Here we are in 2016 and while we’re busy door knocking and campaigning hard for our presidential candidate of choice, SCOTUS will be ruling on important cases. Here are 5 important ones you should watch for.

1) Evenwel v Abbott

At the heart of Evenwel v Abbott is the “one person one vote” principle found in the Equal Protection Clause.  This case, argued in early December of 2015, comes from Texas. The case deals with redistricting plans that include non-eligible voters, such as illegal aliens, in the population. Does this restrict the voting power of citizens who live in areas without a large population of non-voters, in comparison to the voters who live in areas with a large amount of non-voters? Stay tuned for a decision in 2016.

2) Hurst v Florida

Hurst v Florida comes to us from, surprise, Florida and has the death penalty laws of Florida at it’s heart.  Timothy Hurst was convicted of first-degree murder of his co-worker, Cynthia, and sentenced to death. As most people do, he appealed. During his appeal, questions of mental illness were raised. Hurst was only allowed to prevent such mental illness as a mitigating factor, not a way to completely avoid the death penalty. The question before the Supreme Court is whether Florida’s death sentence rules, which don’t require a judge to determine mental capacity or the jury to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty violates either the Sixth Amendment, guarantee to a trial by jury, or the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.  Oral arguments were heard in October and a decision can be expected in 2016.

3) Whole Woman’s Heath v. Cole

At the heart of Whole Woman’s Health v Cole is abortion, and whether states place an undue burden on abortion providers by requiring them to meet certain requirements, such as having admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The clinics argue that these regulations, including that abortion clinics have the same facilities as a surgal center, do not actually improve women’s health. Oral arguments are set for March 2nd. This will be the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on an issue of abortion since 2007, when they banned partial-birth abortions. All eyes will be watching this case as it unfolds.

4) Zubik v. Burwell

Following in the foot-steps of the notorious Hobby Lobby case, Zubik v Burwell tackles whether Obamacare’s forced contraceptive coverage and accommodation violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by requiring religious non-profits to act in a way that violates their beliefs.  This is seen by many as the second half of the Hobby Lobby case, which raised this question for for-profit businesses. We will see in 2016 what the court has to say about non-profits on this issue.

5) Fisher v University of Texas

There is no way you haven’t heard of this case. Abigail Fisher, the Caucasian petitioner, was denied admissions to the University of Texas in 2008.  A Texas law requires that the University of Texas admit all applicants who are in the top ten percent of their graduating class. To help grow racial and ethnic diversity on campus, the remainder of open-spots for in-state students would use race as a factor in admission.  The question at hand is whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment allows for the consideration of race in admissions decisions. The decision will be crucial in the future of affirmative action at the university level. This is the second time the case has been to the Supreme Court, so it will be one to watch. Oral arguments were heard on December 9th and a decision is expected in 2016.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member