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What's Ahead for the Supreme Court as the Term Winds Down

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 10, 2015 12:56 PM

The culture wars are alive and well in the Supreme Court these days, as SCOTUS reviews everything from gay marriage, to affirmative action in higher education and abortion restrictions. It almost feels like it's the 90s again. Perhaps the Court could review the Clinton impeachment when they have a spare moment.

Having released only a single opinion this week -- the important separation of powers and Jerusalem passport case of Zivotofsky -- the Court shouldn't have too much time on its hands. Here's a preview of what might be on the Supreme Court's plate as the term winds down.

Will They Ever Take Up Fisher?

We've written before about Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the constitutional challenge to the University of Texas's use of race in admissions. In fact, the case is really Fisher II, since the Court first addressed the case in 2012. They punted on the main issues during that round, sending the case back to the Fifth Circuit to be reevaluated under strict scrutiny.

Now that the Fifth has again upheld the program, the case is back before the Court. Indeed, the petition for cert has been languishing before the Justices for awhile now. Tomorrow's conference will give the Justices another chance, their fourth, to decide whether they will take it up or let things be. If they do accept the case, it could force the Court's, and Kennedy's, hand, making them address whether any direct racial consideration in admissions can withstand strict scrutiny. Fisher, the plaintiff, long ago finished college. Hopefully they'll decide her case before she's a grandmother.

Also Courtesy of Texas, Unprecedented Abortion Restrictions

Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit upheld Texas's strict requirements on abortion providers. That ruling found that the state wasn't placing an undue burden on a woman's right to obtain an abortion when it adopted requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges and clinics meet surgical center standards. Those restrictions are expected to result in the closing of all but seven Texas clinics and leave 90 percent of Texas women more than 100 miles from a provider.

The Court is already being asked to hear an emergency petition to stay the Fifth's decision, but it could go farther. In a dissent from a denied stay in a separate challenge to the Texas law, four Justices said that the Court should take the opportunity to review the constitutionality of the law. That's enough Justices to grant cert when the eventual appeal comes.

Important Decisions in the Pipeline

While SCOTUS decides its future cases, plenty of Supreme Court clerks should be busy putting the final touches on some of the most important decisions the Court will make this year. The last day of the term is June 29th, leaving just a few more weeks for the Court to announce its decisions on Obamacare and gay marriage. Both promise to be historic rulings, so stay tuned.

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