Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court who was confirmed by the Senate to the lifetime job on Friday in a 54-45 vote, will have an immediate impact on cases already pending before the justices.
The nine-seat court has operated with only eight justices after the death of conservative Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13, 2016, with four liberals and four conservatives. Gorsuch’s confirmation restores a 5-4 conservative majority. The new justice could cast the deciding vote in new cases before the court as well as some cases already argued during the current term that ends in June. The court could decide to hear fresh arguments in cases in which they otherwise would be split 4-4.
Here is a list of five such cases in which Gorsuch could be pivotal.
Religious rights: Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer
A case from Missouri to be argued on April 19 in which a church contends the state violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom by denying it funds for a playground project because of a state ban on aid to religious organizations.
Employee class-action lawsuits: Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis
A significant case for business and labor on whether companies can head off costly class-action lawsuits by forcing employees to give up their right to pursue work-related legal claims as a group in court. An issue that has divided the court in the past, this case is set to be argued in the next term, which starts in October.
Housing discrimination: Bank of America v. Miami
The eight-justice court appeared closely divided when it heard arguments on Nov. 8 on whether the city of Miami could pursue lawsuits accusing major banks of predatory mortgage lending to black and Hispanic home buyers. The court may need to reargue the case with Gorsuch on board to avoid a 4-4 split.
Cross-border shooting: Hernandez v. Mesa
A 4-4 split appeared possible when the court heard arguments in this civil rights case on Feb. 21. The court has been asked to revive a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of a Mexican teenager against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who fatally shot the 15-year-old from across the border in Texas in 2010.
Corporate liability: Jesner v. Arab Bank
In a case to be heard next term, the court agreed on Monday to consider reviving litigation that seeks to hold Arab Bank Plc financially liable for militant attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories and accuses the Jordan-based bank of being the “paymaster” to militant groups. The question of whether companies can be held liable for actions overseas under a federal law called the Alien Tort Statute is one the court also took up in 2013 but failed to decide.
(Compiled by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)
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