By Ethan James, Trending Writer
There is some interesting decisions to be made within the Supreme Court this year, as several cases they have heard are to have a decision reached within the next few months. From determining whether gerrymandering is legal, from freedom of speech and religion to public accommodation laws, to whistleblowing and even privacy rights on cellphones. Each of these cases will have their decision made soon and can have significant implications on our future.
Probably the most controversial of the cases right now, is the Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. V. Colorado Rights Commission. A conservative Christian baking company in Colorado refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. The refusal came under the belief of First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. Feeling discriminated against and believing this was in violation of public accommodation laws, the couple filed suit with the help of the ACLU. The Supreme Court heard the case in early December. Their ruling will help determine whether baking, a creative service, is in fact, protected by the First Amendment and whether or not a public business can refuse services deemed artistic and creative in nature from individuals.
Another controversial case is Carpenter V. United States. Police used the Stored Communications Act to obtain Timothy Carpenter’s cellphone records with only reasonable suspicion, instead of probable cause. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that cellphone records are not protected by the Fourth Amendment and due to this, there is no need for a warrant to be searched. Right now, a warrant is needed to search a suspect’s physical cellphone but nothing is needed for those records. Appealing to the Supreme Court, the case will help determine whether or not our phone records are actually private. The decision will have major implications on government surveillance of our phones.
The Digital Realty Trust V. Somers case involves Paul Somers and the company he worked for. He complained internally about misconduct within the workplace and was subsequently fired. When he filed suit, he believed he was under the guise of the Dodd-Frank Act, which protect government employee whistleblowers who report wrongdoings to the SEC. He had not reported the security violations to the SEC and was therefore not protected as a whistleblower. The Supreme Court will decide whether or not the whistleblower laws protect employees who report internally. This could have major impact on the ability for employees to whistle blow wrongdoings, either making it harder or easier to gain legal protections.
Impacting even this year’s midterm elections is the court case Gill V. Whitford. The case involves the drawing districts based on party affiliations in the state of Wisconsin. The Democrats had won the majority in the assembly votes in 2012 and 2014, but only got about a third of the Assembly seats. The arguments of whether this type of gerrymandering violates voters’ Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment freedom of association shall be heard and determined. The implications of the court’s decision will affect not only Wisconsin, but other states like Texas and North Carolina that have kept Democrat representation in their states unequivocally matched to the actual voting in place.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 30th print edition.
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