The Supreme Court’s April sitting was announced , setting its final plans for arguments in the 2015-16 term. April, typically stocked with significant appeals, features blockbuster cases involving executive power, immigration and public corruption.
The justices kick off the sitting April 18 with arguments on President Barack Obama’s immigration policy, which would temporarily allow millions of illegal immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful residents to obtain work permits, and more easily stay in the country. The policy, challenged by Texas and Republican-leaning states, is currently on hold.
Of particular interest in the appeal is an interesting question added by the justices when they announced they would hear the case: whether, as critics of the Obama administration maintain, the immigration policy is so beyond what Congress has authorized that it violates the president’s constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Like much before the court, the immigration case may take different contours in the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. The conservative stalwart had written opinions, both for the majority and in dissent, skeptical of various powers asserted by the Obama administration, and he frequently based his position on what he said was the original meaning of the Constitution’s text.
With four liberal justices expected to back broad federal authority over immigration, the best Texas likely can hope for is an evenly divided court if all conservatives vote its way—something that can’t be convincingly predicted, based on prior cases. That potentially leaves the administration’s policy blocked, at least in the three states under the Fifth Circuit—Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas—but possibly in force elsewhere.
The court will end the April sitting on April 27 by hearing the appeal of Bob McDonnell, the former Virginia governor who was convicted of corruption charges after accepting money and luxury gifts from a businessman seeking actions from the state.
Mr. McDonnell, a Republican who left office in 2014, was sentenced to two years in prison. In August, the Supreme Court permitted him to remain free while his appeal was pending, an indication that the justices may have been inclined to throw out one or more of the 11 counts against him.
April’s high-profile blockbuster hearings will be preceded by a closely watched argument slated for March 23, when it considers whether the Obama administration has gone far enough to exempt religiously affiliated organizations from Affordable Care Act regulations requiring contraceptive coverage in employee health plans.