The Supremes’ 2016 tour wraps up this month. And the band’s in crisis.
Earlier this year, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. For decades, the court has leaned to the center right, with five mostly conservative and four mostly liberal justices. Scalia was one of the more conservative ones in the fam. When he died, the court split right down the middle.
Per the Constitution, the president nominates the person he wants for the job, and the Senate has to decide whether to approve. President Obama’s put his guy forward. But the GOP-led Senate is saying ‘nope, not happening’ to confirming anyone he suggests. They’re waiting to see who wins the presidential election in November...aka what kind of Justice will get nominated.
If the Court ties on a case, it has to either send it back to lower courts OR set the case aside until next year. In the meantime, it’s got a full playlist of major cases open...and two weeks to make some decisions.
The Supremes have already been making music this term with some early rulings. If you’re in a job that has a public union fighting for you, you may have to pay fees even if you’re not a member. Meanwhile, people who go to prison as juveniles can’t be sentenced to life without parole anymore. And racial discrimination in jury selection is not OK. Yes, that had to be cleared up.
Immigration...as in there are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. And millions of opinions on what to do. In late 2014, President Obama got tired of waiting on Congress and took some executive actions (DC-speak for going it alone). His plan: let millions of undocumented immigrants temporarily stay in the US without the fear of deportation. Specifically, parents of US citizens and people who've been living here for at least five years. But a group of mostly GOP-led states said ‘helloooo, abuse of power’ and sued to block the plan. Now, the Supremes are making the call.
Abortion...as in everyone’s favorite table topic. The Supremes decided in Roe v. Wade that women have a right to privacy, especially in the first trimester -- but left some specifics to the states. Fast forward decades later, and Texas passed a law with very strict requirements for abortion clinics. So strict, most clinics in the state would have to close their doors if the law stays on the books. Supporters say it protects women’s health. But critics say this law does the opposite by shutting most clinics down. If the Justices side with Texas, it could be seen as a green light to other states thinking about similar measures.
Affirmative Action...as in the Supremes are having deja vu. This case is about Abigail Fisher, a white woman who says affirmative action policies are why she didn’t get a ‘congrats’ letter from the University of Texas at Austin in ‘08. She brought her case to the Supreme Court in 2013, but it got sent back to a lower court. Now, Fisher’s back. Her supporters say the college admissions process should be race-blind. But critics say diversity’s important and should be a factor when colleges are picking their freshmen.
It’s hard to get sh*t done when you’re down a bandmate. The Supremes are trying to avoid a tie. But they might have their hands...tied. And these cases could affect people in crucial ways – from women’s health to whether a person can stay in the US. No pressure.