Five most interesting Supreme Court cases coming up next

Despite the government shutdown, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing cases on Monday. In case you were wondering what cases the Supreme Court was hearing this year.

1. Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (Docket No. 12-682):

Michigan has banned preferential treatment. Obviously, this has angered a lot of affirmative action supporters, who say the passage of the measure has violated rights outlined in the 14th Amendment equal-protection clause: rights of racial minorities in the state.

This case concerns Article 1, Sec. 26 of Michigan’s state constitution, which states, “any… public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

The Supreme Court hears the oral arguments on this case beginning Oct. 15.

2. Township of Mount Holly v. Mt Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. (Docket No. 11-1507):

This case calls into question the validity of the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) interpretation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

HUD issued a rule declaring that the Fair Housing Act permits disparate impact claims. Disparate impact “prohibits an employer from using a facially neutral employment practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class.” This means urban renewal practices could be illegal if there exists a disproportionate negative effect on members of a minority group.

In Mount Holly, N.J., the low-income neighborhood called The Gardens had become blighted —  a legal term cities use to determine the necessity of urban renewal. The township sought to demolish the run-down homes and rebuild a new complex. The new 520-unit complex would be sold at market-price, with 56 apartments reserved for current Gardens residents.

The plaintiff’s argue that urban renewal would raise housing prices, forcing minorities who live below the poverty level to move out.  Since the population of The Gardens is mostly black and Hispanic, the plaintiffs believe they are protected under the Fair Housing Act.

The Supreme Court will have to rule on what exactly is considered a “disproportionate negative effect.” The Supreme Court hears oral arguments on this case beginning Dec. 4.

3. UNITE HERE Local 355 v. Mulhall (Docket No. 12-99):

This case will require a clarification of “things of value” found in anti-corruption Taft Hartley Act’s Sec. 302, which prohibits unions and employers to engage in any “bribery, graft, and conflict-of-interest payments of money and other prohibited things of value.”

UNITE HERE spent over $100,000 to support a ballot initiative and agreed to refrain from picketing or striking against Mardi Gras Gaming. In exchange, Mardi Gras Gaming gave UNITE HERE a list of their employees and granted them access to the workplace during non-working hours as well as agreeing to remain neutral during organizing events.

Is the employee list considered a “thing of value?” The decision will effect the way unions organize workplaces. Oral arguments begin Nov. 13.