Reporter: Lulu Lamey
Date: October 5th 2020
The new, nine month term will begin for the US supreme court on Monday the 5th of October. Agonized by the death of of Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Senate battle over her successor, the approaching presidential elections, whose outcome the supreme court may be called upon to help decide and the global pandemic, there is an array of challenges the justices are set to face in the upcoming future.
The Supreme Court As It’s Seen Today:
Despite the large crowds who gathered outside the court building to mourn the death of Ginsburg, it remains closed to the public until further notice due to the pandemic. However, the court starts it’s term according to custom on the first Monday of October, with two cases being argued via teleconference. This practice was established in May 2020 and will be continued into the new term.
Due to the sorrowful death of Ginsburg, the court is left incomplete with just eight justices instead of nine. Alongside this tragedy, there are a variety of difficult cases to tackle, one of which is a Republican bid to abolish the Obamacare healthcare law. This debate is set to take place a week after election day on November the 10th.
In the case that Donald Trump's nominee to replace Ginsburg, federal court judge Amy Coney Barret, is confirmed, the courts ideological balance would shift further right with a 6-3 conservative majority amongst the justices. This raises questions about the overall validity of the supreme court.
The series of events and challenges that the court now faces will put Chief Justice John Roberts to the test in terms of leadership. Roberts is known to be “an institutionalist who prizes the courts independence” and who in February, conducted the impeachment trial that ended on Trump’s clearing of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for using Ukraine to “investigate his democratic rival Joe Biden.” Roberts “would like to be a steady hand” and wants the court to be in a more stable position going forward.
Google vs Oracle Corp
In the first week of this upcoming term, one of the most anticipated cases will be argued on Wednesday. The justices are to weigh a multi-billion dollar copyright controversy between Alphabet Inc’s Google and Oracle Corp. The case will deal with “Oracles accusation that Google infringed it’s software copyrights to build the Android operating system” that Oracle uses in it’s smartphones.
Coming back to the Obamacare case, which deals with the request to eradicate the Affordable [health] Care Act, Amy Coney Barret could play a crucial role in the outcome if she gets confirmed to take the position of Ginsburg. Obamacare, previously known as the Affordable Care Act, aims to make affordable health insurance accessible to more people, expand the medicaid programs and support innovative medical care delivery methods which are designed to lower healthcare costs in general across the US. Various democratic states such as New York and California, are fighting to keep the Affordable Care Act in place. However, republican led states under Trump’s Administration are aiming to strike it down.
This case is particularly important for many Americans as Obamacare has helped more than 20 million Americans to get medical insurance since it was established in 2010. It also prevents insurance companies from refusing to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. Resulting in an overall higher quality of healthcare across the USA.
Despite the many positive impacts of this law, the Republican party views this law as an “unwarranted intervention” by the government in health insurance markets.
The supreme court previously discussed this issue in 2012 and again in 2015. Ginsburg was an important figure in both these debates and Obamacare laws were kept in place. Barret however, criticized those two rulings. Democrats worry that with the potential 6-3, right leaning ideological ratio, Barret will come in and strike down Obamacare. Although experts say that it is highly unlikely the court will agree to do so.
Same-sex couples vs the foster care system
The court plans to hear another significant case on the 4th of November which attends to the issue of religious rights exemptions to federal laws. This argument arose when Philadelphia made the decision to ban a Catholic institution from taking part in the city’s foster care program as the organization prohibits same-sex couples from being foster parents.
The US National elections are a significant weight over the Supreme Court. “The conservative majority has sided with state officials opposed to courts imposing changes to election procedures to make it easier to vote during the pandemic.”
Trump wants Barret to be confirmed prior to election day, which could potentially work in his favour as she could cast a decisive vote which impacts the election results. The president of the US has also said he wants the Supreme Court to decide on the outcome of the election even though this has only happened once before with Republican George W Bush.
Democrats will continue to question Barret during her confirmation hearings which are set to begin on October 12th. However, in the case Barret gets confirmed as a justice, the court is expected to either refrain from involvement in major election cases or try to reach a unanimous decision between the justices.
The legitimacy of the court is extremely important to all of the justices, presidential candidates and citizens of America who they serve, at this incredibly delicate and challenging time. Therefore, people must trust in the court to make the appropriate decisions for the benefit of the country, going forward with this new term.
Healthcare.Gov. (2018). Affordable Care Act (ACA). Retrieved from Heathcare.gov website: https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/affordable-care-act/
Hurley, L. (2020, October 4). Shorthanded U.S. Supreme Court returns with major challenges ahead. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-term-preview/shorthanded-u-s-supreme-court-returns-with-major-challenges-ahead-idUSKBN26P0D7