President Donald Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, could have an immediate impact on cases already pending before the justices, if he is confirmed by the Senate as expected by the end of the week.
The nine-seat court has been operating with only eight justices since the death of conservative Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13, 2016. The court, with four liberals and four conservatives, has ended up with 4-4 split decisions in several cases. The new justice could cast the deciding vote in some cases being considered in the term that ends in June. But in cases argued before the new justice was seated, the court may need to order new oral arguments, which would likely not be heard until the court’s next term starts in October.
Here is a look at five cases in which the new justice could be pivotal.
Church v. state: Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer
A religious rights case from Missouri to be argued on April 19 in which a church contends the state violated the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom by denying it funds for a playground project because of a state ban on aid to religious organizations.
Employee class-action lawsuits: Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis
A significant case for business and labor on whether companies can head off costly class-action lawsuits by forcing employees to give up their right to pursue work-related legal claims in court as a group. An issue that has closely divided the court in the past, this case is set to be argued in the autumn.
Housing discrimination: Bank of America v. Miami
The eight-justice court appeared closely divided when it heard arguments in this case in November on whether Miami could pursue lawsuits accusing major banks of predatory mortgage lending to black and Hispanic home buyers. The court may need to reargue the case with Gorsuch on board to avoid a 4-4 split.
Cross-border shooting: Hernandez v. Mesa
A possible 4-4 split appeared on the cards when the court heard arguments in this civil rights case in February. The court has been asked to revive a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of a Mexican teenager against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who fatally shot the 15-year-old from across the border in Texas in 2010.
Corporate liability: Jesner v. Arab Bank
In a case to be heard next term, the court agreed this week to consider reviving litigation that seeks to hold Arab Bank Plc financially liable for militant attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories and accuses the Jordan-based bank of being the "paymaster" to militant groups. The question of whether companies can be held liable for actions overseas under a federal law called the Alien Tort Statute is one the court took up but failed to decide in 2013.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Peter Cooney)