Five rulings to watch at the Supreme Court

Interns will soon be sprinting down the steps of the Supreme Court to deliver printouts of rulings to TV anchors, something of an annual tradition at the highest court in the land.

The justices heard their last arguments in April and will start issuing rulings next week in the most closely watched cases of the term, which ends in late June.  

The justices often save the biggest decisions for last — and this year is no exception. 

Since October, the court has grappled with several hot-button issues, including free speech and equality, partisan gerrymandering and the legality of President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE's controversial travel ban.


Here's a look at the top five cases to watch as the term comes to a close. 

Partisan gerrymandering  

The justices were asked this term to rule on whether Republican officials in Wisconsin unconstitutionally injected political bias into the redistricting process by drawing district lines to disadvantage Democrats.

The case, Gill v. Whitford, was one of the first heard at the beginning of the term in October, but the justices have yet to release their opinion. The delay is likely due to the fact that the court agreed to hear a second partisan gerrymandering case of out Maryland later in the term. 

In the second case, Benisek v. Lamone, it's Republicans who are protesting a redistricting decision. GOP voters say Democratic election officials packed the Maryland’s 6th Congressional District with Democrats to ensure Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyDirect air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy Lobbying world Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis MORE (D) beat the Republican incumbent, who at the time was Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.  

The cases could result in the court striking down a redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander for the first time, but that outcome is far from certain. During oral arguments, the justices appeared undecided on whether they should even review such claims and what standard should be used if they do. 

It’s also unclear whether they will be able to settle on any of the methods that have been proposed to weigh if political bias has been unconstitutionally injected into a redistricting process.  

Wedding cake

The court also has yet to rule in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case centers on Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. 

Phillips argues he can’t be forced to make the cake under the state’s anti-discrimination laws. He says his cakes are an artistic expression of free speech and religion that’s protected by the First Amendment.

Making a cake for a gay wedding, he says, would send the message that he supports same-sex marriage when he is morally opposed as a Christian. 

The case is seen as the next big fight for LGBT rights after the justices’ landmark ruling in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage.

“People in the LGBT community think this undermines Obergefell and LGBT rights if the court were to come down in favor of the baker,” said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor. “I think that’s an important question that’s at stake here.” 

Civil rights advocates fear a ruling in favor of Phillips will give businesses a license to discriminate against LGBT people. 

Sports betting 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) could get a major win if the court sides with a challenge his state brought challenging a 1992 federal law that bans sports gambling in almost every state except Nevada. 

During arguments, the justices appeared skeptical of the law.

“So the citizens of the state of New Jersey are bound to obey a law that the state doesn't want but that the federal government compels the state to have?” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked. “That seems commandeering.” 

Major sports leagues, including the NCAA, NBA, NHL and NFL, argue the law should be upheld.  

The case, which was paired with another challenge from the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, could pave the way for legalized sports betting in states across the country. 

The American Gaming Association in a friend of the court brief argued a legal sports-betting industry could generate up to $26.6 billion in total economic impact every year and support more than 150,000 well-paying American jobs. 

Free speech and abortion

It’s a two-for-one in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, a lawsuit that pro-life pregnancy centers in California brought challenging a state law that requires licensed facilities to post information about where women can obtain a free or low-cost abortion from the state.

The law also requires unlicensed facilities to notify women that they do not employ a licensed medical professional. 

NIFLA argues the state law forces them to promote a procedure they morally oppose, violating the First Amendment. The state says it’s well within its right to protect women from being misled about the medical services provided by the pregnancy centers. 

Court watchers say the case could set new limits on how far the government can go in regulating speech.

Trump's travel ban 

The last arguments the justices heard this term were a challenge to President Trump’s ban on nationals from certain Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.

A conservative majority of justices on the court seemed likely to rule in favor of the president, but court watchers are waiting to see how Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and in office play into their decision.

The challengers, led by the state of Hawaii, argue Trump’s remarks prove his ban is unconstitutionally rooted in an animus toward Muslim people.  

But court watchers say the justices may decide not to reach the constitutionality question and rule that Trump has the statutory power to issue the travel ban as a matter of national security.