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Supreme Court term begins with case of workers' rights

Justin Tang  Winnipeg Free Press
Niki Ashton MP for Churchill Keewatinook Aski in northern Manitoba failed to win the federal party leadership Sunday

In briefs to the Supreme Court, the baker's attorneys argued that their client "is an artist" who creates "elaborate custom cakes" and that America's guarantee of freedom of expression gives him the right "to use his artistic talents to promote only messages that align with his religious beliefs". The Department told them, they said, that it does not oppose their filing a new complaint, but will fight the plea for a new court bar to enforcement. "This year, that problem doesn't present itself".

Immigration cases could show Gorsuch being more moderate than his reputation as a conservative would suggest, according to FiveThirtyEight.

One high-profile case could disappear, at least for now.

The Supreme Court opened its new nine-month term Monday when it heard an hour of arguments about the rights of employees to bring class-action lawsuits against companies. Last Friday, the president nominated Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But some justices may look dimly upon the government abruptly changing its position in cases.

Taken together, the two cases "have a real chance of being a one-two punch against workers' rights", said Claire Prestel, a lawyer for the Service Employees International Union. The court will wade into these complex issues with its newest member, Trump appointee Neil Goursch who is expected to fill the reliably conservative vote of Scalia, leaving four left-leaning justices and five conservative justices (including the so-called "swing vote" of Anthony Kennedy).

In an era of sharp political division, it may be now or never for the court to rein in excessively partisan redistricting. The justices are set to hear that case on November 8. Earlier this year, the high court allowed the previous travel ban to go forward but required exemptions for those with close familial ties to the United States. The GOP plan seemed to consign Democrats to minority status in the Wisconsin Assembly in a state that otherwise is closely divided between the parties. It is not unprecedented for the Justice Department to flip positions in a case as a effect of an election, though it is never received well by the Court.

"Both cases implicate the scope of the government's authority over different classes of immigrants in ways that won't directly bear on the travel ban litigation, but could provide important clues into what the key justices are thinking", said CNN legal analyst and University of Texas Law School professor Steve Vladeck.

By 2011, the legal worm had turned, and at the Supreme Court there was a conservative majority hostile to class actions and favoring individual arbitrations.

The Supreme Court has suggested that partisan gerrymandering is acceptable to a certain point but has struggled to find that limit.

The government argued that the lower court opinion represented a "dramatic and wholesale revision" to the long-standing system and replacing it with "a radical new one in which aliens arriving at our borders or convicted of crimes have a presumptive entitlement to be released in the United States". After Rosenkranz responded that "moral turpitude" has been delineated over "two centuries' worth of law", Kagan added that "in a crime of moral turpitude, we don't have to consider what the ordinary case is, do we?"

She had signed an employment contract with a provision requiring any dispute to be settled in individual arbitration. But no one mentioned the Trump administration switch on Monday.

The justices have so far largely avoided being drawn into controversy surrounding the president. In numerous most hotly contested cases that reach the court these days, Kennedy's vote determines the outcome because the court is so closely and ideologically divided. "It's the employer who says that if you want to work here, you sign this", she said.

Until now, however, the cases before the court have involved consumer class actions, and there was little uproar over the court's upholding binding arbitration for consumer disputes, or even its rejection of class actions in arbitration for consumers.

The court will also hear a major case concerning privacy in the digital age when it determines whether investigators need to obtain a warrant for cell tower data to track and reconstruct location and movements of cell phone users over extended periods of time.

Yesterday, the first day of the October 2017 term, the justices heard oral argument in Sessions v. Dimaya, a void-for-vagueness challenge to a criminal-removal provision of the USA immigration laws.

During Monday's oral arguments, Justice Stephen Breyer framed the case as an attempt to "radically" change labor law.