With Clock Running Out, a Slew of Big SCOTUS Cases Loom

Affirmative action and religious and gay rights are also on the agenda before this term closes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 26, 2023 6:15 AM CDT
Here Are SCOTUS' Final Cases Before Summer Break
A demonstrator signs a voter pledge in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Aug. 28, 2013. As election season accelerates, the Supreme Court has not said what it will do about the power of state legislatures to make rules for congressional and presidential elections without being checked by state courts.   (Jerry Wolford/News & Record via AP, File)

The Supreme Court is getting ready to decide some of its biggest cases of the term. The high court has 10 opinions left to release over the next week before the justices begin their summer break. As is typical, the last opinions to be released cover some of the most contentious issues the court has wrestled with this term, including affirmative action, student loans, and gay rights, per the AP. Here's a look at some of the cases the court has left to decide from the term that began back in October:

  • Affirmative action: The survival of affirmative action in higher education is the subject of two related cases, one involving Harvard and the other the University of North Carolina. The Supreme Court has previously approved of the use of affirmative action in higher education, in decisions reaching back to 1978. But the justices' decision to take the cases suggests a willingness to revisit those rulings. And when the high court heard arguments in the cases in late October, all six conservative justices on the court expressed doubts about the practice. The Biden administration has said that getting rid of race-conscious college admissions would have a "destabilizing" effect that would cause the ranks of Black and Latino students to plummet at the nation's most selective schools.

  • Student loans: The justices will also decide the fate of President Biden's plan to wipe away or reduce student loans held by millions of Americans. When the court heard arguments in the case in February, the plan didn't seem likely to survive, though it's possible the justices could decide the challengers lacked the right to sue and the plan can still go forward. Biden had proposed erasing $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those with incomes below $125,000 a year, or households that earn less than $250,000.
  • Gay rights: A clash of gay rights and religious rights is also yet to be decided. The case involves Lorie Smith, a Christian graphic artist from Colorado who wants to begin designing wedding websites but objects to making wedding websites for same-sex couples. State law requires businesses that are open to the public to provide services to all customers, but Smith says the law violates her free speech rights, and that ruling against her would force artists—from painters and photographers to writers and musicians—to do work that's against their beliefs. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve Black, Jewish, or Muslim customers, interracial or interfaith couples, or immigrants.

  • Religious rights: Another case that could end as a victory for religious rights is the case of Gerald Groff, a Christian mail carrier who refused to work on Sundays when he was required to deliver Amazon packages. The question for the high court has to do with when businesses have to accommodate religious employees. The case is somewhat unusual in that both sides agree on a number of things, and when the court heard arguments in April both liberal and conservative justices seemed in broad agreement that businesses like the Postal Service can't cite minor costs or hardships to reject requests to accommodate religious practices. That could mean a ruling joined by both liberals and conservatives.
  • Voting: As election season accelerates, the Supreme Court has still not said what it will do in a case about the power of state legislatures to make rules for congressional and presidential elections without being checked by state courts. In a case out of North Carolina, the justices were asked to essentially eliminate the power of state courts to strike down congressional districts drawn by legislatures on the grounds that they violate state constitutions. But there's a wrinkle: Since the justices heard arguments in the case in December, North Carolina's state Supreme Court threw out the ruling the Supreme Court was reviewing after Republicans claimed control of that court. That could give the justices an out and let them dismiss the case without reaching a decision. The high court could still take up a similar case from Ohio and reach a decision there, but it wouldn't be until after the 2024 elections.
(More US Supreme Court stories.)

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