The Term Begins: The Long Conference

By ISCOTUS Co-Director Carolyn Shapiro

The Supreme Court’s new Term officially begins on the first Monday in October with oral arguments (although this year, due to Rosh Hashanah, it will be the first Tuesday in October). But before that happens, the Court has some very important business. The justices have not met since the end of June, so they have a large number of pending cert petitions. Every fall, generally the week before the first Monday, they meet for what is known as the Long Conference, where they decide which of those petitions to grant. This year, they are meeting on Monday, September 26. They could announce new grants as early as Monday afternoon.

There are a handful of cases and issues worth keeping an eye on when the Court issues its orders. The two most prominent are the petition for rehearing in United States v. Texas and the cert petition in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G.

United States v. Texas involves the challenge to President Obama’s effort to provide an opportunity for certain undocumented immigrants, such as those with citizen children, to apply for “deferred status.” (Deferred status essentially means that the government is not planning to begin enforcement proceedings. Some immigrants in deferred status can obtain permission to work legally.) A district court in Texas enjoined the program nationwide, and the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court heard argument but was unable to decide the case, issuing an order that the lower court decision was “affirmed by an equally divided court.” The government is asking the Court to rehear the case once it has a full complement of justices. Rehearing under such circumstances is not unprecedented.

G.G. is the case from Virginia involving a transgender student’s access to the bathroom corresponding to his gender identity. The district court had granted an injunction requiring the school to provide such access, and the Fourth District affirmed. The Supreme Court, however, granted a stay of that injunction. The chances of the Court taking this case are very high.

Aside from these two high profile cases, most of the cases to be considered next week are not headline-grabbers, but many of them are quite interesting and potentially important Here are a few cases to watch out for:

There are several cases involving the scope of the Federal Arbitration Act. The cases the Court could take address issues such as a challenge to the impartiality of an arbitrator (Masimo Corp. v. Ruhe) and whether the arbitrator or the court decides if an arbitration agreement precludes class or collective action (Scout Petroleum, LLC v. Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC).

Vanessa G. v. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services asks whether there is a constitutional guarantee of effective assistance of counsel in a proceeding for termination of parental rights.

In Packingham v. North Carolina, a former sex offender brings a First Amendment challenge to a law prohibiting him from accessing websites that enable communication between users if minors are known to have accounts. The petitioner was convicted for a Facebook post announcing the dismissal of a traffic ticket.

Iowa v. Jackson addresses whether consent to search a room necessarily includes consent to search a closed container within that room.

In Armstrong v. Thompson, a law enforcement officer brought a lawsuit for defamation and intentional interference with contractual relations. The defendant was a former coworker who told the officer’s new prospective employer that the officer was under investigation for serious breaches of integrity and that hiring him would be a “grave error.” The issue in the case is whether a law enforcement official a public figure, which provides the speaker significantly wider latitude under the First Amendment than if the official is not.

H. v. California involves the scope of the privilege against self-incrimination for a 10-year-old child.

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