A Quiet Docket May Be Just the Right Medicine for the Supreme Court

Still, the new term will provide important clues about where the court is headed. For instance, the justices have agreed to hear an unusually large number of appeals asking them to overturn precedents. The outcome of those cases could provide hints about the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

One precedent at risk concerns the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause, which forbids subsequent prosecutions for the same crimes. The Supreme Court has made one exception, saying that the federal government and the states are independent sovereigns, meaning that the same conduct can be prosecuted separately in state and federal courts.

In 2016, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, called for a fresh look at whether the exception makes sense. “The matter warrants attention in a future case in which a defendant faces successive prosecutions by parts of the whole U.S.A.,” she wrote.

The court will consider the question in Gamble v. United States, No. 17-646.

Its answer may have implications for the legal problems faced by associates of Mr. Trump. Should he pardon them for federal crimes, a Supreme Court ruling narrowing the definition of double jeopardy could complicate attempts by state prosecutors to pursue parallel charges.

The other precedents under attack concern whether lawsuits may be brought against state governments in the courts of other states, and procedures for suing in federal court over government’s use of eminent domain to take private property.

The Supreme Court will also consider whether the Constitution has anything to say about state civil forfeiture laws in Timbs v. Indiana, No. 17-1091. The case started when officials in Indiana, which has a law allowing the state to take property used to commit crimes, seized a $42,000 Land Rover from a former drug addict and small-time drug dealer named Tyson Timbs.

Mr. Timbs said the action violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of excessive fines, but the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the excessive fines clause does not apply to the states. The United States Supreme Court has said most parts of the Bill of Rights do apply to the states, but it has never squarely decided whether the excessive fines clause does.

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