2016 Supreme Court term shaping up to be the most consequential in years

The 2016 Surpeme Court term may feature descisions that roll back or eliminate several of President Obama's "transformational" changes to America.  Or it may codify them, confirming the president's theory of executive power.

Here are a few issues the court will probably be dealing with in 2016:


The court will decide whether Texas can enforce two regulations that would force about three-fourths of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down.

One measure requires clinics to use only doctors with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. A second requires abortion facilities to match the standards of an outpatient surgical center.


Affirmative action

The court’s conservatives believe the Constitution and the civil rights laws forbid schools and colleges from admitting students based on their race, and they would like to strike down affirmative action policies that favor some applicants over others based on their race or ethnicity.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, seen as the swing vote, has agreed with conservatives in the past and condemned admissions policies that set “numerical goals indistinguishable from quotas.” But he has also refused to shut down all affirmative action.


Union fees

The court could deal a severe blow to the union movement in a case from California. The justices will hear a free-speech challenge to pro-union laws in more than 20 states that require all public employees pay a “fair share fee” to their union, even if they are opposed to the union and refuse to join.


Voting districts

Voters elect representatives to Congress, state legislatures and city councils in districts that are drawn to represent equal numbers of people. But that could change.

The court is considering an appeal from Texas that argues these districts should represent roughly equal numbers of eligible voters, rather than using the current system, which counts all people, including children, immigrants and prisoners.



The court will decide its fourth case on Obama’s healthcare law, and the second involving a religious-freedom challenge to a regulation that requires employers to include no-cost coverage for contraceptives in their health insurance policies.

Churches are exempt from this requirement. Under a separate accommodation, religious nonprofits, such as Catholic charities or the University of Notre Dame, need not provide nor pay for the coverage, but they must notify the government of their religious objection.



The fate of Obama’s broadest effort to shield immigrants from deportation rests with the justices. His lawyers are appealing rulings by a judge in Texas and the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans, which blocked Obama’s latest immigration action from taking effect.

Conservative victories in all of those cases would deal the president a fatal blow and serve as a warning to future presidents that executive action should be taken only within the limits set by the Constitution.

But that's not a likely scenario.  It's probable that both affirmative action and the voting districts rulings will go against the right, as the court has indicated in the past it doesn't want to scrap AA entirely and would prefer that Congress deal with election issues.  That's been the historical record to date, and the Supreme Court has usually been reluctant to make big changes to laws passed by Congress unless forced to.

But it's likely that a couple of those decisions will go conservatives' way.  That holds out hope for the future if a Republican president and Congress can undo some of the damage done by Barack Obama over the last 8 years.

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