The Most Important Upcoming Supreme Court Cases

November 23rd 2016

Mike Rothschild

With Donald Trump having won the presidency, it's likely he'll move quickly to nominate a Supreme Court justice to take the place of Antonin Scalia. That will allow the Court to get back to a full compliment of nine justices, and allow the rest of the Court's current term to proceed more smoothly.

Here are some of the most noteworthy cases that have been added to the Court's docket, and will likely be heard by a new justice:

Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections — Scheduled for arguments in early December, at stake is whether Virginia’s Republican-dominated legislature gerrymandered the state’s electoral maps to cluster black voters together, and diminish the power of their votes. The Court has already deemed an Alabama redistricting plan to be unconstitutional, and the demographics of Virginia's congressional districts will have a far-ranging impact on elections in this critical swing state. Another race-based gerrymandering case, McCrory v. Harris, concerning North Carolina, will be heard the same day.

Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corporation — In 2008, trucking company Jevic Transportation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, owing nearly $75 million to its creditors. A number of lawsuits followed, including one by the company's 1,800 dismissed drivers. Those suits were settled, but the drivers were left out of the agreement. They contended the settlement violated tenants of bankruptcy law requiring that when assets are divided, laid off employees are paid before creditors. The outcome of this case could lead to substantial changes in how bankruptcy courts distribute assets after a company dissolves.

Lee v. Tam — Simon Tam, the founder of Asian-American rock band The Slants, applied to the Patent and Trademark Office to register their name. But the PTO refused, finding the name to be disparaging of Asian people. An appeals court found that the PTO's deciding whether a registered name is offensive violates the First Amendment. The government claims the ruling set a precedent that would allow anyone to register an offensive or insulting name. This case has particular importance to the Washington Redskins football team, as their trademark was revoked by the PTO in 2014 under the same law it used against Tam.

Lynch v. Dimaya — This case could greatly affect Trump's plans for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. In 2009, James Dimaya, born in the Philippines but a permanent resident of the U.S., was convicted of burglary. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Dimaya's crime qualified as a "crime of violence," and he was subject to deportation. A separate case found that the law's definition of "violence" was too vague, and the nature of Dimaya's crime was found to be similarly vague. The U.S. Attorney General appealed, believing the ruling disrupts the ability of U.S. officials to carry out deportations.

Esquivel-Quintana v. Lynch — This is another case involving the criteria for deportation. It centers on whether consensual intercourse between a 21-year-old and a 17-year-old, which is only a crime in seven states, is “sexual abuse of a minor” under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which considers that an aggravated felony, triggering immediate deportation upon conviction. Like Lynch v. Dimaya, at issue is whether the laws regarding crimes that mandate deportation are too vague and inconsistent.