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New Supreme Court term confronts range of thorny issues

At a preview of the new U.S. Supreme Court term, held at American University in Washington, D.C., by the ABA Division for Public Education, legal experts predicted the court term, which begins Oct. 7, promises to be historic. 

Expert panelists discuss the Supreme Court's upcoming term at an event sponsored by the ABA Division for Public Education.

Expert panelists discuss the Supreme Court's upcoming term at an event sponsored by the ABA Division for Public Education.

American Bar Association photo

“The significance of the term can’t be overstated,” said Steve Wermiel, moderator of the program and professor of Practice in Constitutional Law at American University’s Washington College of Law.

Cases before the court this term include three involving employment discrimination for same-sex and transgender individuals. Three cases also deal with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy. Other cases deal with gun control, a state’s insanity defense and religious liberty, among others.  

The cases dealing with the rights of gay and transgender employees are scheduled to be heard Oct. 8.

Joshua Matz, counsel at Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLC and the author of “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,” said the Supreme Court will weigh whether prohibitions on sex discrimination in federal employment law also ban discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

“A ruling in favor of protection here would have in my view wonderful benefits and protections for people who deserve them and need them as a policy matter and who I believe are entitled to them as a matter of law,” Matz said.  

Brianne J. Gorod, chief counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, discussed the trio of cases posing challenges to the legality of the Trump Administration’s termination of the DACA policy.

Gorod said the cases are “incredibly important” and will provide insights into the “Roberts’ court in the era of Trump.” She added that they will also shed light on whether the newest justices to the Supreme Court “will serve as a check on the president’s actions.”

So far, nearly half of the cases on the docket this term are criminal cases. Aderson B. Francois, professor of law and director of the Institute for Public Representation Civil Rights Law Clinic at Georgetown Law School, discussed a case involving whether the state of Kansas can legally abolish the insanity defense.

Marcia Coyle, chief Washington correspondent with the National Law Journal, said the Roberts court has been “very reluctant” to step back into the “gun, Second Amendment arena.” The last time was 2010. New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc., Inc. v. City of New York is scheduled for argument on Dec. 2.

The program was co-hosted by the American University Washington College of Law Program on Law and Government.

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