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New court term to examine abortion, death penalty and religious freedom

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By CAROL ZIMMERMANN

The new term of the United States Supreme Court, which begins Monday, October 4, returns to its usual routine of hearing arguments in person and tackling burning issues.

Major cases, among the 34 she has agreed to hear so far, include those on abortion, the Second Amendment and religious freedom issues related to a death penalty case and religious schools excluded from the death penalty. ‘a public school choice program.

The nine judges jump into the fray at a time when public perception of the court becomes more negative.

A Gallup poll released two weeks before the new court session found that only 40% of Americans approve of the work the court has done, up from 49% two months ago and 58% a year ago.

“Not since Bush v. Gore that the public perception of the court’s legitimacy seemed so seriously threatened, ”said Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University Law School, referring to the ruling of the Supreme Court ruling the 2000 presidential election.

Probably the most anticipated case of the term is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the abortion case to be debated on December 1, which has been described as potentially overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court ruling legalizing abortion.

Here, judges will examine the constitutionality of a Mississippi state law prohibiting abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The state’s ban was overturned by a Mississippi federal district court in 2018 and upheld a year later by the New Orleans-based United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

The country’s High Court has already intervened in the abortion debate in early September when it refused to block a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. About three weeks later, Texas abortion providers urged the High Court to reconsider their challenge to state law before a pending federal court ruling on it in December.

In previous abortion decisions, the Supreme Court has consistently stated that states cannot restrict abortion before 24 weeks of pregnancy, focusing on viability, or when a fetus is believed to be able to survive by himself. If the court sided with the Mississippi on the term, it would be the first time it had allowed a ban on abortion before the viability point and could lay the groundwork for other abortion restrictions.

Catholic leaders and pro-life organizations have shown their support for Mississippi law in briefs from friends of the court. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its brief, stressed that abortion is not a constitutionally created right and warned that while the court “continues to treat abortion as a constitutional matter”, he will face more questions in the future about “what all kinds of abortion regulations are allowed.”

The court is also dealing with two death penalty cases. On November 1, he will address an issue he has already addressed: the presence of religious leaders during an execution. But this case will examine precisely what a spiritual advisor can do during an execution.

The focus is on the case of John Ramirez, a Texas death row inmate who was granted a stay of execution by the Supreme Court in early September based on his dismissed appeal for his pastor to pray over him, hands on him , in the execution chamber.

The court reviewed spiritual advisers accompanying detainees on executions on four occasions in recent years under court orders with differing opinions depending on specific circumstances.

In one of his 2019 decisions, he authorized the execution of an Alabama Muslim even though the inmate had appealed the state’s decision to deny the presence of an imam during his execution. . Two US bishops have said the court’s inaction was “unfair treatment” that “disturbs people of all faiths.”

This year, the court will also hear a government appeal to reinstate the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He will review a lower court ruling that the judge’s mistakes in Tsarnaev’s trial marred his conviction.

An interesting point in this case, initially filed by the Trump administration, is that the Biden administration is pursuing it despite President Joe Biden’s anti-death penalty platform during his election campaign.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, said if Tsarnaev’s death sentence remained overturned, he would never leave prison. His execution, she said, “would bring little healing to those he harmed and only serve state sponsored revenge.”

Another great case, which also echoes the preceding ones, is that of the oral arguments of December 8 in Carson v. Makin, where the court will determine whether Maine violated the Constitution by prohibiting students from using funds from a public school choice program for schools that offer religion classes. instruction.

In a similar case last year, the court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue states are not required to subsidize private education, but they cannot exclude religious schools from receiving funds for tuition fees simply because they are religious.

The USCCB welcomed Espinoza’s decision, saying it “means that religious people and organizations can, like everyone else, participate in government programs that are open to all.”

This term, the court will also review handgun laws, looking at a New York law, upheld by lower courts, that requires individuals to be licensed to carry a concealed firearm outside the house. House.

The American bishops have not weighed in on this matter, but they have spoken out against handguns in the past, arguing that they should be accessible to law enforcement and the military, but that everyone else should have significantly restricted access.

The court will also consider two immigration cases involving immigrants who were ordered to be deported but claimed they were entitled to humanitarian aid and could not be deported to their country of origin as they could there. be tortured or persecuted. They argued that after spending more than six months in immigrant detention pending resolution of their claims, they are entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge.

With all these cases behind the scenes, Supreme Court observers have expressed concern about the court’s current ability to find general consensus or narrow cases as it did in the previous term.

In addition, people will pay close attention to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who will begin her first full term.

Even though the new term is only just beginning, the judges were barely on hiatus during the summer months when they rendered a number of decisions in what has been described as the shadow case.

These decisions mainly focused on specific issues such as emergency death penalty orders, but in recent weeks they have expanded to broader issues such as immigration, deportations, Covid-19 and abortion.

Also in the weeks leading up to the tribunal’s new term, three of the judges — Ms. Barrett, Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer — spoke publicly about the role of the court, stressing that decisions judges make are not political.

But that’s not how everyone sees the current tribunal.

Gornstein, who spoke during a Sept. 21 online preview of the court’s new tenure, said: “It’s fine for judges to tell the public that their decisions reflect their judicial philosophies, not their political affiliations. “

But he argued that it is difficult to see the opposite, noting: “While right-sided judicial philosophies always produce results favored by Republicans and left-sided judicial philosophies always produce results favored by Democrats, it There is little chance of convincing the public that there is a difference. between the two.”

—SNC


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