U.S. Supreme Court kicks off new term

Daily News Article   —   Posted on October 7, 2020

(by Melissa Quinn, CBS News) Washington — When the Supreme Court kicked off its new term on Monday, it did so against the backdrop of a high-stakes confirmation battle as the Senate considers the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the high court… [Senate Republicans have the votes to confirm Barrett, but Democrats do not want President Trump’s nominee to be confirmed].

Already on the docket for the Supreme Court this term are…disputes involving the Affordable Care Act and special counsel Robert Mueller’s questionable investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

…The high court has already been asked to weigh in on a number of election-related disputes, as officials in numerous states have rushed to expand vote-by-mail for the November contest and [change] voting restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the cases awaiting action from the court is a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to halt a decision from the state’s high court allowing mail-in ballots received three days after the election to be counted. South Carolina Republicans also asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to reinstate its witness requirement for absentee ballots.

…The high court will hear oral arguments for its first sitting remotely and by telephone, [and will provide live audio of the arguments for its October sitting following the same format that was used during its May sitting at the end of the 2019-2020 term] when the coronavirus pandemic forced the Supreme Court in March to close its doors to the public indefinitely.

The 10 cases slated to be argued remotely in October were initially scheduled for March and April, but postponed because of the pandemic. It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court will resume in-person arguments in November.

Decisions in the cases before the justices this term are expected by the end of June 2021.

One of the major legal battles to be heard by the Supreme Court this term is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.  The justices will [hear oral arguments] on November 4. At issue in the case is whether Philadelphia violated the First Amendment by excluding a religious foster care agency, Catholic Social Services, from its foster care system because the agency declines to place foster children with same-sex couples.

Catholic Social Services is one of 30 agencies in Philadelphia that provides services for foster parents and children, but in early 2018, the city cut off foster care referrals to the agency after learning it did not work with same-sex couples because of its religious objections to gay marriage.

In response to the freeze by Philadelphia officials, Catholic Social Services and a group of foster parents including Sharonell Fulton filed a lawsuit against the city in May 2018, arguing it was targeted by city officials and the decision to stop foster care referrals was unconstitutional.

But the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the city and found it did not treat Catholic Social Services worse than it would have treated another organization that didn’t work with same-sex couples but had different religious beliefs.

[The Washington Free Beacon reports: “Barrett could join the Court in time to participate in the Fulton case assuming Republicans keep to their confirmation schedule, which was on pace for a final vote in late October. That timeline has been thrown into question after three Republican lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19, while others who tested negative are quarantining due to possible exposure to the virus. Senate Republicans are nonetheless signaling that her confirmation process is on track, though they have no margin for error. Barrett will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for several days starting Oct. 12.”]

Published by CBSNews .com. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from CBS.


On the Supreme Court from BensGuide.gpo.gov:

(from supremecourt.gov/visiting/visitorsguidetooralargument.aspx)

On the Role of Judges:
Judges are like umpires in baseball or referees in football or basketball. Their role is to see that the rules of court procedures are followed by both sides. Like the ump, they call ‘em as they see ‘em, according to the facts and law-without regard to which side is popular (no home field advantage), without regard to who is “favored,” without regard for what the spectators want, and without regard to whether the judge agrees with the law. (from the American Bar Asociation)

“The role of a judge is to be a neutral interpreter of already established law, not legislator of new law or social policy.  A judge can have his or her own opinions, even strong ones, and still read the law neutrally.  Fundamentally, judges are expected to not bring their personal politics and philosophies to the bench. Judges are expected to read the law in its clear intent and apply it without regard to result. Changing the law should be left to the people and their legislators.”  Sean Rushton, Committee for Justice Executive Director, from the WashingtonPost.com.

“One of the big confusions in the…Senate fight over the confirmation of judicial nominees is that this is an issue about ‘liberal’ judges versus ‘conservative’ judges.  The vastly more important issue is whether people who go into court should expect their cases to be decided on the basis of the law or on the basis of the particular judge’s own philosophy…Liberals have rooted for judicial activism because this activism has favored liberal causes and liberal views on such issues as abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage, and racial quotas.  But activism can be used by any judge for any purpose.” Thomas Sowell, Hoover Institution

NOTE: …It is crucial…to have a president who understands the judiciary’s proper role. As Ronald Reagan once noted, “[The Founders] knew that the courts, like the Constitution itself, must not be liberal or conservative.” For Reagan and for the Founders, judges were to be selected based on their ability to put political preferences aside and interpret the Constitution and laws based on their original meaning.  Rather than scrutinizing judicial nominees based on their perceived political leanings, [every] president should appoint judges who apply the law regardless of their own policy preferences. (from “Misunderstanding the Role of Judges” by Deborah O’Malley)