President Trump is expected to name a new Supreme Court justice on Tuesday evening.
The judge would fill a vacancy on the nine-person court left open since the sudden death last February of Justice Antonin Scalia. His seat has been the subject of a bitter dispute between Democrats and Republicans over the ideological makeup of the court. In addition to cases involving civil rights and immigration, the new justice will have a hand in deciding a roster of important business cases this year.
Earlier this year, Republicans refused to consider the Obama Administration’s choice of Merrick Garland, a moderate.
Trump is expected to make his pick from a roster of conservative justices, including Neil Gorsuch of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Judge William Pryor of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. Judge Raymond Kethledge of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Cincinnati is also a possibility, the Wall Street Journal reports.
While Democrats have promised a bruising confirmation fight that could last for months, here’s a look at six cases where the new justice could have a deciding vote once confirmed.
The reach of the Clean Water Act
National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense
Conservatives have been attempting to overturn the Obama Administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule, or WOTUS since 2016. The new regulation, passed as part of the Clean Water Act, expanded the Environmental Protection Agency’s role overseeing small bodies of water, including rivers, streams and drainage ditches. The Supreme Court will decide whether federal courts have the authority to review appeals under the rule.
Trademarks and free speech
Lee v. Tam
In a case that could have far-reaching implications for trademark holders, this case will determine whether the 1946 Lanham Trademark Act violates the First Amendment with regard to free speech. Lanham prohibits trademarks that disparage people. The case is similar to a legal battle currently raging over the Washington Redskins regarding the use of their team mascot’s name. Lee v. Tam, however, deals with a rock band called the Slants, of Portland, Oregon. The band’s founder is Asian American and had been denied a trademark by the Patent and Trademark Office because the name disparaged people of Asian descent. A federal court sided with the PTO, but that decision was overturned on appeal.
Gloucester County School Board v. G.G.
The Supreme Court will weigh in on whether federal government has the authority to require public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Although this case deals with public education, specifically protections from discrimination based on sex under Title IX, the decision could be a bellwether for legal challenges that will arise in response to 11 state “bathroom bills,” which involve transgender people and the use of shared bathrooms, including in businesses.
Microsoft Corporation v. Baker
This case has implications for large corporations and class actions. The case involves a class action brought by owners of defective Xbox products, and whether they can appeal an action once they’ve moved to dismiss their case with prejudice, which is usually a final decision. (The plaintiffs appealed in 2015.) Microsoft claims that once plaintiffs move to dismiss a case, they may not appeal it. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the Redmond, Washington-based software maker. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of Microsoft.
TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC
The outcome of this case could have a particular bearing on patent trolls, as it deals with the jurisdiction in which patent infringement cases are heard. Trolls, also known as non-practicing entities, typically create corporate shells and purchase soon-to-lapse patents, which they use to sue businesses for patent infringement. Roughly a quarter of NPE’s head to the Eastern District of Texas to lodge their complaints, as the court has a record of ruling in their favor. The current case involves a patent infringement dispute between Kraft and Heartland, which it is suing in Delaware, although Heartland does business in Indiana.
Update: An earlier version of this story highlighted a case, Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple, which the Supreme Court sent back to an appeals court in December.