Anticipation is growing for the Supreme Court’s biggest decisions of the year.
With just two weeks left in the month of June, the justices have yet to issue rulings in 24 cases, including high-profile decisions that will affect the census citizenship question and partisan gerrymandering.
The final stretch may also signal how the new conservative majority will rule on other major cases down the line, providing a glimpse of some of the issues the justices could take up when their next term starts in October.
Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgDisclosure forms offer glimpse into Supreme Court’s finances Disclosure forms offer glimpse into Supreme Court’s finances Ginsburg credits Kavanaugh for helping boost number of female Supreme Court clerks MORE suggested in remarks delivered earlier this month that split decisions on the court could be expected before the end of this term.
“Given the number of most-watched cases still unannounced, I cannot predict that the relatively low sharp divisions ratio will hold,” she said, noting that about a quarter of the court’s decisions issued this term have been 5-4 or 5-3.
Ginsburg added that the 2018 retirement of swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy has had the “greatest consequence for the current term, and perhaps for many terms ahead.”
Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump throws support behind ‘no brainer’ measure to ban burning of American flag Trump throws support behind ‘no brainer’ measure to ban burning of American flag Disclosure forms offer glimpse into Supreme Court’s finances MORE succeeded Kennedy, giving conservatives a 5-4 majority on the bench.
There will also be a mad dash in the last two weeks of June to wrap up the term. Ginsburg said in her remarks that while the justices try not to leave too many decisions for the final weeks, “this term, the opposite occurred, but not because we planned it that way.”
The most-anticipated decision will determine whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
That debate reached a fever-pitch in Congress this past week as the House Oversight and Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump’s Justice Department should change its tune on antitrust policy Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossDocuments suggest census official, GOP strategist discussed citizenship question: lawsuit Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger MORE in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas relating to the issue.
Republicans who opposed the contempt vote argued that the move could impact the Supreme Court’s decision. Democrats said the legal challenge had nothing to do with the contempt vote, as the fights are playing out in two separate branches of the government, and that the justices aren’t likely to consider the committee vote in their ruling.
“If you know how the Supreme Court works, that opinion has been written, that decision has been made before we banged the gavel on this hearing,” Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchAnticipation builds for final Supreme Court rulings House Oversight Committee requests information on reported Trump plan to send TSA employees to border Lawmakers blast Wells Fargo chief over response to scandals MORE (D-Mass.), a member of the Oversight Committee, said ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
But a wrench was thrown into the justices’ consideration of the case just hours after that vote. The ACLU petitioned the court to send the census case back to a lower court to reconsider new evidence and allow it to be officially added to the record, if justices don’t reject the question outright.
Judge Jesse Furman, who oversaw one of the initial lawsuits in a New York federal court and ruled against adding the citizenship question, is now hearing arguments on whether administration officials should be sanctioned over claims in the newly surfaced documents that are being offered up as evidence.
The documents allege that a now-deceased GOP redistricting strategist had played a previously undisclosed role in orchestrating the citizenship question, and that Trump officials obscured his involvement during their court testimony in the case.
But Furman, an Obama appointee, has characterized the evidence as secondary to the case before the Supreme Court.
Another highly anticipated case focuses on partisan gerrymandering, and the final ruling could reshape district maps in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia ahead of the 2020 elections.
The justices have issued stays on orders by lower courts issued earlier this year that struck down congressional districts in Ohio and Michigan as partisan gerrymanders.
Those cases present an opportunity for the Supreme Court to establish a test that lays out what constitutes an unlawful partisan gerrymander.
Also at hand are decisions on which cases the Supreme Court will consider during its next term, which will end just a few months before the 2020 elections.
The justices announced earlier this year that they will hear arguments on whether anti-discrimination laws apply to LGBT people in the workplace.
The administration, however, is eager for the court to hear cases challenging the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), after a pair of appeals courts found that Trump officials violated federal law in their winding down of the Obama-era program.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who represents the administration before the Supreme Court, asked the justices last month to expedite their decision on whether they will hear one of the DACA cases. The court rejected that request.
But the justices relisted three other DACA cases for their private conference this past week, signaling they could decide to hear the challenges sooner rather than later.