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What Will Change With This Supreme Court Term?

May 22, 2024

Guest post by Jennifer Mandelblatt

Two cases have dominated news coverage of the Supreme Court, as the justices weigh cases on abortion and Donald Trump. However, those aren’t the only cases that the court is deliberating over by far, and many of their decisions will have a profound impact on how our nation addresses corporate abuse of power, climate change, gun safety, and our civil rights as a whole.

We’ve rounded up the 12 most game-changing cases the Supreme Court is considering, with rulings likely to be released by June 28, 2024. Much is on the line, and it’s important to understand just what’s at stake in each of these cases! 


Relentless v. Department of Commerce and Loper Bright v. Raimondo

What it’s about: When Congress passes a law, they may leave terms undefined (e.g. ‘waters of the United States’ are protected from pollution — but what’s considered a ‘water of the United States?’) and matters unaddressed (e.g. the union protection law was written decades before email was invented, so it does not comment on ‘workers’ organizing rights regarding email use). For the last 40 years, Congress has entrusted environmental and labor experts, in these instances, to fill in the blanks and carry out a law’s aims in ways that protect communities. This case could shift the balance of power, with the justices threatening to take that power for themselves. 

What’s at stake: The Supreme Court’s MAGA supermajority has already eliminated our right to abortion, made it harder to prevent school shootings, allowed massive corporations to pollute our air and water, helped politicians suppress people’s votes, and so much more. These cases could give those same justices even more authority to do even more harm — all in the name of helping the ultra-rich and powerful get richer and more powerful. 


Trump v. United States

What it’s about: Former President Donald Trump was indicted in August 2023 on four counts arising from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the January 6, 2021, attacks on the U.S. Capitol. Trump claimed that he cannot be prosecuted for his official acts as president and that a former president cannot be prosecuted unless he has first been impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate. The Supreme Court will decide whether a former president enjoys immunity — and if so, to what extent — from criminal prosecution for conduct during their time in office. 

What’s at stake: EVERYTHING! Our democracy, the Constitution, the next election – it’s all on the line. This case will decide whether the President of the United States is beholden to the rule of law – and whether Jack Smith’s case will move forward before the November election.


Alexander vs. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

What it’s about: After the completion of the 2020 Census, the South Carolina legislature redrew its election maps, moving tens of thousands of Black voters into different districts and creating “safe” Republican districts to secure elections. The NAACP sued and a three-judge panel concluded that the district was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The legislators have taken the case to the Supreme Court.

What’s at stake: Gerrymandering is one of the biggest scourges on our democracy today, allowing legislators to pick their voters instead of the other way around. And as this Supreme Court has already gutted the Voting Rights Act, this case will show just how far the court will go to roll back civil rights and suppress votes.

City of Grants Pass v. Johnson

What it’s about: A town in Oregon has been implementing a slew of anti-unhoused population laws, including criminal penalties for sleeping outside. The Supreme Court will decide whether criminalizing people for existing when they have nowhere else to go falls under the 8th Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause.

What’s at stake: This case will have huge ramifications for California no matter how the Supreme Court rules, as the state has the largest unhoused population in the nation. A ruling in favor of the unhoused would stop municipalities from criminalizing the unhoused. 

Idaho and Moyle, et al. v. United States

What it’s about: The federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) guarantees everyone treatment for emergency medical conditions. However, anti-abortion extremists in Idaho, as in other states, passed a law prohibiting doctors from providing life-saving care when that care is an abortion.

What’s at stake: Doctors in states with total or near-total abortion bans have been reticent to perform life-saving abortions under the threat of prosecution. If the Supreme Court rules against Idaho, doctors would have some protections, but if they don’t, it could mean lifelong medical implications or even death for patients denied care. 

Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

What it’s about: Medication abortion in the U.S. is commonly conducted using a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2000 and is used in over half of all U.S. abortions. However, an organization founded specifically to challenge abortion rights sued to have access to mifepristone restricted back to only administered by a doctor instead of by prescription.

What’s at stake: This is perhaps the most consequential abortion-related decision since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022. Especially with abortion banned in 14 states, access to mifepristone by telehealth and through pharmacies is essential to full reproductive rights. However, states protecting abortion rights would be affected as well.


Harrington v. Purdue Pharma L.P.

What it’s about: Purdue Pharma was found by a court to be liable in part for the massive opioid epidemic surrounding their drugs, especially OxyContin. Purdue declared bankruptcy but the majority-owning family, the Sacklers, shielded billions of dollars from proceedings and kept the cash for themselves. The Supreme Court will decide if they have to put up their own money in the bankruptcy proceedings.

What’s at stake: Billionaires have written financial code to benefit themselves, and the Supreme Court can rein in the ultra-wealthy by not allowing them to shield their assets from their wrong-doings with their corporations.

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Jarkesy

What it’s about: A hedge fund manager has sued the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) for finding him guilty of securities fraud.

What’s at stake: The lawyers for the hedge fund manager argued funding for the SEC itself is unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court rules in his favor, the entire SEC – the one agency regulating Wall Street – could be defunded. And a ruling against the SEC will hamstring not only that agency but others as well.

Starbucks Corporation v. McKinney

What it’s about: In 2022, a Buffalo, NY, Starbucks staff attempted to unionize. In return, Starbucks laid off many of its employees. The National Labor Relations Board ordered Starbucks to reinstate the employees, and the corporation in turn sued.

What’s at stake: The NLRB is an important tool in reining in corporate power, and the Supreme Court may severely restrict that power with this ruling.


Ohio v. Environmental Protection Agency

What it’s about: In 2015, the EPA set new air-quality standards for ozone pollution that held states responsible for pollution that spread into other states. It published a federal plan mandating power plants and other industrial facilities in these 23 states to implement existing controls more effectively from 2023 and adopt commonly used controls by 2026. Ohio and 11 other states sued to stop the rule.

What’s at stake: The Supreme Court has the opportunity to significantly reduce the EPA’s power to control pollution with this ruling. This case follows two former rulings in the last two years that have gutted the EPA’s power to fight pollution.


United States v. Rahimi 

What it’s about: After the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling in 2022’s Bruen case, an adverse decision in Rahimi could hand the NRA another win by putting firearms back into the hands of people who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders – overturning decades of precedent in various states and increasing the rampant violence that has come to dominate American communities.

What’s at stake: For decades, federal law has protected domestic violence survivors from gun violence by prohibiting their abusers from accessing a firearm when they are subject to a domestic violence restraining order. An adverse decision in Rahimi could gut some of the strongest and most common-sense gun regulations we have left. Women of color, pregnant women, the LGTBQ+ community, and women with disabilities experience disproportionately higher rates of domestic violence involving guns. Women are five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence incident when the abuser has access to a gun. Additionally, nearly 31% of gun homicides of children under the age of 13 are related to domestic violence.

Garland v. Cargill

What it’s about: Bumpstocks are add-on mechanisms that essentially turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns increasing their lethal capabilities. In 2019, the ATF issued a rule classifying bump stock weapons as machine guns, essentially outlawing them. 

What’s at stake: A bumpstock was used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, allowing the perpetrator to kill 60 people and injure 500 in a matter of minutes. This ruling will have a lot of implications for gun safety legislation in the future.

National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo

What it’s about: After the Parkland mass shooting, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), under the leadership of Maria T. Vullo, encouraged banks and insurance agencies to cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA subsequently sued and said this encouragement violated the First Amendment.

What’s at stake: How far will the Supreme Court go to protect the NRA’s interests? We’ll find out with this ruling.

Regardless of the outcome in these cases, it is important to remember that the Supreme Court justices are political actors who designed their docket. 

First, they chose to fill their term with cases that should have never been entertained by the high court in the first place — the Trump v. United States case being a prime example. Despite a unanimous and bipartisan lower court ruling and long-standing legal precedents, the justices decided to hear the case as a delay tactic. Now, even if they rule that Trump is not immune — the only logical and constitutional conclusion —  if their ruling comes down after May 20, Trump may evade any electoral accountability. So a ‘positive’ ruling is not a win. 

And second, they chose to hear cases that were sent up by lower court judges to move the law to the right. The mifepristone case is so extreme that it could roll back abortion access even in states that have expanded abortion protections. Even if the Court does not ban mifepristone, they could 1) still send the case back to an anti-abortion Court for further action 2) change the rules around obtaining mifepristone so it becomes more difficult for patients 3) reserve the power to decide which drugs the FDA is allowed to authorize down the line. And even if they do not do any of those. We still live in a country without a constitutional right to an abortion because of the decision they made.   

Guest post by Jennifer Mandelblatt, Deputy Campaign Director at United For Democracy