U.S. Supreme Court: Cases to Watch in 2014

By J.P. McCormick, Summer Associate

Turning the page at the end of the year carries with it much reflection on the prior year and much speculation about the new one. This is no different in Washington as the United States Supreme Court looks at its pending docket.  In October and November of 2013, the Court heard several cases in which it has not yet ruled, though the resolutions of which are expected in the first half of 2014. On October 8th, the Court heard McCutcheon v. Federal Election Committee, which deals with federal limits as to how much a person can contribute to campaigns, and whether such limitations violate the First Amendment. McCutcheon is a significant follow-up to the Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee (2010), in which the Court ruled that it was a violation of the First Amendment to limit corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections. On October 15th, the Court heard oral arguments for Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, in which the Court must decide if Michigan violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when it amended its state constitution to preclude racial preferences in programs such as college admissions. Schuette will revisit its decision from Fisher v. University of Texas (2013), where a Caucasian student who had been rejected by the University of Texas challenged the school’s policy of considering race when deciding upon which students to grant admission. In Fisher, the Court ruled that the school’s admission policy was appropriate under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has also already scheduled oral arguments for several significant cases at the beginning of 2014. On January 13th, 2014, the Court will hear arguments in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, in which the Court will decide whether President Obama exceeded his recess-appointment power when he appointed three members to the NLRB when the Senate was not in session. The NLRB protects employees’ right to organize, and prevents and punishes unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions. If the Court finds that the appointments were not valid, then all of the NLRB’s decisions from the last two years may not be valid and enforceable. On January 15th, the Court will hear arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, where the Court will decide whether Massachusetts’ law that created a zone around abortion clinics in which no one can approach pregnant women to discourage them with proceeding violates the First Amendment.

Although not scheduled yet, the Supreme Court has also agreed to review at least two Obamacare cases in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby  and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. In these cases, the Court will decide whether the HHS Mandate requiring employers to provide contraception products and services violates the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act when applied to Christian business owners who morally object to abortion.

These are only a few of the cases the Supreme Court is set to decide upon, and if you have an opinion on which way you feel the cases will come out, please let us know @CLDDS on Twitter. We will also update developments on our blog.

J.P. McCormick is in his third year at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where he is an Executive Editor for the University of New Hampshire Law Review. Upon finishing his third year of law school, J.P. intends to practice in New Jersey, and is interested in all aspects of civil law. You can follow him on Twitter @JP_McCormick.

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