June Supreme Court Decisions and Kavanaugh’s Impact

For someone interested in the Supreme Court of the United States, there is no month more exciting than June. This is when the Supreme Court’s term is about to end and the Justices put out as many opinions as they can before their recess begins. This year, the Justices put out a flurry of opinions ranging from sports betting to travel bans. Here are some of this year’s highlights:

Masterpiece Cakeshop, LTD. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n

The Supreme Court sided with the Colorado baker in this controversial 5-4 decision. The Supreme Court side-stepped the issue of whether a religious baker could refuse service to a gay couple and instead focused the issue on a hearing by a civil rights committee who ordered Mr. Phillips, the baker, to make the cake. The Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Phillips did not receive a fair hearing because some comments made by a judge sitting on the panel indicated prejudice against Mr. Phillips because of his religion.

Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

In this 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that government employees who are not members of unions are no longer required to pay union dues. Because many unions contribute to political parties, the Court reasoned that requiring non-members to pay member fees forced them to endorse a political message they may not always agree with, a violation of the First Amendment.

Trump v. Hawaii

This 5-4 decision split along ideological lines upheld President Trump’s travel ban from several countries including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea.

Carpenter v. United States

In this 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot collect location data from a person’s cellphone without a warrant. The decision acted as a way of updating the Constitutional norms for the digital age.

Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

This 7-2 decision saw the Supreme Court strike down a federal law which prevented states from allowing sports betting under state law. The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional because the 10th Amendment prevents the Federal Government from forcing states to enforce federal law.

Jesner v. Arab Bank

This 5-4 decision concerning human rights violations ruled that foreign corporations cannot be sued in America for human rights violations which occurred outside the country.

Sessions v. Dimaya

This 5-4 decision saw Justice Gorsuch join the four more-liberal justices in striking down a law allowing the government to deport immigrants convicted of crimes. The Court reasoned that the law was unconstitutionally vague under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

 

Following the announcement that Justice Kennedy is retiring, President Donald Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh as his pick for Justice Kennedy’s replacement. Justice Kennedy was long seen as the “swing vote” on the Court, never consistently siding with the more Conservative or Liberal justices. Brett Kavanaugh sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for 12 years. President Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh is seen by some as a way to move the Court’s ideology more to the right.

This year, the Supreme Court put out a large amount of 5-4 decisions. If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, how might have that changed some of the opinions discussed above? In the Janus, Hawaii, and Jesner opinions, the Conservative majority, including Justice Kennedy, defeated the four more-liberal justices.

The Carpenter and Sessions cases were unusual in that they saw Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch side the more-liberal justices, respectively. Justice Kennedy wasn’t the major swing vote this year as he was in years past. With Judge Kavanaugh’s conservative viewpoints, he might have voted similarly—if not identically—to Justice Kennedy. He may have been able to change the outcome of the Carpenter and Sessions cases, but he may not.

By Ben Abbott