It's June, and that means all eyes turn to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court ends its annual session this month, and typically hands down several major rulings before leaving for the summer recess. This year is no different, with the high court set to rule on cases involving religious freedom, free speech and immigration.
Charles "Rocky" Rhodes, professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, notes this year's Supreme Court session hasn't seen the blockbuster cases of recent years, like Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action. "It seems like the last few years, every term we've had multiple cases involving these hot-button, very politically divisive issues that had to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court," he says. Rhodes believes last year's death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the vacancy it left for well over a year impacted this year's docket. "I think the court intentionally this year took cases where it could clarify the law, rather than the big hot-button issues," he says.
The court was finally filled out again when Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed in April. And Gorsuch's first case was one of the most important this session--a religious freedom case involving a Missouri church center that wanted to remodel its playground. "The state was giving out a benefit to provide rubber for children's playgrounds, but the state said we can't give it to you because you're a church," says Rhodes. The church argued that the state violated its First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. "The church is going to win this case, I'm pretty sure," says Rhodes. "Because even some judges who are pretty strict about the Establishment Clause seem to be favoring the church."
Other notable cases to be decided by the court this month include one involving a Mexican teenager shot and killed on Mexican soil by a U.S. border agent on U.S. soil, and a push by immigration activists to allow bond hearings for illegal aliens facing deportation.