People For the American Way

People For: SCOTUS Term Looms, Threatening More Critical Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 7, 2022

Contact: Press Department at People For the American Way

Email: media@pfaw.org

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Washington, DC – The Supreme Court is poised to follow its last, devastating term with another term that threatens numerous critical rights and freedoms, according to People For the American Way’s annual Supreme Court preview report, “Brace Yourself: More Threats from the Supreme Court.”

On the docket for the term starting in October are cases that threaten free and fair elections, LGBTQ+ equality, affirmative action in education, and more.

“The Supreme Court that gave us the horrendous Dobbs decision could do even more harm in the coming term,” said Paul Gordon, People For the American Way senior legislative counsel and the author of the report. “This Court, dominated by far-right justices, will be hearing cases that take direct aim at the rights and dignity of millions of Americans. It has already upended the America we know by stripping people of a guaranteed right to reproductive freedom. It is frightening to think about how much more it could transform American life for the worse in the months ahead.”

“All eyes will be on the Supreme Court again this term,” said Ben Jealous, president of People For the American Way. “The arrival of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is a bright spot. At the same time, we still have a far-right majority with an agenda that is devastating to the American people, especially Black and brown communities. As we watch the Court this term, we need to keep in mind that we as voters determine who nominates and confirms Supreme Court justices and other federal judges. That is strong motivation to get out and vote this fall and in 2024.”

Cases highlighted in this year’s preview report include:

Moore v. Harper.  [Oral arguments TBD] The conflict in this case began with an illegal partisan gerrymander designed to guarantee North Carolina Republicans a majority of that state’s congressional districts, even when voters statewide prefer Democrats. From there, it grew into a far-right power grab involving a highly questionable legal theory that would let right-wing state legislators undo vital checks and balances that promote fair elections. Under a dangerous theory, state legislatures could adopt unquestionably illegal voter suppression methods that violate their own state laws and even their own state constitutions. Observers fear the current Court majority will use this case to help their allies sabotage free elections in 2024 and beyond.

Merrill v. Milligan.  [Oral arguments October 4] The 2020 Census showed that Black voters had increased to 27 percent of Alabama’s voters since the last redistricting. However, the state legislature drew new congressional lines so that only one of its seven districts – only half of 27 percent – was majority-Black. So Black voters seeking a second majority-Black district sued – and won. Alabama officials appealed to the Supreme Court, where the far-right majority may use this case to further weaken the Voting Rights Act and make it harder to ensure meaningful representation for Black Americans.

303 Creative v. Elenis. [Oral arguments TBD] A commercial wedding website designer in Colorado wants to deny service to same-sex couples, which is illegal under the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The designer claims religious grounds for her position. Her case is the next step in the Far Right’s effort to undermine equality by giving themselves a constitutional right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, and perhaps others as well. A bad ruling in this case could also open the door to allowing businesses to claim religious grounds to discriminate against interracial couples or interfaith couples, as well as other groups or individuals.

Students for Fair Admissions v. UNC; Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard. [Oral arguments October 31] Although the Court has upheld affirmative action in higher education in the past, that was before Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell created the current 6-3 far-right majority. Seeing how extreme the current Court majority is, opponents of affirmative action are back with two cases being heard at the same time. Students for Fair Admissions is asking the Court to rule that colleges and universities cannot consider race at all in admission. The precedents that expanded educational opportunities for millions of students, especially young people of color, are now at risk this term in these two cases.

Health and Hospital Corp. v. Talevski. [Oral arguments November 8] In this case, a nursing home is asking not to be held accountable for giving substandard care to a resident with dementia, in violation of federal law. Through the Constitution’s “Spending Clause,” Congress can set conditions for recipients of federal funds – like nursing homes that take Medicaid funds. Decades ago, the Supreme Court established the principle that when such conditions are violated, the victim can generally sue for damages. The Court is being asked to overrule its precedent and shut down victims’ lawsuits.

Sackett v. EPA. [Oral arguments October 3] The plaintiffs in this case want to build a house on land currently protected as wetlands. The EPA has determined that the land is part of an area that significantly affects a nearby lake. Conservatives want the Supreme Court to use this case to reinterpret the Clean Water Act so it only protects wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies of water like rivers, streams, and lakes, excluding those that are close but do not touch those bodies of water. This reinterpretation would make it easier to pollute or fill wetlands and would cause significant environmental damage.

U.S. v. Texas. [Oral arguments in December; exact date TBD] Courts have long recognized the president’s authority to determine immigration priorities, but the Biden administration’s efforts to change the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies have been stymied by Trump judges. When the state of Texas sued to stop Biden reversals of Trump’s harshest deportation policies, Trump judge Drew Tipton ruled in Texas’s favor. On appeal, the conservative Fifth Circuit – as well as the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 shadow docket ruling – let Tipton’s order stand. This case will determine the extent to which Trump will still control our nation’s immigration policy two years after losing reelection.

Haaland v. Brackeen. [Oral arguments November 9] This case concerns the constitutionality of congressional efforts to protect Native American tribes from having their children taken away from them. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978 because so many Native American families were having their children removed and raised by non-Native families and institutions. The Supreme Court is considering lawsuits filed by several non-Native families whose adoption plans were affected by the law as well as lawsuits by Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana. In addition to the Biden administration, the Cherokee Nation, the Oneida Nation, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Quinault Indian Nation, and the Navajo Nation are defending the law.

About People For the American Way 
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunity. Learn more: http://www.pfaw.org