The justices now have eight more opinions to release, on topics ranging from partisan gerrymandering and the constitutionality of Tennessee’s residency requirement for retail liquor licenses to the dispute over the Trump administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. Here are brief summaries of those eight cases, in the order in which they were argued:
- In Carpenter v. Murphy, argued in December, the justices are considering whether the historic territory of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma is currently a “reservation” or “Indian country.” If it is, then the U.S. government, rather than Oklahoma, would have the power to prosecute crimes there – including in the case of Patrick Murphy, a member of the Creek Nation who was sentenced to death for a murder that took place on land that was part of the nation. Shortly after the oral argument the justices called for more briefing, including on the question whether Oklahoma might be able to prosecute crimes on the Creek Nation’s territory even if it is a reservation. This suggests that they might be looking for a middle ground in the case, especially because Justice Neil Gorsuch is recused.
- In Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair, argued in January, the justices are considering the constitutionality of a Tennessee law that requires anyone who wants a retail license to sell alcohol in the state to have lived there for at least two years. A federal appeals court struck down the law, ruling that it violates the Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state residents. But the trade association representing the state’s liquor retailers defends the law, arguing that the Constitution treats alcohol differently from other products. The case is the only one from January that has not yet been decided, and Justice Samuel Alito is the only justice who has not yet written for the January sitting, which suggests that he will be the author.
- In United States v. Haymond, argued in February, the justices are considering the constitutionality of a federal law that requires a defendant who is registered as a sex offender to return to prison for at least five years if a federal judge finds that the defendant violated the terms of his supervised release. Under the Supreme Court’s cases, a jury, rather than a judge, must find the facts that increase the penalty for a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
- In Rucho v. Common Cause, the justices are reviewing a ruling by a federal district court in North Carolina, which invalidated the state’s federal congressional map – drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature – as the product of partisan gerrymandering. The justices agreed to consider three questions: Whether the challengers have a legal right to bring their case at all; whether partisan-gerrymandering claims are the kind of claims that courts can take up; and, if the answer to the first two questions is yes, whether the North Carolina map is the product of partisan gerrymandering.
- And in Lamone v. Benisek, the justices are reviewing a ruling by a federal district court in Maryland that struck down the map for a single federal congressional district there. The challengers in this case allege that, although Democratic election officials only needed to make relatively minor changes to the district after the 2010 census, they instead flipped the district from a safe Republican district to one that a Democrat won by a wide margin to punish the challengers for their support of Republicans.
- In Kisor v. Wilkie, argued in March, the justices are considering whether to uphold an important principle of administrative law. Known as Auer deference, or sometimes as Seminole Rock deference, that principle instructs courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of its own ambiguous regulation.
- In Department of Commerce v. New York, argued in April, the justices are considering a challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. The federal government says that the Department of Justice wants the data to better enforce federal voting-rights laws, but state and local governments complain that including the question will lead to an inaccurate count, because it will deter households with undocumented and Hispanic immigrants from responding.
- And in Mitchell v. Wisconsin, argued in April, the justices will consider the constitutionality of a Wisconsin law that assumes that a driver on the state’s roads has consented to a blood test for drugs or alcohol, even when the driver is unconscious. Gerald Mitchell argues that police should have gotten a warrant before drawing his blood after he had passed out. Either Chief Justice John Roberts or Alito is likely to be writing the opinion in this case, which probably bodes well for the state.