In 1790, the U.S. Supreme Court met for the first time in New York under the leadership of Chief Justice John Jay, who had been selected by President George Washington to head the nation’s third branch of government. The court’s docket was completely empty and only three of the appointed justices were able to make it to New York in time for the session.
More than 200 years later, it is hard to overstate the importance of the Supreme Court. In fulfilling its mandate to interpret the constitutionality of U.S. law, the court has changed American history on numerous occasions. Landmark rulings include Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which banned segregation in public schools, and Roe v. Wade in 1973, which declared unduly restrictive state laws on abortion unconstitutional.
In recent years, the Supreme Court has been in the news frequently. From the death of Antonin Scalia and the Senate’s refusal to hold hearings on the appointment of Merrick Garland, to the controversial seating of Brett Kavanaugh, the court’s makeup has been subject to robust debate.
Amid the flux, the country's highest court has continued to fill its docket with significant cases. In the coming months, the court will debate everything from the citizenship question in the 2020 census, to a 150-year-old Native American treaty, to racial discrimination in jury selections.
Click through the slides to see 10 upcoming Supreme Court cases to watch.
2/ Bernard Spragg. NZ // Flickr
Oral arguments begin Jan. 8, 2019.
In 2014, Clayvin Herrera, a member of the Native American Apsáalooke Nation (also known as The Crow Tribe) was charged with violating Wyoming state law when he hunted elk outside of his tribe’s reservation. Herrera fought the conviction, arguing he is protected by a 150-year-old land use treaty between local tribes and the federal government. Now at the Supreme Court, the case will have broad implications on treaties that predate statehood on land use.
Oral arguments begin Jan. 8, 2019.
Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com is a copyright case that will determine whether infringement claims are valid if a copyright application is still processing. The case stems from a lawsuit between Fourth Estate, a free press advocacy group, and Wall-Street.com over content published on Wall-Street.com without a license. The case could significantly change how creators — especially freelancers — protect their work.
Oral arguments begin Jan. 15, 2019.
While the regulation of private healthcare continues to be debated, the national Medicare insurance program remains a fundamental part of elderly care in the U.S. Hospitals and healthcare providers, however, have challenged the government’s reimbursements policies in this program. In Azar v. Allina Health Services, the court will rule on whether the government is required to provide notice and allow a commenting period before changing its payment system.
Oral arguments begin Jan. 16, 2019.
Since the 21st Amendment repealed prohibition and gave states the power to regulate alcohol, beer, and spirits, alcohol production has become a major industry in the U.S. In Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair, the court will decide whether Tennessee’s residency requirements for distributing and renewing liquor licenses are discriminatory against out-of-state retailers. The ruling will have "profound implications for the interstate and foreign wine markets," the National Association of Wine Retailers stated in an amicus curiae brief.
6/ U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Oral arguments begin Feb. 19, 2019.
Department of Commerce v. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is one the most significant cases on the court’s docket and could have a major effect on whether the 2020 census includes a question on citizenship. The lawsuit has garnered major attention as a coalition of states, led by New York, argues that the Trump administration’s decision to include the citizenship question will suppress turnout from undocumented households and inaccurately count the U.S. population and its funding needs. The Supreme Court will rule on whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross could be questioned about the motivations behind his decision to add the question.
7/ Judith E. Bell // Flickr
Oral arguments begin Feb. 20, 2019.
In Return Mail Inc. v. United States Postal Service, the court will determine whether the government is a "person" who can petition patent review proceedings and whether the government has the power to take patent licenses through eminent domain. The case stems from a patent dispute between Return Mail, Inc., a private company that developed technology for processing returned mail, and the U.S. Postal Service.
Oral arguments begin Feb. 25, 2019.
In the case of Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, the justices will determine whether a Second Circuit Court of Appeals erred in ruling that private operators of public access TV channels are considered state actors and therefore can be sued for First Amendment violations. The case came from a lawsuit between the Manhattan Community Access Corp., a private nonprofit corporation that manages public broadcast channels, and former employees who said their free speech protections were violated. The trial is being closely watched as the ruling could have implications for major social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, and their ability to regulate content.
Oral arguments begin Feb. 26, 2019.
In United States v. Haymond, the Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of a federal statute that requires additional prison time for sex offenders who violate the terms of their supervised release. The court will hear arguments from the U.S. government and Andre Haymond, who was sentenced by a district court in 2015 to five additional years in prison for possessing child pornography while on supervised release. He had previously served 38 months in prison for the same charge. Haymond challenged the court’s mandate saying it violates the Fifth and Sixth amendments, which guarantee "due process of the law” and a "public trial, by an impartial jury.”
10/ Ben Jacobsen // Wikimedia Commons
Oral arguments begin Feb. 27, 2019.
From religious symbols in classrooms to "In God We Trust” on dollar bills, U.S. residents have debated how best to separate church and state since the founding of the republic. In The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the Supreme Court will continue that debate and determine whether a 93-year-old cross-shaped World War I memorial on public land in Maryland violates the U.S. Constitution.
11/ Tony Webster // Flickr
Date for oral arguments yet to be announced.
In November 2018, the Supreme Court granted review of Flowers v. Mississippi, a capital punishment case that has moved through the judicial system for over two decades. The case centers around an African-American man, Curtis Flowers, who was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of four people in Winona, Mississippi. The case has been tried multiple times after the prosecutor was found on several occasions to have been racially discriminatory in selecting jurors. The Supreme Court agreed to review the case after Mississippi’s high court rejected Flowers’ latest challenge to the jury selection. The Supreme Court should "reaffirm its commitment to the eradication of jury discrimination,” the NAACP said in an amicus curiae brief, that urged the justices to reverse Flowers’ conviction and death sentence.