Law & Politics: the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 Term in Review

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It's that time of the year again -- as the Court recently wrapped up its 2016 Term, a series of important decisions were handed down in the waning days. While the cases are not as contentious as the 2014 or the 2015 Terms, the 2016 Term, nonetheless, consisted of matters brimming with public policy significance.

As always, we'll be discussing these cases from a prism of political or public policy lenses -- no prior legal experience, or a comprehensive understanding of the Constitution or the Supreme Court is required.

To that end, we'll discuss the following cases:

• Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer -- Does the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause? (Holding: yes).

• Matal v. Tam -- Is the "disparagement" clause of the Lanham Act, banning the trademark of offensive names, of an Asian rock band "The Slants," unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment? (Holding: yes).

• Hernández v. Mesa -- In a cross-border shooting of an unarmed Mexican citizen in an enclosed area controlled by the U.S., does a "formalist" or "functionalist" analysis govern the extraterritorial application of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unjustified deadly force? Can the claim in this case be properly asserted under the "Bivens" decision, which governs when federal agents may be liable for damages for violating an individual’s constitutional right? (Holding: remanded to the lower court for further proceedings).

• Donald J. Trump v. Internat'l Refugee Assistant Project, et al. -- the Court, in granting of a certiorari to hear the "Travel Ban" case for the next Term, also granted the government's applications for a stay of the preliminary injunction with respect to the second Executive Order (No. 13,780), thereby allowing enforcement of those provisions. Under the Court's ruling, the government may enforce the "ban" except as to any "individual seeking admission as a refugee who can credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S." The Court will hear the case on the merits in the October 2017 term.

PLUS, we'll discuss the current ideological dynamics on the bench, especially in light of Justice Gorsuch's appointment to the Court.

FINALLY, we'll preview the Fall 2017 Term, which appears to be a "blockbuster" Term with many contentious cases, including:

Gill v. Whitford -- a partisan gerrymandering case.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Col. Civil Rights Comm'n -- a wedding bakery case.

Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran -- whether terror victim judgment creditors can execute upon assets of foreign state sponsors of terrorism.

Trump v. Internat'l Refugee Assistant Project, et al. -- whether the "travel ban" case will be moot or remain as an active matter.