Supreme Court Justices Return for Season of Big Decisions, Amid Campaign

In this image from video, presiding officer Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts gavels the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump to an end in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. The U.S. Senate has acquitted Trump, ending only the third presidential trial in American history. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, presiding officer Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts gavels the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump to an end in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. The U.S. Senate has acquitted Trump, ending only the third presidential trial in American history. (Senate Television via AP)

By MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a Supreme Court that says it has an allergy to politics, the next few months might require a lot of tissues.

The court is poised to issue campaign-season decisions in the full bloom of spring in cases dealing with President Donald Trump’s tax and other financial records, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration, guns, church-state relations and the environment.

The bumper crop of political hot potatoes on the court’s agenda will test Chief Justice John Roberts’ insistence that the public should not view the court as just another political institution.

“It’s interesting that all of this is coming together in an election year. The chief justice has made it clear that people should view the court as a nonpolitical branch of government and people tend to have the opposite view when they see these big cases,” said Sarah Harrington, who has argued 21 cases in front of the high court.

The justices are gathering on Friday for the first time in nearly a month to put the finishing touches on opinions in cases that were argued in the fall and decide what new cases to take on. Most prominent among the possibilities is the latest dispute over the Obama-era health care overhaul.

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No matter how many times the Supreme Court upholds the law commonly known as “Obamacare,” a new challenge seems to arise. This time, a federal judge in Texas struck down the entire law in 2018 when he ruled that Congress’ decision to eliminate the financial penalty for not having insurance rendered the health insurance requirement unconstitutional.

Even though lawmakers changed only the one provision and left the rest of the massive law in place, U.S. Judge District Judge Reed O’Connor held that the entire law had to go. The lawsuit was filed by Texas and other Republican-dominated states. The federal appeals court in New Orleans agreed with O’Connor about the insurance requirement, but ordered him to redo his analysis about the rest of the law.

The Trump administration, which has long tried to kill the law, is on Texas’ side, although its view of how much of the law should be stricken is muddled.

Democratic-led states and Democrats in Congress appealed to the Supreme Court, urging the justices to take up and rule on the case by the end of June. The suit already is resulting in damaging uncertainty about the future of the law, the Democrats said.

If the justices take the rare step of scheduling arguments for May in advance of a decision in June, they almost certainly will act quickly, probably on Friday, to let both sides get work on a tight deadline.

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