WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a number of important rulings during its current term that began last October and is expected to decide its remaining cases by the end of June including disputes involving race-conscious college admissions practices, President Joe Biden’s student debt forgiveness plan and LGBT rights.
Here is a look at some of the rulings issued by the court this term.
The justices on June 8 handed a major victory to Black voters who challenged a Republican-drawn electoral map in Alabama, finding the state violated a landmark law prohibiting racial discrimination in voting and paving the way for a second U.S. House of Representatives district with a Black majority or close to it. The court elected not to further roll back protections contained in the Voting Rights Act as it had done in two major rulings in the past decade.
The court on June 27 rebuffed a legal theory favored by many conservatives that could have given state legislatures sweeping power to set voting rules and draw electoral district boundaries for federal elections by preventing state courts from reviewing their actions. The ruling against Republican state legislators stemmed from a legal fight over their map of North Carolina’s 14 U.S. House districts.
The court on May 25 further limited the regulatory reach of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, embracing a stringent new test for declaring wetlands protected under a landmark federal anti-pollution law in a ruling favoring an Idaho couple who challenged the EPA. The new test could leave wide swathes of sensitive wetlands and tributaries unprotected by the Clean Water Act, the landmark 1972 anti-pollution law.
The justices on June 23 gave the Biden administration the green light to move ahead with guidelines shifting immigration enforcement toward countering public safety threats, handing the Democratic president a victory in a legal battle with Texas and Louisiana. The guidelines reflected Biden’s recalibration of U.S. immigration policy after the hardline approach taken by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.
ENCOURAGING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
A federal law that makes it a crime for a person to encourage illegal immigration does not violate constitutional free speech protections, the court ruled on June 23, upholding the decades-old measure defended by the Biden administration. A lower court had ruled that the law was overly broad because it may criminalize speech protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
PROTECTIONS FOR INTERNET COMPANIES
The court on May 18 left legal protections for internet and social media companies unscathed and refused to clear a path for victims of attacks by militant groups to sue these businesses under an anti-terrorism law. In both cases, families of people killed by Islamist gunmen overseas had sued to try to hold internet companies liable because of the presence of militant groups on their platforms or for recommending their content.
NATIVE AMERICAN ADOPTION
The justices on June 15 upheld decades-old federal requirements that give preferences to Native Americans and tribal members in the adoption or foster care placements of Native American children. The court found that the plaintiffs, including the state of Texas, did not have legal standing to challenge parts of the law they claimed were racially biased against non-Native Americans.
The justices on June 1 made it easier for employers to sue over strikes that cause property destruction – handing another setback to organized labor – in a ruling siding with a concrete business in Washington state that sued the union representing its truck drivers after a work stoppage.
FEDERAL AGENCY POWER
The court on April 14 made it easier to challenge the regulatory power of federal agencies in rulings backing Axon Enterprise Inc’s bid to sue the Federal Trade Commission and a Texas accountant’s gripe with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The court on May 11 further restricted the ability of federal prosecutors to pursue corruption cases, overturning the bribery conviction of Joseph Percoco, an ex-aide to Democratic former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and former construction company executive Louis Ciminelli.
The justices on July 27 threw out the stalking conviction of a Colorado man who for two years sent a barrage of unwanted Facebook messages to a female musician in a case involving free speech protections under the Constitution’s First Amendment. The court ruled that state prosecutors had not shown that he was aware of the “threatening nature” of his statements.
ANDY WARHOL ARTWORK
Andy Warhol’s estate lost its copyright fight with celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith when the court on May 18 faulted the famed pop artist’s use of her photo of Prince in a silkscreen series depicting the charismatic rock star.
The court on May 25 curbed state and local governments from seizing and selling the homes of people with unpaid property taxes and keeping the proceeds beyond the amount owed, deeming the practice unconstitutional in a ruling in favor of a 94-year-old woman who battled tax authorities in Minnesota.
(Reporting by Will Dunham)
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