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Supreme Court Briefing Explores Big Cases of New Term

September 28, 2015 —

At the Supreme Court Institute’s annual press briefing on September 22, experts from the Georgetown Law faculty and the private bar explored the big cases on the Supreme Court’s argument docket and those on the horizon.

“The story of last term is that the left side of the court did a lot of winning,” said Supreme Court Institute Executive Director Irv Gornstein, noting that Justice Anthony Kennedy often, but not always, provided the margin of victory. “This term I would expect a return to the norm — in which the right side of the Court wins a majority, but by no means all, of the big cases, with Justice Kennedy again the key vote. … The big question for this term is how big will the wins be?” 

Jones Day partner Hashim Mooppan led off with a discussion of Evenwel v. Abbott, which could significantly impact how states design legislative districts for state elections.  Next, Georgetown Law Professor David Cole led the group in examining the latest chapter in Fisher v. University of Texas — looking at whether the university’s use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions is unconstitutional. While the decision could mean the end of affirmative action, Cole said he “would be surprised if the Court took this route.” 

Bancroft partner Erin Murphy (L’06) explored Friedrichs v. California Teachers Assoc., predicting that the Court may overrule a 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, holding that public sector employees can be required to pay union dues. Murphy also discussed Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, in which the Court will consider a challenge to the use of a formula to compute damages for workers in a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Professor Marty Lederman led the discussion of Spokeo v. Robins, a case that could curtail class actions under consumer protection statutes. Gornstein and Lederman also previewed two issues presented in cases not yet on the argument docket but with the potential to garner attention: the constitutionality of state regulations on abortion and objections by religious institutions to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage accommodation. 

Journalists from the Associated Press, Bloomberg, CNN, Fox, National Public Radio, NBC, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post and more attended the briefing. 

A webcast is available here.

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