The Supreme Court began its new term this past Monday with a docket full of cases sure to influence how Americans go about their day. The cases range from the government not getting a warrant to search your possessions to being forced to give money to political labor unions. With Justice Neil Gorsuch now fully on the job, this slate of cases could tell us what the longer-term legacy of electing President Donald Trump will be.
Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 is a case that affects every state and local government employee in the nation. The case could force every state with mandatory union membership dues for government employees to immediately change their laws.
In many states and localities when a person becomes an employee of the local government, it is mandated that person pay union dues, regardless if they want to join the union or not. Think of it as extortion, if you want this job you the bosses a piece of the action.
Nationally, union dues may average out to about $400 per year, but this is a volume business. When you multiply it by millions of local and state employees the price tag gets into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The Center for Union Facts estimates that, since 2010, unions have contributed more than $1 billion to liberal groups without prior member approval. With government union membership making up 48.9 percent of total membership, it is no wonder the unions and the left want to keep forced union dues.
Americans for Limited Government Foundation President Don Todd, a former Director of Labor Management Standards that has direct oversight of the public and private unions, issued the following statement praising the Supreme Court for taking up the case, “No person should ever be forced to involuntarily contribute to an organization which he or she is not even a member of, a clear violation of First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court is doing the right thing by revisiting the 1977 Abood decision. With Justice Neil Gorsuch now on the job, this could be an opportunity for the Court make it clear that freedom of speech also includes the freedom to refrain from subsidizing it.”
Another case that made national headlines and is now going to be decided in the Supreme Court is Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The case centers around a cake shop being forced to do something the owners believe violate their first amendment rights. The owners of the cake shop do not wish to bake a cake for a gay wedding, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission disagrees. The government bureaucracy believes the cake shop owners must be forced to violate their constitutional rights.
The liberal media is already making this case about gay rights, but it has nothing to do with gay rights. No one is saying the wedding cannot take place, nor is anyone saying there cannot be a cake. This is a First Amendment case and is likely to be the highest profile case from this term, and will surely generate waves of protests outside the courthouse. Does the bureaucracy have the power to force a business to violate the owners’ religious principles?
The swing vote in the case is likely to be Justice Anthony Kennedy. In the past, Kennedy has ruled in favor of cases dealing with gay rights such as the same-sex marriage case in 2015.
But Kennedy has also ruled in favor of religious liberty and the First Amendment in the past. In 2014, he ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and its refusal to provide health insurance that provides birth control on religious grounds. In 2010, he ruled in favor of Citizens United in their case against the Federal Elections Commission, a case loathed by every liberal.
If the remaining eight justices vote as expected, it looks like this case will be decided by a Supreme Court of one.
Carpenter v. United States might be the most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade. Timothy Carpenter was a suspect in a string of armed robberies in Detroit. Four of Carpenter’s conspirators were caught, with one confessing to the crime. During the investigation authorities seized the location data from cell carriers of one of the conspirators to link Carpenter to the crimes without a warrant. Carpenter would be convicted by a jury of aiding and abetting the robberies.
The conviction was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Fourth Amendment grounds. No warrant was issued to seize the cell data from cell carriers that linked Carpenter to the crimes. The court upheld the conviction believing no warrant was necessary.
The case has finally made it to the Supreme Court and created some strange bedfellows. The American Civil Liberties Union, Verizon, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have all joined the case. Just a few short years ago it was revealed the cell phone carriers were cooperating with government in data collection. The change by Verizon indicates the business are figuring out their customers value privacy.
The fact the Court took up the case indicates the justices know the where the world is heading. With everything being digitized and tracked via electronic device, soon there will be no privacy, and boundaries must be drawn to keep the Fourth Amendment intact. If the conviction is thrown out this case could have further reaching implications down the road of how far the NSA can go when collecting your data in its surveillance programs.
The slate of cases proves just how important the election was. President Trump ran on appointing a constitutionalist to the bench, and that was the reason many conservatives backed him. Many of the decisions that will to be handed down are more than likely going to be 5-4, underscoring the importance of getting Gorsuch on the bench, and without Trump it would not have been possible.