Supreme Court cases to watch as term nears end

PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., April 19, 2018.PlayRobert Alexander/Getty Images, FILE
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The Supreme Court is nearing the end of its term when it normally issues some of its most significant decisions.

So far this session, the court has issued rulings on online sales taxes, sports betting, and partisan gerrymandering. Here are some of the remaining cases to watch as the court wraps up the year.

Cell phone privacy

In Carpenter v. the United States, the court is considering whether police officers need a warrant before they can access cell phone records that reveal a person’s location.

The plaintiff, Timothy Carpenter, was convicted of multiple robbery and firearms offenses but challenged his conviction because the police officers investigating his case didn’t have a warrant for his cell phone records, according to ABC News’ Supreme Court Contributor Kate Shaw.

The government has argued that police didn’t need a warrant because the phone company already had Carpenter’s cell phone records and so he had no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The case could have major implications for privacy in the digital age and for how much companies are required to protect data that could give away specific information about an individual.

Carpenter is being represented by the ACLU, and major companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook have filed briefs agreeing with his argument that users should have a reasonable expectation of privacy because data transmitted by devices like smartphones could reveal so much personal information.

Fees for public unions

In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, shortened to Janus v. AFSCME - the court will decide whether government workers can be required to pay fees to unions even if they aren’t members.

A Supreme Court ruling in 1977 found that government employees can be required to pay “fair share fees” to unions because the fees pay for contract negotiations that could benefit all employees, even if they aren’t part of the union.

But in this case, Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, argues that the fees violate his First Amendment right because he doesn’t agree with all of the union’s political views.

The court also looked at the 1977 ruling in 2016 but was split 4-4 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, with conservative justices in favor of overturning the previous ruling.

Unions for teachers and other public employees argue that the court should uphold the 1977 ruling, saying that unions supported by fees advocate for all employees through collective bargaining.

Political gerrymandering

The issue of “gerrymandering” – or whether the borders of state political districts are drawn to advantage one political party over another – has been especially controversial over the last year and garnered even more attention ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections as the court considers cases that could have an impact on congressional districts in multiple states.

In Abbott v. Perez, the court will have to decide whether to overturn a Texas state court’s decision concerning congressional and state political districts redrawn after the 2010 census.

A state court found the districts’ boundaries violated the Voting Rights Act because they were drawn in a way that diluted the Latino and African-American vote. The court and state panels have since redrawn the maps but the high court will still have to decide if it has the jurisdiction to intervene and whether the current maps also discrimination against certain groups.

PHOTO: Shirley Connuck, right, of Falls Church, Va., holds up a sign representing a district in Texas, as the Supreme Court hears a case on possible partisan gerrymandering by state legislatures Oct. 3, 2017, in Washington, D.C.Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images, FILE
Shirley Connuck, right, of Falls Church, Va., holds up a sign representing a district in Texas, as the Supreme Court hears a case on possible partisan gerrymandering by state legislatures Oct. 3, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

In a separate case, Benisek v Lamone, the court will consider political boundaries in Maryland. That case looks at whether the boundaries of congressional districts in the state led directly to Democratic victories in the 2012, 2014, or 2016 elections.

Trump's travel ban

One of the most highly anticipated decisions of this year is the Court's ruling on whether the president's proposed travel ban is constitutional. Two previous versions of the move to bar immigration to the United States from some majority-Muslim countries have been struck down by federal courts but the administration argued that Travel Ban 3.0 was vetted by multiple agencies and was based on a review of foreign policy, not religion.

In the case, Trump v. Hawaii, the state of Hawaii says the ban argues that the ban hurts the university system by banning potential students and scholars from entering the country. Individuals who signed on with Hawaii also say it separates them from family members who applied for visas to enter the country.

ABC News' Audrey Taylor and Geneva Sands contributed to this report.

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