During the last week of June 2022, the Court issued landmark decisions overturning abortion rights (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) and expanding gun rights (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen), demonstrating a shift of power to the Court’s new 6-3 conservative supermajority.
Legal commentators have long speculated that the Justices prefer to release their most controversial opinions at the end of each term, days before embarking on summer recess to travel, teach, and write. On average more than 30 percent of the Court’s opinions are issued in June and more than half of those are issued in the week proceeding summer recess (typically the last week in June).
As several of the 2022-2023 term’s most important cases have already been argued, here are some of the major cases in which we’re awaiting decisions:
Biden v. Nebraska (student loan forgiveness)
The Court will address the fate of President Biden’s COVID-era plan to cancel $400 billion in student loan debt for public borrowers, provided the states who challenged the plan demonstrate standing. The six GOP-led states that brought the challenge believe that the debt cancellation for up to $20,000 per qualified borrower would decrease profits for companies in their states that service federal student loans.
Merrill v. Milligan (voting rights)
Chief Justice John Roberts’ Court has not been friendly to the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Court previously gutted a key part of the act in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder. That decision, authored by the Chief Justice, prompted an RBG dissent, observing that removing voter protections is like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Miller v. Milligan also arose from Alabama.
Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and North Carolina (affirmative action)
The Supreme Court heard two similar lawsuits brought by the anti-affirmative action organization Students for Fair Admissions in October 2022. The group argued that Harvard and other schools blatantly discriminate against Asian students. But the claim itself is also a proxy for all other preferences grounded in identity, including those in favor of Black applicants and those disadvantaging whites.
Moore v. Harper (independent state legislature theory)
Like in the Alabama voting case above, democracy is at issue in the so-called independent state legislature theory.
The somewhat arcane legal question is whether only the U.S. Constitution controls state legislatures’ decisions regarding federal elections rules within their states, or whether state constitutions and courts can also oversee election laws that apply to national elections.
In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on whether the North Carolina Supreme Court can strike down and replace the state legislature’s congressional map, which the state court found was gerrymandered in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.
303 Creative v. Elenis (LGBTQ rights)
303 Creative v. Elenis asks the Court whether state law can compel a private business to serve LGBTQ clients, or whether the First Amendment protects such owners who violate those laws on previously-held religious grounds.
The lawsuit focuses on a website designer who wants to expand her business to offer personal wedding sites, just not for same-sex couples, as required by Colorado’s nondiscrimination laws.
The outcomes of this term’s cases will deeply influence American lives, especially for college applicants and those holding college debt, LGBTQ citizens, and people with strong religious beliefs.