In focus in 2019: The Supreme Court

In focus in 2019: The Supreme Court

Throughout the week, we'll turn to the experts — UI professors — to educate us on the issues they expect will make front-page news in 2019.

First up: JASON MAZZONE, on the U.S. Supreme Court storyline he'll be paying closest attention to in the year ahead.

"I'll be watching Chief Justice JOHN G. ROBERTS JR. He cares deeply about the Supreme Court's reputation and about it not being perceived as partisan.

"With recent polls showing declining public confidence in the Supreme Court, the truly brutal confirmation process for BRETT KAVANAUGH — and a decent chance of another vacancy in the near future — and PRESIDENT TRUMP criticizing 'Democratic judges' when rulings do not go his way, Roberts' inclination will be to double-down and protect the legitimacy of the judicial branch.

"I expect Roberts will seek to persuade his colleagues not to hear cases involving abortion and some other hot-button issues, that he will aim for narrow rather than broad rulings, and that he will work extra hard to find outcomes that avoid 5-4 splits, particularly in cases that raise issues of presidential power or that implicate the private interests of Trump and his family.

"At the end of the day, though, a chief justice has only one vote, and it takes real leadership and savvy to find and hold a center of gravity. Roberts is among the very best lawyers of his generation. In 2019, we will see if he also has the makings of a great chief."