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Significant Supreme Court rulings expected in coming days, weeks

From affirmative action to student loans, there are several major cases the Supreme Court is about to decide.
Significant Supreme Court rulings expected in coming days, weeks
Posted at 8:46 AM, Jun 15, 2023

One of the Supreme Court’s latest rulings said that Alabama’s newly redrawn congressional maps had limited the power of Black voters.  It's one of a number of cases the Supreme Court is mulling in this current term.

The remaining cases will have an impact on standing rules, immigration procedures and free speech. Frederick Lawrence, a distinguished lecturer in law at Georgetown Law; Alan Morrison, a professional lecturer at George Washington University; and Stephanie Inks, a visiting lecturer at Georgetown Law, provided their insights on these cases. 

U.S. v. Texas

Immigration issues were brought to the forefront in this case. In the fall of 2021, the Biden administration issued guidelines for the enforcement of civil immigration law. The U.S. has limited resources to deport its 11 million undocumented immigrants, prioritizing deporting those who have criminal records, are suspected terrorists and those caught at the border.  

Morrison questions if Texas and Louisiana have legal "standing," which is the right to sue. Plaintiffs have to prove they have or will sustain harm, according to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. If the Supreme Court does not rule in favor of the federal government, "it will further increase the law of standing," Morrison said. 

SEE MORE: Justice Jackson reports designer clothing; Thomas delays disclosure

Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College

Affirmative action is being challenged again in the Supreme Court seven years after Fisher v. University of Texas. In that case, the court upheld that race can be used as a factor, but not a determining one, in college admissions. 

Students for Fair Admissions is challenging Harvard and the University of North Carolina in two separate cases regarding their use of race as a factor in their admission processes. SFFA’s website states, "A student’s race and ethnicity should not be factors that either harm or help that student to gain admission to a competitive university."

The court will have to examine the use of "academic freedom," which supports an institution's right to choose which students to admit, among other rights.  

"Based on the oral argument, the most likely outcome is that probably six votes [might] declare that the use of race college in admissions practices is unconstitutional when it involves a state institution like the University of North Carolina, and illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act," Lawrence said. 

If this is the case, previous court cases surrounding the issue of affirmative action will be overturned. In response, public and private colleges will have to find other solutions to fulfill their diversity plans.

Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown

The Supreme Court is deciding whether to side with President Biden's $400 billion student loan forgiveness program. Republican states and two single private loan borrowers are challenging President Biden's plan.  

The court will look at the Biden administration’s right to enact the Heroes Act, which would waive a portion of qualifying student loans when a national emergency like COVID-19 happens. The Biden administration is using this statute to argue its case. The Supreme Court must consider if the plaintiffs have standing.  

Morrison says if they allow this group to have standing, “There's going to be a huge number of other cases to come forward with everybody else claiming the government is spending money illegally.” 

SEE MORE: Several Democrats sign on to overturn Biden's student loan relief plan

303 Creative v. Elenis

Free speech and LGBTQ+ rights are being decided. Lorie Smith, a Colorado web designer, is suing the state for its Anti-Discrimination Act, which abolishes discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations, according to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. Smith wants to expand her business to include wedding announcements, but does not want to include same-sex weddings.  

Smith said the law violates her free speech rights as she would be forced to provide services for same-sex couples. The fate of anti-discrimination laws would change if the court sided with Smith. If the court upheld Smith’s argument, Morrison said, "The court could say that the state of Colorado cannot punish her."

Moore v. Harper

The Supreme Court may accept a new legal theory called "independent state legislature." This is due to the North Carolina state legislature challenging the state's Supreme Court over its congressional redistricting plan. This theory would allow the state legislature the power to set election rules and draw congressional maps without input from state courts. Lawrence says the question the Supreme Court will have to answer is whether the Constitution gives power to only state legislatures or if the state’s Supreme Court has the final decision. 

He said Chief Justice John Roberts might look for a way to avoid a radical ruling.  

"Chief Justice [Roberts] is very concerned about the institutional legitimacy of the court right now. He also knows that this is a court that has taken a lot of criticism for its ethics. And I think he wants very much to reaffirm and reestablish [its] credibility and legitimacy," Lawrence said. 

Groff v. DeJoy

The case deals with accommodations for religious exercise and undue burden. Gerald Groff, a Christian and U.S. Postal Service worker, refused to work on Sunday because of his religious beliefs. USPS has found employees to swap shifts with him, but not in every instance. On those Sundays, Groff did not work as a result and eventually, USPS fired him. 

“One of the ways the Court could decide is to overrule a 1977 case called Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison,” Inks said.  

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that having a company acquire additional costs to accommodate an employee was an undue burden.  

“The Court will do something down the middle of these choices, such as decide that Hardison is not overruled, but clarify what  Hardison means today, drawing out a footnote in Hardison that talks about 'substantial additional costs' as a standard for employers," Inks predicts. 

These cases will be decided in the next days and weeks.

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