The United States Supreme Court has more big cases coming up this term.
On Nov. 12, the court will hear arguments in three cases called Department of Homeland Security v. University of California, Trump v. NAACP and McAleeman v. Vidal.
President Barack Obama started DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) in 2012. This program allows people who were brought illegally to the United States as children (before age 16) to avoid deportation for two years and become eligible for a work permit here. There are about 750,000 active DACA recipients residing in the U.S. now, most either working or going to school.
In 2017, President Donald Trump decided to cancel DACA. His order was immediately challenged in multiple lawsuits by states, universities, immigration advocates and civil rights groups. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California blocked the termination of DACA on the ground that it was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.
Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan who represents several DACA recipients, says, “The Supreme Court is taking up a case that could radically change hundreds of thousands of people’s lives. They could have the ability to work legally in the United States just yanked away from them.”
On the other side, Christopher Hajec of the Immigration Reform Law Institute says that if the court upholds the cancellation of DACA it would be “a big deal, because it would end DACA without much possibility of a legislative replacement,” such as the DREAM Act.
On Dec. 2, the court will (or might) hear arguments in a major gun rights case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York.
New York City had an ordinance that forbade the transportation of a handgun outside the city limits. In 2008, in the famous Heller case, the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment allows U.S. citizens to own guns within the privacy of their own home.
However, the court did not grant “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose," as Justice Scalia put it. The question now is whether New York City’s ordinance violates the Second Amendment.
However, the case is muddied by the fact that New York City has repealed its ordinance. The city has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case, since “the changes in state and municipal law give (plaintiffs) all they seek.” It would indeed seem like the case is moot and should be dismissed, but many experts think that the Supreme Court is eager to jump back into Second Amendment controversies and will hear the case.
Later in the term, the Supreme Court will hear another interesting case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, involving freedom of religion. Montana has a student-aid program that is religiously neutral. However, it also has a state constitution that prohibits any state aid to sectarian schools, and the Montana Supreme Court ruled that Kendra
Espinoza and other students who attend religious schools cannot receive the student aid. The question the U.S. Supreme Court must decide is whether Montana’s constitution violates the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Another important case, Ramos v. Louisiana, was heard Oct. 7, the first day of the Supreme Court’s term. The issue is whether the 14th Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict in a criminal case. See my column that was published July 12: “Must a criminal jury verdict be unanimous?”
On that same day, Oct. 7, the court heard arguments in Kahler v. Kansas, involving the question of whether the Eighth and 14th amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense. We won’t know for a few months what the results in these cases are.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had this to say about this year’s big cases: “It is safe to predict that we will have a fair share of closely watched cases.”
James H. Manahan is a Harvard Law School graduate and was named one of Minnesota’s Top Ten Attorneys. He now handles family law, wills and probate in the Lake County area, and does mediation everywhere. He writes a regular column on legal issues for the News-Chronicle. He can be reached at email@example.com or jamesmanahan.com.