Supreme Court weighs Donald Trump case, abortion bans, homeless camps in blockbuster week

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WASHINGTON − With cases involving Donald Trump, abortion bans, battling baristas, homeless camps and scary tattoos, the Supreme Court enters a week packed with arguments that will affect everything from the tumultuous 2024 election to health care, the workplace and policing.

Most notably, the high court will weigh if and when a former president can claim criminal immunity for acts committed while in office as Trump, who is currently on trial for allegedly concealing hush money payments to an adult film actress, fights three additional indictments on attempts to overturn the 2020 election and hoarding of classified documents.

But Trump’s broad claim that a former president can’t face criminal charges without first being impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted in the Senate is just one of several high-stakes cases the nine justices will hear this week.

Buckle up.

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Banning homeless residents from sleeping outside

Illegal blankets?

Justices have been asked to decide if cities can punish people who sleep outdoors. The southern Oregon city of Grants Pass, where winter temperatures fall into the 30s, had cracked down on a homeless encampment by banning tents, blankets and pillows from public parks.

But a federal appeals court ruled that the Constitution’s 8th amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment, doesn’t allow criminal charges against people who are sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go.

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Gavin Newsom, California’s Democratic governor, joined a host of cities in supporting Grants Pass’ appeal to the high court, writing that the 2018 decision “ties local leaders' hands.” Governments “need the flexibility to ... address immediate threats to health and safety in public places,” Newsom said.

Residents of the Grants Pass homeless camp say the harsh anti-sleeping law was “an effort to push its homeless residents into neighboring jurisdictions” by punishing them “for their existence within city limits.”

A faith-based shelter − the only one in the city of 36,000 − wrote to the court that the number of people using its beds had fallen by 40% since the appeals court ruling prevented enforcement of the public sleeping law.

Tuesday: Starbucks union clashes and tattoos on the visa line

In 2016, El Salvadorean tour guide Luis Asencio-Cordero was denied an immigrant visa to be reunited in the U.S. with his wife Sandra Muñoz, an American citizen. After three years of trying to find out why, he learned a consular official had suspected Asencio-Cordero had a criminal background.

The couple surmised that Asencio-Cordero’s tattoos – one of Our Lady of Guadalupe, another of theatrical masks – suggested membership in the violent MS-13 street gang. They appealed to the American Consulate that he had zero criminal links, and submitted a report from a gang expert that his tattoos had nothing to do with MS-13. But the decision held.

Asencio-Cordero "isn’t a gang member and never has been," his lawyer, Charles Roth, told USA TODAY.

While visa officers have wide latitude in deciding who to admit into the U.S. and aren’t required to say much to justify denials, the Supreme Court will be asked Tuesday morning if Ascencio-Cordero was entitled to more consideration because he’s married to an American citizen whose interests are also affected by the visa ruling – and whether the courts have any say at all in visa decisions.

The couple has been “denied any meaningful opportunity to overcome that visa denial – and are forced to choose between their family and their citizenship,” said Rachel Zoghlin, an attorney at the Jewish humanitarian organization HIAS.

Later on Tuesday, latte giant Starbucks, which has been involved in a vicious fight against union organizers at stores across the country, will ask the justices to clarify when the National Labor Relations Board can order employers to rehire workers who say they were unjustly fired.

While the case doesn’t directly involve Starbucks employees, it’s happening during contract negotiations between the $98 billion coffee chain and the Workers United labor union, and against a backdrop of clashes between organizers and the company.

Last year, an NLRB administrative judge ruled Starbucks had committed "hundreds of unfair labor practices" during a unionization drive at stores in the Buffalo, New York, area.

Wednesday: A post-Roe abortion ban in Idaho

After hearing arguments on immigration and labor law, the Supreme Court will take on a conflict over Idaho’s strict abortion ban, which the Biden administration says will harm emergency room patients.

Idaho’s law, and similar measures in other states, make it a crime to perform an abortion unless a physician can demonstrate a danger to the mother's life, while the Biden administration says federal law requires emergency rooms to provide "stabilizing care," including abortions, if a patient's health is in "serious jeopardy."

In January, the court allowed the Idaho abortion ban to proceed while the federal government challenges the state's emergency room standard.

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Abortion has surged to the top of the national agenda since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, as states have moved to either stamp out the procedure or create new protections.

Last month, the court heard arguments to restrict access to the widely used abortion drug mifepristone, and on April 9 the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated an 1864 law banning abortion in the important swing state.

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Thursday: Donald Trump brings ‘Seal Team Six’ argument to the Supreme Court

Can a president get away with murder? Yes, if they’re not first impeached by the House of Representative and found guilty by two-thirds of the Senate, according to Trump's legal team.

That’s the core of the former president and 2024 presumptive Republican nominee’s argument that he shouldn’t face federal charges for alleged election interference.

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When an appeals court judge asked in January if this means a president can’t face prosecution for selling military secrets, peddling pardons, or ordering Navy SEALs to assassinate a political rival, Trump's attorney replied that criminal charges are only possible if the president is first impeached and then convicted in the Senate.

“I’m struck by how basic questions of presidential power – and its limits − are under-specified” by the courts, said William Howell, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. ”It’s striking that a president, 250 years into our nation’s founding, can even make this claim.”

Trump has warned that anything less than total immunity from prosecution will open the door to an endless cycle of partisan prosecutions of ex-presidents. The immunity claim is "a novel, complex, and momentous question," Trump's lawyers say.

In addition to his ongoing hush money trial in Manhattan, and the federal elections case, Trump faces a federal indictment in Florida over hoarding classified documents, and state election charges in Georgia.

Trump’s appeal on Thursday “is part of a larger effort to delay” the criminal cases, Howell said. “His overriding concern is not to define the limits of presidential power. It is to survive this judicial onslaught.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court weighs Trump immunity, abortion, homelessness this week