Affirmative Action and Student Debt Rulings Imminent at the U.S. Supreme Court

By John Kruzel and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of this month the fate of race-conscious college admissions policies, one of the top disputes – also including cases involving the rights of LGBT and student debt forgiveness – yet to be resolved as the justices head towards the end of their current terms.

The court’s conservative justices, who hold a 6-3 majority, expressed skepticism during oral arguments in December about the legality of student admissions policies employed by Harvard University and Carolina University. North. The pending decisions about the two elite schools could end affirmative action programs that have been used by many American colleges and universities for decades to boost their numbers of black, Hispanic and other minority students under -represented.

A year ago, conservative justices reached a landmark term in which the court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade who had legalized abortion nationwide — a move that opened the door to a series of state bans on the procedure — and expanded gun rights.

Opinion polls have revealed a sharp decline in public trust in America’s highest court, which has also been embroiled in ethical controversies – particularly revelations about the ties between conservative judge Clarence Thomas and a Texas billionaire .

Against this backdrop, the court is once again set to rule on cases that have the potential to reshape key areas of law and impact the lives of millions of Americans. The tribunal began its term in October and usually ends at the end of June each year.

The Supreme Court has already ruled in two major race-related cases. In a 5-4 decision on June 8, he found that an electoral map drawn by Republicans in Alabama violated a federal law prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. In a 7-2 decision on June 15, he issued a challenge to decades-old federal standards that give preferences to Native Americans and tribal members in the adoption or foster care of Native American children.

In both cases, the challengers argued that laws designed to protect certain minorities allowed unlawful racial discrimination against other Americans.

In student admissions cases, the challengers — a group founded by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum — accused the two schools of discriminating against white and Asian American applicants. Harvard and UNC said they are using race as just one factor in a slew of individualized assessments for admission without quotas as they seek campus diversity to enrich everyone’s educational experience. students.

Judges must also decide the legality of President Joe Biden’s plan to write off $430 billion in student loan debt. During oral arguments in February, the court’s conservatives expressed skepticism about the legality of Biden’s plan to eliminate debt for some 40 million student borrowers, as he promised as a candidate in 2020. .

Biden’s plan, announced last year, was opposed by conservative Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina and a pair of individual borrowers opposed to the terms of the agreement. plan eligibility.

In another major case, the court could allow companies to refuse to provide certain services to LGBT customers in a case involving Colorado web designer Lorie Smith’s attempt to refuse to design wedding websites for couples of the same sex. Smith’s challenge to Colorado’s anti-discrimination law argues that she is an artist and enjoys a free speech right under the First Amendment to the US Constitution to refuse to express messages contrary to her faith Christian.

Judges are also set to decide a case that could undermine presidential power over immigration amid a challenge by conservative-leaning Texas and Louisiana to Biden’s policy narrowing the reach of those who may be targeted in immigration enforcement actions.

Other pending rulings include the lawsuit of a former U.S. Postal Service carrier that could make it easier for employees to seek religious accommodations from employers and a man’s appeal of his conviction in Colorado for harassing a woman in a First Amendment case that could clarify the line between legally protected speech and criminal threats.

Judges could also rule in a major case in which Republican officials in North Carolina are seeking to give state legislatures significantly more power over federal elections, although they may reject it due to the overturning of a lower court.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and John Kruzel in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

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