both ideologically and rhetorically.
That has solidified the court’s right flank, giving conservatives hope of controlling the term’s major cases after two years in which liberals more than held their own. “There could be some really significant wins,” says Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal group.
The question now, former U.S. solicitor general Gregory Garre says, is “How much can the Supreme Court handle?”
It has handled a lot in the last five years: rescuing Obamacare not once but twice, recognizing and legalizing same-sex marriage, weakening voting rights and campaign finance laws, protecting affirmative action and abortion rights, and strengthening religious liberty and privacy rights.
The coming term that begins Oct. 2 looms as another potential blockbuster, but with a degree of unpredictability that did not complicate earlier ones. For one thing, there’s a new president at war with the judiciary.
Because Trump has replaced his political opposite, Barack Obama, in the White House, the justices will tangle with government lawyers who have switched sides on a range of issues, from enforcing arbitration clauses in employment contracts to purging voters from state registration rolls.
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