4 Important Supreme Court Opinions We're Still Waiting For

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 04, 2016 2:11 PM

Oral arguments ended last week, but there are still nearly two months left in the Supreme Court's current term. Now's the time when the Court moves from considering the cases before it to finally deciding them -- a process that certainly more complicated this year, given the lack of a ninth justice.

We're expecting a steady trickle of decisions throughout the upcoming weeks, with the most important opinions being released at the end of June, as is typical. Here are the opinions we're awaiting most anxiously.

1. Affirmative Action -- Fisher v. University of Texas

Fisher is possibly the most high-profile case of the term. Abigail Fisher, a white woman, is challenging her rejection from the University of Texas at Austin -- and she has been for years. (This is, in fact, the second time the case has come before the Supreme Court. Fisher graduated from college long ago, at Louisiana State University.)

The University of Texas uses race as a consideration in a small amount of its decisions, a system Fisher argues is unconstitutional.

Justice Scalia made news at oral arguments when he suggested that minority students could be better served by being excluded from top universities. But he won't be deciding this case, making Justice Kennedy's swing vote even more important.

2. Immigration -- United States v. Texas

In U.S. v. Texas, the Court is considering the legality of President Obama's immigration reform plan, which seeks to allow the immigrant parents of American citizens a path to lawful status. It's one of the president's legacy programs. But it's been held up in court for over a year now.

Critics, including 26 states suing the federal government, claim the program, which was created by executive action alone, far exceeds the powers of the presidency.

At oral arguments, Justice Kennedy seemed to agree, saying that the situation was "as if the president is defining the policy and Congress is executing it. That's just upside down." But, the program also had the likely support of the Court's four liberal justices. We're expecting a limited opinion as a result -- or worse, a deadlocked one.

3. Abortion -- Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt

It's Texas again. (Anyone else seeing a pattern here?) This case examines what sort of restrictions a state may place on abortion providers. The case focuses on Texas's draconian requirements for abortion providers, requirements that could shutter most abortion clinics in the state.

The case could have a major impact on abortion access and family planning services throughout the country. As such, it inspired more than 100 female legal professionals to submit an unprecedented amicus brief to the Court, detailing their own experiences with abortion.

And if you're pro-choice, you might be in luck here. At oral arguments, Justice Kennedy seemed to lean towards invalidating Texas's law, suggesting it creates an unconstitutional "undue burden" on a woman's right to obtain an abortion. That is, if procedural issues don't prevent the Court from deciding the case on the merits.

4. Contraception -- Zubik v. Burwell

The Affordable Care Act is back before the Supreme Court, once again. And once again, it's Obamacare's contraception mandate that is the source of controversy -- or rather, Obamacare's exemptions to the contraception mandate. If religious employers object to providing contraception through their employee insurance plans, Obamacare allows them to inform the government or their insurer, who then takes over.

The system is a direct result of the Supreme Court's ruling in 2014's Hobby Lobby opinion, but it's also a system that "triggers" employers' participation in a system they object to, violating their free exercise of religion.

It's an argument that's been rejected by almost every appellate court that has heard it, but at oral arguments, the justices seemed split. They even ordered post-argument briefing on whether less burdensome alternatives existed.

So, how will these four cases turn out? Only time will tell. Hopefully, we don't have to wait too long to find out.

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