Supreme Court Begins New Term on Oct. 1

September 27, 2018

While most of the attention has been focused on the controversy over Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, the eight sitting justices are preparing for their new term that begins by law on Monday, October 1.

The high court's docket has a number of cases with implications for environmental and energy policy. During Monday’s opening day, the justices hear arguments over the Endangered Species Act. The Court also will hear disputes over property rights, uranium mining and public lands management.

On the labor front, the justices will hear an age discrimination case and an arbitration case next week. In other cases, the Court will be asked to determine the limits of Executive branch power that could have spillover effects to federal agencies, such as EPA and OSHA.

The justices met this week for their annual end-of-summer conference, considering more than 1,000 petitions and deciding on which ones to review. Court watchers are particularly interested in whether the Court takes up a case involving agency deference and possibly overturning Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., a landmark case setting forth the legal test for determining whether to grant deference to a government agency's interpretation of a statute which it administers.

The seat vacated this past summer by retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy looms over the new term. Solicitor General Noel Francisco noted last week that the era is over for many Supreme Court legal briefs and oral arguments to be tailored to Justice Kennedy, who was considered a frequent swing vote.

While the fate of the Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination remains uncertain, any appointment made by President Trump will tilt the Court to the right. In the meantime, the justices have shown a willingness to delay arguments and decisions on cases that might end up deadlocked until a ninth justice can be seated. In 2016, for example, the Supreme Court altered its usual procedure of hearing cases in the order in which they were granted review when Justice Antonin Scalia died. The Court also heard re-argument in some cases.