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Experts Discuss Cases to Watch as Supreme Court Begins New Term

By Jeffery Leon

October 8, 2019

On September 25 the D.C. Bar CLE Program explored the key issues and cases that will be before the U.S. Supreme Court, which kicked off its new term Monday. 

“Supreme Court Review and Preview 2019,” a popular annual presentation of the CLE Program, featured experienced Supreme Court practitioners John P. Elwood of Arnold & Porter LLP; Sarah Harrington of Goldstein & Russell, P.C.; and Deanne E. Maynard of Morrison & Foerster LLP. The program was moderated by Edith Roberts of SCOTUSblog.  

The panel looked at the top decisions that came out of the Supreme Court in the previous term, including Rucho v. Common Cause on partisan gerrymandering; Department of Commerce v. New York on the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census; and Flowers v. Mississippi, which overturned the conviction of Curtis Flowers, an African American man who was tried six times for a quadruple murder following the prosecutor’s intentional removal of qualified black jurors from the jury pool. 

On the issue of gerrymandering, Maynard highlighted state efforts to reduce political bias, including setting up independent commissions to draw district lines. Harrington, on the other hand, noted Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent in Rucho, with a possible motivation to “turn up the heat” on her colleagues and call attention to the Court’s actions. 

In the census case, the Court found that the Trump administration is allowed to add the citizenship question, but it must provide an honest reason, Harrington said. She pointed out that the Court’s decision emerged weeks after files on the hard drives of deceased Republican strategist Thomas B. Hofeller were discovered, revealing that the intent around the citizenship question was to bolster results for Republicans. 

The panel cited at least two big cases to watch during the new Supreme Court session: Kelly v. United States, the “Bridgegate” case where state public officials allegedly conspired to reduce traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge to create major traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, after its mayor refused to endorse Chris Christie for reelection as governor, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, focusing on employment discrimination based on gender identity.