exp GPS 0919 Breyer on his new book_00022323.png
On GPS: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
07:07 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Supreme Court justices, on the verge of a new term, will meet behind closed doors on Monday to discuss petitions that have accumulated over the summer and decide which cases should be added to the court’s docket.

The private conference comes a week before the new term is set to begin when the justices will take the bench in person for the first time to hear arguments in over a year. The nine justices find themselves under the political spotlight after they allowed on a 5-4 vote a controversial Texas abortion law to go into effect.

Since that decision, several justices have given public remarks attempting to bolster the court’s institutional legitimacy and arguing that they view cases according to their judicial philosophy and not from any political affiliation. But recent polls show the public – particularly Democrats – are souring on the court.

Already, the term – set to start October 4 – will be a blockbuster one as the justices will hear a significant Second Amendment case concerning a New York conceal carry law in November, followed by a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in December.

Some of the pending petitions the justices will consider Monday touch on those same topics and could be held while the cases are decided. They include two abortion-related cases out of Missouri and Arkansas concerning state laws that bar abortion performed solely because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told the justices in briefs that the challenge is about “whether the Constitution enshrines a right to have an abortion solely to avoid having a child diagnosed with Down Syndrome.” Rutledge said such a conclusion “threatens the very existence of people with Down Syndrome” and sends a message to them that the Constitution is “indifferent to their survival.”

There are a handful of other Second Amendment cases on a range of topics including laws that prohibit possession by non-violent offenders, and a challenge to a New Jersey ban on magazines holding 10 rounds or more.

Florist returns to the court

Lawyers for a Washington state florist who refused to make an arrangement for a client out of religious objections to same-sex marriage have returned to the court, asking the justices to reconsider its decision from last July to stay out of that dispute.

The Supreme Court denied the petition last term over the dissent of Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito. But lawyers for the florist, Barronelle Stutzman, asked the court to take another look at the case after a lower court issued an opinion in a related dispute.

The Washington state Supreme Court had ruled against Stutzman in 2019 holding that her refusal violated a state anti-discrimination law that bars discrimination basis of sexual orientation. It said the law was “neutral” and served the state’s interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. That ruling, however, was carefully tailored to the case at hand and was not a broad nationwide verdict on whether businesses could decline services to same-sex couples based on religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Unions, religious liberty and DC voting

Other cases the justices will look at concern a challenge to a state law that requires convicted sex offenders to carry identification cards, a qualified immunity case brought against an officer who placed a knee against the back of an armed suspect, and a 4th Amendment challenge brought by a man who was arrested after sending sexually explicit texts to someone he thought was a 15 year-old girl named “Bella Jane.” In reality, she was a law enforcement officer working a sting operation.

The court has weakened the power of unions in recent years and it is now considering a petition from a non-member of a union who objects to what he considers onerous opt-out procedures if he doesn’t want to pay fees that go toward ideological and political activities.

And they could add more religious liberty cases including a dispute concerning a New York regulation mandating that employer health plans cover abortions. Another case is brought by a California resident who sued a Catholic hospital after it refused to perform a hysterectomy for the purpose of a gender transition operation.

Also on the list is a case brought by registered voters in the District of Columbia who seek the ability to elect representatives to Congress. They say their inability to vote for members of Congress violates their rights and point to the fact that Congress extended voting rights to overseas residents but not to similarly situated residents of DC.

“Residents of the District of Columbia are the only adult American citizens subject to federal income taxes who lack voting representation in Congress, except for felons in some States,” they argue.