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Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | July 23, 2022

Depending on your beliefs, this has either been the greatest session in the history of the United States Supreme Court or a nightmare from which we will not recover anytime soon.

Let’s review the highlights of what they’ve been up to and look at a sample of what their next session promises. (Full credit to Mark Stern at Slate to prepare a list of decisions 2021/2022 and to Ballot for a preview of upcoming attractions.)

The one case of which almost everyone has both knowledge and opinion is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In that case, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), by a margin of 5 to 4, determined that abortion was not a constitutional right and the original decision which stated that right (Roe vs. Wade) was “grossly wrong”. The ruling did not ban abortion as many continue to claim; he referred the matter to Congress and the States. Since the likelihood of Congress codifying legal abortion in the current political atmosphere is close to zero, it is now left to the states.

West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency also received its fair share of attention. SCOTUS ruled that the EPA did not have the authority to set pollution limits for coal-fired power plants because Congress had not expressly authorized them to do so by law. In addition to the likely increase in polluting emissions, this decision jeopardizes nearly every rule and regulation promulgated by the EPA, a significant setback to our efforts to combat climate change.

Other decisions were less known but have equally profound consequences.

Take Oklahoma vs. Castro-Huerta, for example. For decades, crimes committed on sovereign tribal lands have been tried in tribal courts. The judgment in Oklahoma reduces what was traditionally considered tribal sovereignty and will allow the federal government and states to now prosecute some of these alleged crimes, regardless of their location or the accused’s tribal affiliation. Not a big decision for the tribal nations.

Then we have both Kennedy vs. Bremerton and Carson v. Makin. They’re not exactly birds of a feather, but both serve to further reduce the ever-tightening separation between church and state. In kennedy, SCOTUS felt that the Christian prayer offered by a high school football coach at the 50-yard line after a game was perfectly acceptable. The majority opinion concluded that the prayer was done quietly, was not sponsored by the school (although the coach was employed and paid by the school), and was voluntary, although some former players have begged to disagree. In carson, the judges ruled that if taxpayers’ money is given to private schools, states cannot prevent private religious schools from also receiving taxpayers’ money. Excluding them because of their religion, the court ruled, is a violation of the First Amendment. So, for example, gay taxpayers might see their tax money go to religious schools that declare them bad sinners whose very lives should be illegal.

In Vega vs Tekoh, SCOTUS has determined that a statement offered by an inmate, including a confession, given despite Miranda’s lack of warning, is not necessarily unconstitutional and cannot be a cause of action against anyone who has not not mirandized the suspect. (As if false confessions weren’t already a big enough problem.)

The court also curtailed a person’s right to appeal a federal conviction until all state remedies have been exhausted, a decision that ignores existing facts or the level of representation received. and focus on the procedure. It is likely that more innocent people will now remain in prison.

On the court program for the 2022/2023 session, a few dandies. Chief among them is yet another instance in which a business owner – in this case a graphic designer/web designer who wants to expand her business to include weddings – does not want to provide services to couples from same sex because of his “narrow religious beliefs.” SCOTUS has heard such cases before and is likely to side with the business owner again. It turns out that our constitution allows discrimination against certain people.

They will also hear an interesting and unusual case involving allegations of admissions discrimination at Harvard. In this case, several highly qualified Asian applicants were denied acceptance while less qualified white applicants (at least in terms of test scores, grade point averages, and extracurricular activities) were accepted in the name of diversity. .

Perhaps more troubling is another chance for SCOTUS to cripple the EPA. This challenge is at the Clean Water Act (CWA). Since the CWA’s enabling statute does not specify what regulations the EPA is authorized to, water polluters may well be able to join air polluters in being relieved of their obligations to the environment. unless an incompetent Congress codifies the rules promulgated by the EPA.

And they’re just getting started; although not currently on the court docket, Justice Clarence Thomas and others have indicated that they would like to review rulings that granted constitutional protections to same-sex marriage and contraception to begin…backing off as quickly as possible. possible.

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