By John Kruzel and Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court has wrapped up another term in which its conservative justices have flexed their muscles, following major rulings on abortion and guns last year with rulings who rejected affirmative action in college admissions, restricted LGBT rights and blocked President Joe Biden. student debt relief plan.
With cases on issues such as gun rights already lined up for his next term, starting in October, the court could once again steer the law in the right direction – aided by the former Republican president’s nomination Donald Trump from three judges who built a conservative 6-3. majority.
Liberal justices, including Biden appointee Ketanji Brown Jackson, found themselves in the dissenting minority role in some of the biggest cases of the nine-month term.
The court on Thursday struck down race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, effectively banning affirmative action policies long used to increase the number of black students , Hispanics, and other underrepresented minorities on campus. He found that policies like those of the two elite schools violate the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law.
The court on Friday dealt a blow to LGBT rights by ruling that the Constitution’s First Amendment free speech protections allow an evangelical Christian web designer who opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds to refusing to provide services for same-sex marriages – despite a state anti-discrimination law.
Also on Friday, the court blocked Biden’s plan to write off $430 billion in student loan debt. The conservative justices invoked the “major issues” doctrine, a heavy-handed judicial approach that gives judges broad discretion to strike down executive agency actions of “great economic and political significance” unless Congress rules. clearly allow them.
In these cases, the conservative judges were unified in the majority and the liberal judges dissented.
“The term will be most remembered for the decisions of the past two days that moved the law in a radically conservative direction,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, referring to to affirmative action, web designer and student loan decisions.
“All were 6-3 and again show the impact of President Trump’s three choices for the court,” Chemerinsky added.
On May 25, the court also put another breach in the regulatory reach of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, adopting a tough new test for declaring wetlands protected under a landmark federal anti-pollution law. . In that case, the liberal justices were joined by a conservative judge, Trump-appointed Brett Kavanaugh, dissenting on the new test.
SOME VICTORIES FOR THE LIBERALS
Chemerinsky cited a few victories for the Liberals during the term. These included the court’s finding that Alabama violated a federal law against voting discrimination, dismissing a challenge to federal preferences for Native Americans and tribal members in adoption or foster care. of Native American children, dismissing a Texas challenge to Biden’s immigration policy and rejection of a legal theory that gave state legislatures virtually unchecked power to make rules regarding federal elections.
A key moment for the court — letting its conservative majority wield more influence — came when Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s third appointee, was confirmed by the Senate in 2020, replacing the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The court, several days in a row in June 2022, expanded gun rights and overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion nationwide.
Still, with Jackson’s addition, there have been fewer decisions in which conservatives were on one side and liberals on the other this term compared to last – five to 14.
“It shows that the court, with the addition of Judge Jackson, has moved away a bit from shared ideological decisions this term, although the court has been ideologically divided in some of its most important decisions,” said Adam Feldman. , a lawyer who follows judicial data on his blog. Empirical SCOTUS.
The court has several important cases in their upcoming term.
The justices agreed on Friday to decide whether a 1994 federal law prohibiting people who are victims of prohibition orders from owning firearms violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Judges will hear an appeal by the Biden administration against a lower court’s ruling that found the law violated the Second Amendment’s ‘right to keep and bear arms’ because it failed to respect not “our nation’s historic tradition of gun regulation”.
The case involves a Texas man charged with unlawful possession of a firearm while facing a restraining order for domestic violence after assaulting his girlfriend.
The court also heard a case involving commercial fishermen that could further undermine the regulatory power of federal agencies, as well as a constitutional challenge to the funding structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
(Reporting by John Kruzel and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)