2019 busy for U.S. Supreme Court

By Carol Zimmermann

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) – 2019 was a busy year for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its new term, which began in October, the justices examined the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA; workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation; gun ownership restrictions; and, as it does most terms, the death penalty.

The court also agreed this term to review (next year) a Louisiana abortion law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and a school choice program in Montana that excludes religious schools.

In rulings issued in June, at the end of its previous term, the court permitted a religious symbol on public property; blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census; and overturned an inmate's death sentence, citing racial bias in the prosecutor's jury selection.

In July and September, before the new term began, the court issued unsigned orders backing President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

This fall, all eyes were on the court for how it would respond in the high-stakes immigration case on DACA. At issue before the court – while DACA supporters including Catholic activists rallied outside – was how the Trump administration went about trying to end DACA.

A decision is expected next June.

At the end of its last term and as the new term began, the court once again examined death-penalty cases.

In a June decision, the court overturned the death sentence of a Mississippi African American man who had been tried six times for a quadruple murder charge. On Dec. 6, the court issued an order that left in place a preliminary injunction prohibiting the government from carrying out the first federal executions in 16 years (see related story on this page). A federal judge in November temporarily blocked upcoming executions of four federal death-row inmates, who had challenged the constitutionality of the lethal injection protocol to be used in their executions.

In early December, the court heard its first gun-rights case in almost a decade, brought by New York City licensed gun owners challenging a regulation that puts limits on the ability to transport firearms outside the home. The suit was first filed in 2013, and New York state has since made some modifications to the regulation.

On the second day of the court's new term, the justices heard oral arguments from three cases concerning protections for gay, lesbian and transgender employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts.