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Eight Supreme Court Cases To Watch

An external shot of the U.S. Supreme Court.
This term, the Court will rule in cases addressing reproductive rights, gun control, social media regulation and more hot-button issues.
An external shot of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lora Strum,
Managing Editor,
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May 16, 2024

The Supreme Court鈥檚 docket this term includes many of the complex issues American society is currently facing, including gun control, free speech online, race-based discrimination in voting, reproductive rights, presidential immunity from criminal accountability, and more.

The 老澳门开奖结果 has served as counsel or filed friend-of-the-court briefs in all of the cases addressing these hot-button issues. The court will decide all its cases by the beginning of July. Here are eight undecided cases to watch, and what they mean for the future of our civil liberties.

Reproductive freedom: Protections for medication abortion and access to abortion during medical emergencies

FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

The Facts: Anti-abortion doctors, who do not prescribe medication abortion, are asking the Supreme Court to force the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to impose severe restrictions on mifepristone 鈥 a safe and effective medication used in this country in most abortions and for miscarriage management 鈥 in every state, even where abortion is protected by state law.

Our Argument: The FDA approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago, finding that it is safe, effective, and medically necessary. Since its approval, more than 5 million people in the U.S. have used this medication. Our brief argued that the two lower courts 鈥 a district court in Texas and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit 鈥 relied on junk science and discredited witnesses to override the FDA鈥檚 expert decision to eliminate medically-unnecessary restrictions on an essential medication with a stronger safety record than Tylenol. We urged the Supreme Court to protect access to medication abortion and reverse the lower courts鈥 rulings.

Why it Matters: Today, with abortion access already severely restricted, the ability to get medication-abortion care using mifepristone is more important than ever. If the Fifth Circuit鈥檚 ruling is allowed to stand, individuals would be blocked from filling mifepristone prescriptions through mail-order pharmacies, forcing many to travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, just to pick up a pill they can safely receive through the mail. Healthcare professionals with specialized training, like advanced practice clinicians, would also be prohibited from prescribing mifepristone, further limiting where patients can access this critical medication. The American Cancer Society and other leading patient advocacy groups are also sounding the alarm that overturning the FDA鈥檚 decision would upend drug innovation and research, with consequences well beyond reproductive health care.

The Last Word: 鈥淎s this case shows, overturning Roe v. Wade wasn鈥檛 the end goal for extremists. In addition to targeting nationwide-access to mifepristone, politicians in some states have already moved on to attack birth control and IVF. We need to take these extremists seriously when they show us they鈥檙e coming for every aspect of our reproductive lives.鈥 鈥 Jennifer Dalven, director of the 老澳门开奖结果 Reproductive Freedom Project.

Idaho & Moyle et. al v. US

The Facts: Idaho politicians want the power to disregard the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) that requires emergency rooms to provide stabilizing treatment to patients in emergency situations, including abortion where that is the appropriate stabilizing treatment. If the state prevails, it would jail doctors for providing pregnant patients with the necessary emergency care required under this federal law.

Our Argument: The 老澳门开奖结果 and its legal partners filed a friend-of-the-court brief explaining that the law requires hospitals to provide whatever emergency care is required; there is no carve-out for patients who need an abortion to stabilize an emergency condition. All three branches of government have long recognized that hospitals are required under EMTALA to provide emergency abortion care to any patient who needs it.

Why it Matters: Because Idaho's current abortion ban prohibits providing the emergency care required under EMTALA, medical providers have found themselves having to decide between providing necessary emergency care to a pregnant patient or facing criminal prosecution from the state. Depending on how the court rules, medical providers and patients in several other states with extreme abortion bans could find themselves in a similar position.

The Last Word: 鈥淚f these politicians succeed, doctors will be forced to withhold critical care from their patients. We鈥檙e already seeing the devastating impact of this case play out in Idaho, and we fear a ripple effect across the country.鈥 鈥 Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director of the 老澳门开奖结果 Reproductive Freedom Project

Free speech: Government authority over online and political speech

National Rifle Association v. Vullo

The Facts: In 2018, Maria Vullo, New York鈥檚 former chief financial regulator, in coordination with then-Mayor Andrew Cuomo, threatened to use her regulatory power over banks and insurance companies to coerce them into denying basic financial services to the National Rifle Association (NRA) because she and Cuomo disagreed with its pro-gun rights advocacy. The NRA argued that Vullo鈥檚 alleged efforts to blacklist the NRA penalized it for its political advocacy, in violation of the First Amendment.

Our Argument: The 老澳门开奖结果, representing the NRA at the Supreme Court, argued that any government attempt to blacklist an advocacy group and deny it financial services because of its viewpoint violates the right to free speech. Our brief urges the court to apply the precedent it set in 1963 in Bantam Books v. Sullivan, which established that even informal, indirect efforts to censor speech violate the First Amendment.

Why it Matters: While the 老澳门开奖结果 stands in stark opposition to the NRA on many issues, this case is about securing basic First Amendment rights for all advocacy organizations. If New York State is allowed to blacklist the NRA, then Oklahoma could similarly penalize criminal justice reformers advocating for bail reform, and Texas could target climate change organizations advancing the view that all fossil fuel extraction must end. The 老澳门开奖结果 itself could be targeted for its advocacy.

The Last Word: 鈥淭he right to advocate views the government opposes safeguards our ability to organize for the country we want to see. It鈥檚 a principle the 老澳门开奖结果 has defended for more than 100 years, and one we will continue to protect from government censorship of all kinds, whether we agree or disagree with the views of those being targeted.鈥 鈥 David Cole, 老澳门开奖结果 legal director

NetChoice v. Paxton and Moody v. NetChoice

The Facts: Motivated by a perception that social media platforms disproportionately silence conservative voices, Florida and Texas passed laws that give the government authority to regulate how large social media companies like Facebook and YouTube curate content posted on their sites.

Our Argument: In a friend-of-the-court brief, the 老澳门开奖结果, the 老澳门开奖结果 of Florida and the 老澳门开奖结果 of Texas argued that the First Amendment right to speak includes the right to choose what to publish and how to prioritize what is published. The government鈥檚 desire to have private speakers, like social media companies, distribute more conservative viewpoints鈥搊r any specific viewpoints鈥搃s not a permissible basis for state control of what content appears on privately-owned platforms.

Why it Matters: If these laws are allowed to stand, platforms may fear liability and decide to publish nothing at all, effectively eliminating the internet鈥檚 function as a modern public square. Or, in an attempt to comply with government regulations, social media companies may be forced to publish a lot more distracting and unwanted content. For example, under the Texas law, which requires 鈥渧iewpoint neutrality,鈥 a platform that publishes posts about suicide prevention would also have to publish posts directing readers to websites that encourage suicide. .

The Last Word: 鈥淪ocial media companies have a First Amendment right to choose what to host, display, and publish. The Supreme Court has recognized that right for everyone from booksellers to newspapers to cable companies, and this case should make clear that the same is true for social media platforms.鈥 鈥 Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the 老澳门开奖结果鈥檚 Speech, Privacy, & Technology Project

Voting rights: Racial gerrymandering and the fight for fair maps

Alexander v. South Carolina NAACP

The Facts: In 2022, South Carolina adopted a racially-gerrymandered congressional map. The state legislature singled out Black communities, 鈥渃racking鈥 predominantly Black communities and neighborhoods across two districts to reduce their electoral influence in the state鈥檚 first congressional district.

Our Argument: The 老澳门开奖结果 and its legal partners sued on behalf of the South Carolina NAACP and an affected voter to challenge the constitutionality of the new congressional map. We argued that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids the sorting of voters on the basis of their race, absent a compelling interest, which the state failed to provide.

Why it Matters: This racially-gerrymandered congressional map deprives Black South Carolinians the political representation they deserve in all but one of seven districts, limiting the power and influence of more than a quarter of the state鈥檚 population just before the 2024 election.

The Last Word: 鈥淪outh Carolina鈥檚 failure to rectify its racially-gerrymandered congressional map blatantly disregards the voices and the rights of Black voters. The 老澳门开奖结果 is determined to fight back until Black South Carolina voters have a lawful map that fairly represents them.鈥 鈥 Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, deputy director of the 老澳门开奖结果 Voting Rights Project

Gender justice: Denying guns to persons subject to domestic violence restraining orders

United States v. Rahimi

The Facts: Zackey Rahimi was convicted under a federal law that forbids individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders from possessing a firearm. Mr. Rahimi challenged the law as a violation of his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Our Argument: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders have a constitutional right to possess guns. It invalidated the federal gun law because it found no historical analogues in the 1700s or 1800s that prohibited those subject to domestic violence protective orders from possessing a firearm. The 老澳门开奖结果 argued that the Fifth Circuit鈥檚 analysis is a misapplication of the Supreme Court鈥檚 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen because it effectively required a 鈥渉istorical twin鈥 law in order to uphold a law today. There were no identical laws at the time of the Framing because there were no domestic violence protective orders then, but that should not be a basis for invalidating the laws today. We also argued that imposing time-limited firearms restrictions based on civil restraining orders is a critical tool for protecting those who have experienced domestic violence and face a threat of further violence.

Why it Matters: If the Fifth Circuit鈥檚 rationale is affirmed, then governments would lose the ability to prohibit gun possession by persons subject to restraining orders 鈥 and presumably even to run pre-acquisition background checks, which have stopped more than 77,000 purchases of weapons by individuals subject to domestic violence orders in the 25 years that the federal law has been in place. This 鈥渙riginalist鈥 interpretation of the Second Amendment not only hinders our ability to protect individuals against newly recognized threats, but also tethers the authority to regulate gun possession to periods when governments disregarded many forms of violence directed against women, Black people, Indigenous people, and others.

The Last Word: 鈥淚t would be a radical mistake to allow historical wrongs to defeat efforts today to protect women and other survivors of domestic abuse. The Supreme Court should affirm that the government can enact laws aimed at preventing intimate partner violence, consistent with the Second Amendment.鈥 鈥 Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the 老澳门开奖结果 Women鈥檚 Rights Project

Criminal justice: Eighth-Amendment protections for unhoused persons accused of sleeping in public when they have nowhere else to go

City of Grants Pass v. Johnson

The Facts: Grants Pass, Oregon, enacted ordinances that make it illegal for people, including unhoused persons with no access to shelter, to sleep outside in public using a blanket, pillow, or even a cardboard sheet to lie on. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that punishing unhoused people for sleeping in public when they have no other choice violates the Eighth Amendment鈥檚 ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Our Argument: In Oregon, and elsewhere in the United States, the population of unhoused persons often exceeds the number of shelter beds available, forcing many to sleep on the streets or in parks. The 老澳门开奖结果 and 19 state affiliates submitted a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that it is cruel and unusual to punish unhoused people for the essential life-sustaining activity of sleeping outside when they lack access to any alternative shelter.

Why it Matters: When applied to people with nowhere else to go, fines and arrests for sleeping outside serve no purpose and are plainly disproportionately punitive. Arresting and fining unhoused people for sleeping in public only exacerbates cycles of homelessness and mass incarceration.

The Last Word: 鈥淭here is no punishment that fits the 鈥榗rime鈥 of being forced to sleep outside. Instead of saddling people with fines, jail time, and criminal records, cities should focus on proven solutions, like affordable housing, accessible and voluntary services, and eviction protections.鈥 鈥 Scout Katovich, staff attorney with the 老澳门开奖结果 Trone Center for Justice and Equality

Democracy: Presidential immunity from prosecution for criminal acts after leaving office

Trump v. United States

The Facts: Former President Donald Trump is asking the Supreme Court to rule that he cannot be held criminally liable for any official acts as president, even after leaving office, and even where the crimes concern efforts to resist the peaceful transition of power after an election. This claim runs contrary to fundamental principles of constitutional accountability, and decades of precedent.

Our Argument: Our friend-of-the-court brief argues that former President Trump is not immune from criminal prosecution, and that the Constitution and long-established Supreme Court precedent support the principle that in our democracy, nobody is above the law 鈥 even the president. Our brief warns that there are 鈥渇ew propositions more dangerous鈥 in a democracy than the notion that an elected head of state has blanket immunity from criminal prosecution.

Why it Matters: No other president has asserted that presidents can never be prosecuted for official acts that violate criminal law. The president鈥檚 accountability to the law is an integral part of the separation of powers and the rule of law. If the President is free, as Trump鈥檚 legal counsel argued, to order the assassination of his political opponents and escape all criminal accountability even after he leaves office, both of these fundamental principles of our system would have a fatal Achilles鈥 heel.

The Last Word: 鈥淭he United States does not have a king, and former presidents have no claim to being above the law. A functioning democracy depends on our ability to critically reckon with the troubling actions of government officials and hold them accountable.鈥 鈥 David Cole, 老澳门开奖结果 legal director

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