Prior to the start of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new term earlier this week, there were several takes on the court’s short-handedness and its unknown ideological future. Then for the first time in 25 years, an eight-justice court got to work. (Actually, due to the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah falling on the first Monday in October, three of the eight justices were not in attendance, so the opening session lasted five minutes and consisted mostly of admitting new attorneys to the Supreme Court bar.)
That day, the court declined to hear hundreds of appeals, including several high-profile ones:
- an appeal in the case for Obama administration’s plan, which it had previously split 4-4 back in June, thus upholding the lower court’s block of it
- an appeal in the ongoing battle over the Washington Redskins trademark case, sending it back to federal appeals court to make the decision
- an appeal intended to revive a criminal investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign, thus putting an end to the legal wrangling
- an appeal by convicted murder James “Whitey” Bulger
While the court refused to hear the Washington Redskins’ trademark appeal, it did agree to hear what’s known as The Slants case (Lee v. Tam), which could affect the Redskins case. The Obama administration denied The Slants, an Asian-American band based in Portland, Ore., trademark protection based on a 1946 law preventing the trademark of racial slurs. The band believes it’s exercising its First Amendment rights.
A number of other noteworthy cases are on the court’s docket for the term, including the separation of church and state in Missouri, death penalty appeals out of Texas and redistricting in North Carolina.
Also going before the court is an appeal of the patent infringement case Apple v. Samsung. Apple won that case and Samsung paid a hefty $548 million in December 2015. Samsung petitioned the court to review the ruling and consider design patent scope and patent trial damages. Arguments will open next Tuesday, Oct. 11.