Here’s What You Need to Know About the Post-Scalia 2016 Supreme Court Session

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Following the recent death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, many have wondered how the current session will play out now that the dynamics of the court have changed. Up until this weekend, there were five conservative justices (Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito), and four liberal ones (Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan). Historically, Kennedy has served as a tie breaker – siding with conservatives in civil rights cases and doing the opposite when it comes to social causes.

Scalia’s death won’t halt the current session, which will reach its peak in the summer when the court is set to make decisions on hot-button issues like immigration and abortion. And hard as President Barack Obama may try to appoint the ninth justice – thus leaving his last mark before he steps down as president – Supreme Court nominations rarely happen on election years, according to the New York Times.

Some, like Mother Jones, are speculating that the Supreme Court cases have already been decided. “Because of the polarized nature of the court, Scalia’s death makes it all but certain that in most of those cases, the votes will result in a 4-4 tie, which means that the decision of the lower courts will likely stand unless one of the justices goes off the reservation and votes with the opposite side,” the site reported.

But, someone like Roberts may end up surprising people, because as The Daily Signal reports, he has voted unexpectedly in a string of cases – including voting to uphold Obamacare in 2012.

In the meantime, all we can do is wait and look at the cases that the court will decide on this summer:


U.S. v. Texas

In 2014, Obama passed an executive action to shield 5.5 million undocumented immigrants from being deported. He also gave them the opportunity to legally work in the United States.

If Obama’s executive action is not upheld, then the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Obama exceeded his power will stand, according to Mother Jones, which means that many more immigrants will be living in fear.


Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin


The University of Texas at Austin is required to accept any student who ranks in the top 10 percent of their high school class. To decide who else is admitted, the school looks at other factors, including race. Abigail Fisher was rejected from the school, and she felt it was because of this practice.

The Supreme Court has already heard this case, but they sent it back down to lower courts so that it could be reviewed under a higher level of scrutiny, according to the Constitution Daily.

Because Elena Kagan has recused herself from this case, the case will be decided by seven justices.



Whole Women's health v. Hellerstedt

In 2013, a Texas law placed severe restrictions on abortion facilities. Whole Women’s Health argues that this will lead to 75 percent of abortion clinics closing in Texas, according to the New York Times.

If the justices are split, then this means that only a handful of abortion clinics would remain open.


Evenwel v. Abbott

In this case, the court will decide what “one person, one vote” means. “Should the court require or allow counting only voters, the political power of districts including disproportionate numbers of unauthorized immigrants could be diminished, generally benefitting Republicans,” the NYT reported.

If there is a 4-4 vote, then the lower court’s ruling backing Texas’ decision to count everyone will stand.