Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Most Important Upcoming Supreme Court Cases

By Emma Petasis
October 10, 2018 | Blog

The Supreme Court has a new makeup this term with the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the bench. Here are five facts on some of the most consequential cases that the Supreme Court could hear in the upcoming months:

Gamble v. United States deals with whether someone can be tried twice for the same crime

The Double Jeopardy Clause in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states that “No person shall . . . be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” In practice, this means that one cannot be tried twice for the same crime.  However, there is an important exception that allows both a state and the federal government to try someone for the same crime because they are considered to be separate entities. In the coming months the Supreme Court will hear the case of Terance Martez Gamble, who was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm under state law and was sentenced to one year in prison. He was then tried under federal law and sentenced to an additional 46 months behind bars.  The court will decide whether this practice violates the double jeopardy clause.

Stokeling v. United States is a case that has important implications for the length of prison sentences

This case will decide how robbery crimes should be considered under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), a statute that sets a minimum sentence of 15 years for crimes involving firearms if the offender already has three serious or violent felony convictions on their record. It was brought by Denard Stokeling who was convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun in 2016. Stokeling is arguing that an unarmed robbery conviction from 1997 should not be classified as a violent crime, which would disqualify him from being sentenced under the ACCA.

Nielsen v. Preap will determine whether longtime U.S. residents can be subjected to indefinite detention without a bond hearing during deportation proceedings

The main issue in the case is whether illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a crime and served their time in jail can then be detained indefinitely by federal agents while their deportation proceedings are carried out. The case does not argue that the immigrants should not be deported, but rather that they should be given the opportunity to post bail and not be forced to sit in prison for months, if not years.

Zarda v. Altitude Express is a case that, if accepted by the Supreme Court, would decide whether the federal law that bans discrimination based on sex in the workplace also applies to sexual orientation

Donald Zarda was a skydiving instructor at Altitude Express.  After telling one of his students that he was gay, he was fired by the company.  Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in Zarda’s favor stating, “because sexual orientation is a function of sex and sex is a protected characteristic under Title VII, it follows that sexual orientation is also protected.”  If the Supreme Court decides to take the case, their decision will undoubtedly have wide-ranging implications for LGBT rights.

The Supreme Court is deciding whether it will take several cases that focus on allowing religious symbols on public property

There are currently two cases in Maryland as well as one in Florida that would likely be combined into one case if the court decides to take up this issue. The cases each focus on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” The plaintiffs are arguing that religious references on publicly owned land violate the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

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