*This post is part of the ACSblog symposium: Constitution Day 2016.
For the past few years, ACS has celebrated Constitution Day with the Annual Supreme Court Preview, a lively debate about challenges before the nine justices. Now, for obvious reasons, the Term starting October 3rd is different.
With Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing in February and the refusal of Senate Republicans to consider the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland, the Court is a diminished institution, limited in its ability to perform its constitutional role.
With only eight justices at the end of the last Term, the Court was unable to resolve a number of critical cases, such as U.S. v. Texas, involving a nationwide injunction on the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) immigration program and the Zubik case, which asked whether non-profit religious employers can be required to provide their employees access to insurance coverage for contraception.
Since 2000, one justice has determined many landmark cases that directly influence American lives. The ninth justice mattered in Bush v. Gore, deciding the 2000 presidential election; Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, unleashing unlimited corporate spending in campaigns; and Obergefell v. Hodges, upholding marriage equality.
Looking forward at the coming term, the Court will again examine the constitutional contours of the death penalty and electoral redistricting. Undoubtedly more cases will be added to the docket. But just how many and on what topics seems directly related to when the justices can expect to be joined by a ninth colleague. Hopefully the justices will not have to wait much longer.