Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Supreme Court Cases That Could Change America In The Coming Year

The justices still haven’t said what they’re doing on two big issues: marriage and Obamacare. Several other big cases — from workplace discrimination disputes to the future of the Fair Housing Act — are already set to be heard by the court.

Getty Images/Mark Wilson

WASHINGTON — When the Supreme Court justices meet on Monday morning to formally begin the new term of the court, two of the highest-profile issues pending before the court are in cases that it hasn't yet decided to hear: same-sex couples' marriage rights and a major dispute over Obamacare subsidies.

The court is not required to hear most appeals, and this discretionary review in most cases means that parties first ask the justices to hear an appeal — a process referred to as a petition for a writ of certiorari. The marriage cases (a key issue for the political left) and the Obamacare dispute (a key issue for the political right) are still pending before the justices at the "cert stage," meaning that the two biggest decisions of the term, by next June, could be coming in cases not yet accepted by the court.

Outside of those cases, however, there are several other cases accepted by the justices that could have a major impact on American law — and Americans' lives.

From the type of discrimination that can be challenged under the Fair Housing Act — an issue the justices had tried to resolve last term, until a settlement was reached before the justices heard the case — to the way elections and redistricting work, the Supreme Court is due to decide several cases that have liberals concerned about the court's protection of minority rights under the tenure of Chief Justice John Roberts.

On the business side of the docket, there is a case that revolves around the question of whether Amtrak is truly a private company and another case that could have a big impact on protection of union retirees' health benefits. Another case pitting the Mortgage Bankers Association against the Labor Department could limit the ability of the administration to change its interpretations of regulations without first seeking outside comment on the change.

There are also several cases before the justices that will examine and, presumably, answer unresolved questions about the specific ways lawsuits alleging discrimination — several of them focused on religion-based claims — must be brought and the ways they can be defeated. The cases revolve around laws ranging from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Although the marriage cases and the Obamacare lawsuits are getting the attention, in other words, there will be a lot of other cases heard in the coming months that could become blockbusters in their own right.

Getty Images for Abercrombie & Fitch/Michael Buckner

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