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Despite the fact that the judiciary basically redesigned itself to be the ultimate check and balance on governmental authority, when it comes to civil rights, the High Court apparently has not been particularly friendly. Constitutional scholars, including a federal district court judge, have been shouting from a lonely mountain top for some time now about the hostility of SCOTUS to sec. 1983 claims, but sadly, it seems that no one can hear them, or seems to care that the High Court keeps ruling in favor of the government in these claims.

Even the fan-favorite, Erwin Chemerinsky, has been warning of the civil rights doom and gloom at the Supreme Court, and recently wrote about how the Court has repeatedly limited Bivens claims, with the most recent Bivens limitation squashing the, once-hallmark, catchall aspect of the law.

While it is usually no shock when SCOTUS rejects highly controversial cases, that was not the case this week when it rejected the appeals in Barber v. Bryant, and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant.

This pair of cases challenged Mississippi's controversial "religious freedom" law HB 1523, which permits individuals and businesses to deny service to LGBT individuals if the individual or business sincerely holds the beliefs or convictions that marriage should only be between a man and woman, that premarital sex is wrong, and/or that gender can only be determined by anatomy at birth.

One of the leading constitutional law scholars in the country, Erwin Chemerinsky, recently wrote a piece for the ABA Journal reflecting on the United States Supreme Court's 2017 term. Although the year was filled with big decision, he believes the biggest news of the year was the appointment and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch.

In addition to the controversial appointment, Chemerinsky explains that the term has seen some unusual interplay between the High Court and the new executive branch, right off the bat. Also, he notes that the Court actually handled issues of race and did so in unexpected fashion.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to add a handful of cases to their docket. Among the seven new cases is a familiar issue: partisan gerrymandering.

While the Gil v. Whitford case is still under submission, the High Court will hear a slightly different challenge to the practice of political parties gerrymandering voting districts after winning a controlling majority in a state's legislature. Gil dealt with an equal protection challenge, while the new case, Benisek v. Lamone, deals with a First Amendment challenge.

SCOTUS Won't Hear LGBT Workplace Discrimination Case

LGBT rights attorneys are not giving up, but Jameka Evans' sex discrimination case is definitely over.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined her petition without comment after the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed her case. Evans had argued her employer discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation and nonconformity to gender norms.

"Under our prior precedent rule, we are bound to follow a binding precedent in this Circuit unless and until it is overruled by this court en banc or by the Supreme Court," the appeals court said in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital.

The closely watched Masterpiece Cakeshop case may be a far cry from Masterpiece Theater, but all eyes were certainly on Justice Kennedy during the case's oral argument. Commentators have long expected that Justice Kennedy would be the swing vote deciding the matter.

Unfortunately for the commentators, Kennedy did not provide a very clear indication of any potential leanings. In fact, he seemed to swing back and forth during the arguments, appearing to support either side at various times.

The United States Supreme Court dealt a blow to gun advocates today by rejecting a pair of appeals, each seeking to overturn state law restrictions on firearms. One of the appeals involved the Maryland ban on assault rifles and high capacity magazines, and the other involved Florida's ban on the open carry of handguns.

Notably, the High Court has not heard a major gun case since 2010. At that time, it held that handguns could not be banned by state and local governments for protection in a home. And, likely due to the high level of public concern related to the recent spate of mass shootings, the Court probably does not want to loosen any gun restrictions that have been upheld by an appellate court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted the petition to hear arguments in the United States v. Microsoft case, which is the biggest digital privacy case of the term. The question being presented to the High Court is as follows:

Whether a United States provider of email services must comply with a probable-cause based warrant issued under 18 U.S.C. 2703 by making disclosure in the United States of electronic communications within that provider's control, even if the provider has decided to store that material abroad.

Basically, the government is making one last final effort in the fight to force Microsoft to turn over information stored on foreign soil via a valid search warrant issued by a U.S. court.

With SCOTUS basically split along partisan lines, Justice Anthony Kennedy's swing vote is expected to decide the closely watched Wisconsin gerrymandering case. During oral arguments this week, Justice Kennedy's line of questioning may have hinted at what he's considering in this case.

First off, he did not bother questioning the plaintiffs in the case who successfully challenged the law in the lower courts. Instead he only asked questions of the state's attorney, and led by asking what would result if the Court decided that gerrymandering along political lines was a First Amendment issue. Generally, conservative justices focus their question to the liberal viewpoint's attorney, while the liberal justices question do the same to the conservative viewpoint's attorney.

Pioneering Gay Rights Activist Dies: Edith Windsor's Legal Legacy

Edith Windsor, who won a pioneering case for same-sex marriages, has died.

She was not a lawyer, but she won a case that secured her legacy in civil rights history. Two past presidents honored her after news of her passing.

"Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor -- and few made as big a difference to America," said former President Barack Obama.