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Tune in to These January and February Supreme Court Oral Args

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on December 23, 2015 1:05 PM

In the dark, snowy winter months ahead, nothing beats sitting down by the fire, cozying up with a cup of tea, and playing the latest oral arguments on your gramophone (or computer). Just let them run in the background as you type away at your desk works as well.

There are plenty of oral arguments to keep you busy in January and February. Seventeen, to be exact. Here are our top six picks.

1. Union Dues: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, Monday, January 11th

Probably the most important case of the lot, Friedrichs revolves around whether non-union members can be required to pay union fees. All California teachers are represented by the state teachers union, even if they are not a member, and thus benefit from the union's collective bargaining. They're required by statute to pay a fee for that representation, which Rebecca Friedrichs argues violates the First Amendment.

2. Separation of Powers: Bank Markazi v. Peterson, Wednesday, January 13th

This case is largely academic and unlikely to break any new ground, but still interesting if you're a fan of separation of powers doctrines. (And aren't we all?) The question is whether Congress violated the separation of powers by legislating that U.S. assets from Iran's banks be turned over to the victims of terrorism -- while the federal courts were considering the same question.

It was 1872 when the Supreme Court last ruled that Congress had interfered with the courts by solving a legal issue legislatively, though that case, United States v. Klein, technically remains good law.

3. Puerto Rican (Judicial) Sovereignty? Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, Wednesday, January 13th

Mírate esto, nene. Puerto Rico occupies an unusual space in the United States. (And we're not talking about the Caribbean.) Puerto Rican residents are U.S. citizens, for example, but lack some constitutional rights afforded those living in the states. Like most states, Puerto Rico has a split state and federal court system. In this case, the Supreme Court will have to decide whether Puerto Rico's state courts are a separate sovereign for purposes of double indemnity.

4. Political Discrimination: Heffernan v. City of Paterson, Tuesday, January 19th

Can your boss fire you for your Trump bumper sticker? In most cases, yes, but things are more complicated when you're a public employee. In this argument, the Court will examine if the First Amendment prevents the government from demoting a public employee for his support of a political opponent. In this case, it was a police officer who was punished for holding a campaign sign "at the request of his mother."

5. Illegal Stops and Suppressed Evidence: Utah v. Streiff, Monday, February 22nd

February is a slow month, but it has at least two noteworthy arguments. Here, the justices will decide whether evidence seized under an outstanding warrant must be suppressed if the stop that lead to its seizure was illegal. It's the first time the Supreme Court will rule on whether an unlawful detention leading to the discovery of an arrest warrant and subsequent search invalidates evidence gathered in that search.

6. Another California Arbitration Dispute: MHN Government Services v. Zaborowski, Wednesday, February 24th

Just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court ordered California courts to give more effect to the Federal Arbitration Act, a very pro-arbitration law. They may do it again this February. In Zaborowski, the Court will decide whether California's severability rule violates the FAA. In the California case, the courts refused severance because there were multiple unconscionable arbitration provisions, though it noted that FAA "expresses a strong preference for enforcement."

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