WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hand down this term’s final two major decisions on Monday morning, dealing with public corruption and abortion access.
Chief Justice John Roberts scheduled the court to issue its final opinions at 10 a.m. EST.
The highest-profile case centers on abortion rights and whether Texas state lawmakers placed an undue burden on women seeking to terminate pregnancies by implementing new restrictions on abortion providers and facilities.
Petitioners in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt argue that state laws unfairly and drastically reduced the number of abortion providers able to operate in the state legally.
SCOTUS precedent states that the government cannot place an undue burden on women seeking abortions.
However, lower courts held that Texas was in compliance, including the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, if at least half of the eight remaining Supreme Court justices find that legislators in the Austin statehouse created constitutional restrictions, the 4-4 tie would uphold the Fifth Circuit decision, thereby maintaining the Texas laws and splitting abortion guidelines state by state.
The second marquee case applies to public corruption.
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was once a shooting star in Republican circles, before he was convicted of accepting more than $177,000 in bribes by a benefactor who he later paid back in political favors.
A lower federal appellate court found that McDonnell’s conviction was appropriate, sentencing him to two years in prison.
But during McDonnell’s final appeal in April, the majority of SCOTUS justices seemed to indicate that they sided with the disgraced governor, suggesting prosecutors overstepped the legal definition of bribery.
McDonnell contends that he legally accepted gifts from a personal friend, but did nothing more as a public official than impartially set up meetings for the same man.
A favorable opinion from justices could significantly tweak what qualifies as corruption in the public sphere.
Other elected officials facing corruption allegations, like U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., will certainly watch the outcome closely.
Last Thursday, the court upheld the University of Texas’ race-conscious affirmative action admissions policy and deadlocked on President Barrack Obama’s immigration executive actions, essentially killing his program safeguarding five million illegal immigrants.
After Monday’s rulings, the court’s eight justices begin summer break.
They will return the first Monday of October to kick off the 2016-2017 term, still one judge short of a full court.Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales