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These Important Supreme Court Cases For 2019 Have Some Major Stakes

From the start, 2018 was a wild year for politics. President Trump tweeted nonstop about any and everything in the political world, from his legal entanglements to his beefs with foreign leaders. People left the White House in record numbers. And the Supreme Court issued major rulings, from voting rights to sales tax. IDK if Trump or his administration are planning on turning over new leaves in the new year, but it seems almost certain that we won't have an ordinary year when it comes to the nation's highest court. That said, let's take a look at four decisions the Supreme Court will rule on in 2019 — because you should know about them.

Of course there are more than a few cases heading to the highest court, and this year will be particularly interesting to watch because the Supreme Court gained a new justice: Brett Kavanaugh. After a vicious confirmation battle (marred by accusations of sexual assault, which he vehemently denied), the judge was confirmed to the court on Oct. 6. For many issues, like Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a woman's legal right to abortion, Kavanaugh's stances are unclear. However, it's suspected that he'll bring the court to a conservative majority, which result in some rather, um, unique decisions. So let's take a look at what we're up against, shall we?

Gamble vs. United States

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First up, we'll deal with a few cases that have already been heard, and we're just waiting to see how they turn out. For example, this case concerning the workings of "double jeopardy," a clause in the U.S. Constitution that prevents a person from being tried for the same crime twice. While it technically concerns another individual, it could have big implications for the president.

According to The New Republic, Terance Gamble is challenging his dual sentencing for a firearm felony, for which he was prosecuted by both the state of Alabama and the federal government. The case challenges the "separate sovereigns" doctrine, which allows a person be charged and sentenced for the same crime in both state and federal court, leading to multiple sentences for the same offense, regardless of the prohibition on double jeopardy. As Fox2Now puts it, "the rationale is that the states and the federal government are different sovereigns." This has drawn widespread criticism from liberals and conservatives alike, with many arguing that it leads to judicial harassment of the sort that double jeopardy was created to prevent.

Perhaps more relevantly in 2019: the ruling could affect the president's pardoning power in cases like that of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is facing federal charges for lying to the FBI. If states can continue to charge defendants for crimes that have already been resolved on the federal level, it could be a problem for the presidential pardon powers, as presidents can only pardon federal — and not state — crimes.

But there could be other issues at hand if the exception is struck down. A Justice Department attorney also told CNN that striking down the exception could create "practical" problems, "deter cooperation, and prompt defendants to play the federal government against states."

With that, it seems like the outcome is really anyone's guess. Arguments on this case were heard on Dec. 6, 2018, so expect a decision by this summer.

Two Gerrymandering Cases

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And then there are the ones still to be heard. The Supreme Court announced on Jan. 4 that it had agreed to hear two casesCause v. Rucho and Benisek v. Lamone — about partisan gerrymandering. The question of gerrymandering, in which congressional districts are drawn to the benefit of one political party, has major implications in terms of whether or not Americans have fair representation in Congress. At issue are questions about what constitutes illegal gerrymandering, how much weight to give to voters' political affiliations when drawing districts, and who has standing to bring a suit. In 2004 the justices punted on a similar case, Vieth v. Jubelirer, leaving questions about gerrymandering unresolved.

According to The Huffington Post, Cause v. Rucho was filed in regards to North Carolina's congressional map, which was drawn by Republicans, while the other was filed regarding one Maryland congressional district, drawn by Democrats. On Jan. 4, 2019, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments for the cases in March, so get ready.

Department of Commerce v. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

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But gerrymandering isn't just about how to draw lines. In February, the court will hear arguments on whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Department of Commerce v. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York can be required to testify under oath in a lawsuit about his decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, according to The Hill. Critics have said the question is a deliberate effort to undercount certain populations like immigrants, which would affect states' official population count in census records, and thus affect the number of representatives the state is allotted in Congress and the amount of federal funding they are given. Ross, meanwhile, says that the new question provides better enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The state of New York alleges in the suit that Ross was personally involved "to an extraordinary degree" in the change.

At issue is whether an agency decision-maker like Ross can be questioned about his "mental process" for a decision if there's no evidence countering the official reason, and no evidence that the decision was made on an illegal basis. The court will hear arguments on Feb. 19.

Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California

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And then there's DACA. The Trump administration has asked the court to hear arguments on Trump's decision to end President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program provides legal status to some 800,000 young immigrants who had been brought into the United States as children and allows them to work and go to school, but the president wants to do away with it. The administration moved in late 2017 to end DACA after a delay, leading to immediate legal pushback.

In November 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump administration was required to keep DACA in place, a ruling that the administration immediately appealed to the Supreme Court (in fact, they appealed even before the 9th Circuit issued its official ruling, arguing that the Supreme Court would have to hear the case no matter what. As of Jan. 11, however, the petition is still pending.

Meanwhile, Trump's efforts haven't gone as smoothly as he'd like, but maybe he'll have better luck in 2019. The ball is in the Supreme Court.

Three Cases Surrounding The Transgender Military Ban

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Another possible case is the result of pushback from the administration's policies. In July 2017, the Trump administration moved to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military, overturning an Obama-era policy that allows transgender men and women to enlist. As a result, several suits were brought against him, with many claiming that the ban violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. The decision was blocked by various courts.

Now, the administration is asking the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of three district court orders which blocked the administration from enforcing the ban — Donald Trump v. Ryan Karnoski, Donald Trump v. Jane Doe 2, and Donald Trump v. Aiden Stockman. In fact, the administration is attempting to fast-track an ultimate ruling, requesting that the Supreme Court take up the case ahead of expected rulings by appeals courts.

Obviously, things are about to heat up. So strap in and hold on to your butts, because it looks like we're in for a wild ride.