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The US Supreme Court is nearing the end of its term, with some of its highest-profile decisions expected at the end of June or early July.
A widely anticipated decision involving Mississippi’s abortion law could determine the fate of constitutional abortion rights affirmed by the ruling in 1973’s Roe v Wade. A leaked draft opinion from the high court indicates that a majority of justices are prepared to overturn the decades-long precedent.
On Thursday 23 June, the court issued four opinons – including one loosening gun laws but not including its ruling around abortion access.
The court’s next opinion issuance day is set for Friday 24 June. There are nine rulings left to be released.
The court releases opinions on its website at 10am ET on opinion issuance days which are marked in yellow on its calendar.
On those days, opinions are typically released in 10-minute intervals and in reverse-ranking order – e.g., opinions to be released that day that are written by the newest justice on the court, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, would come first, followed by those written by Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and so on.
The public does not know what opinions will be released ahead of time, nor how many will be released. When an “R” number is added to opinions released that day, justices have signalled that they are done releasing their rulings for the day.
Justices meet on conference days to discuss cases in private, vote on petitions for review and handle other court matters.
Here are some of the most high-profile cases the court is ruling on:
Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization
The issue: Abortion rights and whether the court will overturn Roe v Wade
The court is deciding whether to rule in favour of a Mississippi law blocking abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, on a question of whether all elective abortions are constitutional; the court is likely to overturn 1973’s ruling in Roe v Wade, which affirmed constitutional protections for abortion access, and its affirming ruling in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v Casey, which prohibits states from placing an “undue burden” on access. A rejection of those precedents would likely end federal protections for abortion care in more than half the US where it is not explicitly legal or protected under state law.
Biden v Texas
The issue: Immigration and whether the administration must or can end “Remain in Mexico”
The administration has tried to stop the Donald Trump-era programme that forces asylum seekers to remain on the other side of the US-Mexico border while their cases are pending in the US. Several court rulings have said the programme must be restarted. A case against the US Department of Homeland Security could establish precedent affecting presidents’ abilities to rein in previous administrations.
New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc v Bruen
Issue: Second Amendment rights and concealed-carry laws
New York requires gun owners who want a license to carry a concealed weapon to show they have “proper cause” to carry it, including self-defense reasons. The court was considering whether the Second Amendment allows the government to prohibit firearm owners from carrying handguns outside their homes for self-defense – which would challenge precedents on concealed-carry restrictions and rules about how and where Americans can carry guns.
Ruling: On 23 June, the court’s conservative majority ruled 6-3 to strike down the century-old New York law restricting gun carrying rights, saying that the law violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The decision comes as a major blow to state efforts to curb the proliferation of guns at a time when communities have been torn apart by mass shootings and gun violence – including the recent massacre in Buffalo, New York.
Kennedy v Bremerton School District
Issue: First Amendment rights and prayer in schools
A high school football coach led team prayers in the middle of the field during games. The school warned him to move them somewhere more conspicuous; he refused and his contract was not renewed, kicking off a legal battle backed by right-wing groups over school-sponsored prayer and First Amendment rights.
Vega v Tekoh
Issue: Miranda rights
The case asked whether a person can sue a police officer for violating their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by interrogating them in custody without issuing so-called Miranda warnings – the rights to remain silent, to be represented by an attorney, and to be protected against self-incrimination when interrogated in custody.
Ruling: On 23 June, the Supreme Court released its opinion in the case, ruling that a suspect cannot sue a police officer for a violation of their Fifth Amendment if they are not given their Miranda rights.
West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency
Issue: Environmental protections
Nineteen states are asking the court to review the scope of the EPA’s authority over the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act; the court is considering whether Congress gave the EPA broad authority to regulate industry emissions, which could have larger consequences for the Biden administration’s agenda to combat the climate crisis.