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What's Coming From The Supreme Court?

A new session of the US Supreme Court opens today with a great deal of expectationbut not as big as we saw last year.

“We’re not going to top the gay marriage decision, that’s for sure,” said University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris with a laugh. Last year’s session also a landmark decisions on the affordable care act.

Affirmative action is being challenged this fall with the upcoming Fisher V. University of Texas at Austincase. In the case, student Abigail Fisher is challenging the university’s admissions practices, which admits anyone who graduated in the top 10% of their class. Fisher did not place in the top 10% of her class, but argues she has better credentials than some of the minorities accepted into the university.

“This isn’t about contracting, this isn’t about public employees, this is about college admissions only,” Harris said. “Having said that, the standards that the court applies, the way it interprets the law can be important have an impact in all kinds of areas involving affirmative action.”

Another hot button issue the court will have to face is in voting rights. Evenwel v. Abbottaddresses the way congressional districts are drawn. The case revolves around using the census population to determine that districts are equal or counting only the voting population.

“It shifts power, if the courts go with this plan and says it’s gotta be the voting population, to more rural areas and away from cities, away from places with large immigrant populations, it will shift power away from those places,” Harris said.

Unions will also be facing another challenge in theFriedrichs v. California Teacher Association case. The case looks at whether protecting collective bargaining rights counts as political speech. If it does, then union members may not have to be required to pay dues as unions cannot use dues to support political speech, something that could be devastating to unions according to Harris.

“This will have a very significant impact in the ability of unions, frankly, to even exist,” Harris said.

While it is not on the docket yet, Harris predicts there will also be an abortion case brought to the court very soon in the light of the ongoing Planned Parenthood controversy. Harris says that, while opponents to abortion cannot muster the votes to make it illegal, they have been trying to make it harder and harder to have an abortion as an alternative way to eliminate it.

“State by state, idea by idea, they have been constricting access to clinics, to doctors, to the abortions people want to have,” Harris said.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.