First Amendment Cases at the Supreme Court This Term

The Supreme Court of the United States begins its next term today–the first Monday in October, as it does every year. Right now, the High Court is slated to hear a few First Amendment cases, which are among the most high-profile cases of the term, and the Court could put more First Amendment cases on its docket in the coming months.


Here are the cases that the Court will hear:

Gill v. Whitford: This is the Wisconsin political-gerrymandering case. It’s about whether (and when) it is constitutional for a state legislature to use people’s political-party affiliations when drawing legislative districts. Voting and political association are protected by the First Amendment.  [UPDATE: On June 18, 2018, the Court remanded the case to the lower court on procedural grounds, allowing the Wisconsin map to remain in effect for now.]

Trump v. Int’l Refugee Assistance Project (and Trump v. Hawaii): These are the travel-ban cases. Plenty has been written in the media about these cases. The First Amendment issues are whether the President’s Executive Order(s) impermissibly either (a) discriminate against Muslim immigrants, or (b) preferentially favor Christian immigrants in violation of the Religions Clauses.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colo. Civil Rights Comm’n: This is the case of the wedding-cake baker who refused to serve same-sex couples, in violation of Colorado’s non-discrimination law.  The baker argues that creating wedding cakes is a form of creative expression, protected by the First Amendment, and that making cakes for same-sex weddings is “forced speech” that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs.  [UPDATE: On June 4, 2018, the Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the baker.]

Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31: This case is about whether public-sector “agency shop” union agreements–agreements that require public employees to pay dues to a union that might use that money to advocate for causes that an employee might disagree with–violate the First Amendment.  Last term, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on the same issue.

Here are some cases that the Court might hear (interestingly, these cases are either from Minnesota, or involve abortion in California):

Final Exit Network v. Minnesota: This case involves whether speech that “enables” someone to commit suicide is protected by the First Amendment.

Muccio v. Minnesota: This case is about sexting–whether it’s constitutional to criminalize all sending of sexually explicit material to minors.

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky: This is a First Amendment challenge to a law that bans all political apparel at polling places.  [UPDATE: The Court heard the case and ruled for the Minnesota Voters Alliance.]

Nat’l Inst. of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra, Livingwell Med. Clinic v. Becerra, and A Woman’s Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic v. Becerra: These cases involve so-called “pregnancy crisis centers,” which are pro-life medical facilities that provide a variety of services for pregnant women. We wrote about a similar case earlier this year. The issues involve state laws and regulations that require such facilities to refrain from making certain statements and/or to make certain information available to patients.

[UPDATE: On November 13, 2017, the Supreme Court decided to hear Mansky and Becerra.  The Supreme Court declined to hear Final Exit Network v. Minnesota and Muccio v. Minnesota.]

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