U.S. Supreme Court Set for Furious Round of Decisions in Final Days of June

The United States Supreme Court is set to hand down critical decisions on affirmative action, federal election laws, and student debt relief this week as it enters the last week of its summer session with ten pending cases.

The court has yet to indicate it will break away from its norm of completing decisions by the end of June, with its next bath set to be released Tuesday morning.

Beyond the decisions, the SCOTUS is also forming its docket for the next term. On Monday, the justices could announce if they will take up numerous high-profile cases, including racial discrimination, qualified immunity, and guns.

Some remaining cases as the Supreme Court wraps up its annual term include:

Affirmative Action

When the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action in 2003 in college admissions. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, in her majority opinion, made a temporal prediction, writing:

“The court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the landmark decision of Grutter v. Bollinger; however, it may still need to reach its 21st.

The justices have continued to weigh whether to overturn Grutter — along with decades of affirmative action programs in higher education along with it — in challenges to admissions policies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University.

During oral argument, the majority appeared to remain skeptical of upholding college admissions based on race-consciousness.

The justices tend not to write more than one majority opinion for each monthly session of arguments.

Conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts have not yet issued majority opinions for any cases argued in November, when the challenges on affirmative action were heard, meaning one of them is likely to be the author.

The cases are Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. President.

Websites for same-sex weddings

Lorie Smith, an evangelical Christian and web designer is challenging Colorado’s public accommodation law on the grounds of free speech.

Like several other states, the law in Colorado prohibits businesses that serve the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

Smith wants to expand her business to include creating wedding websites. However, Colorado’s law would demand she create same-sex websites if she wants to do the same for opposite-sex unions, and Smith is ardently opposed to gay marriage.

The justices must now decide whether public accommodation laws, as applied to Smith and other artists, violate the First Amendment. During the oral argument, the conservative majority signaled support for Smith.

Justice Neil Gorsuch and Roberts are the likely pool of authors because they are the two remaining justices who haven’t issued majority opinions from a case in December. The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.

Student debt relief

President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive student debt for over 40 million borrowers will soon be blocked or greenlighted depending on the justices’ ruling.

The president’s plan would forgive as much as $10,000 for borrowers who meet income requirements and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants.

However, the debt relief remains in limbo until the SCOTUS resolves two lawsuit challenges. If either suit succeeds, debt relief will be blocked.

During oral arguments, the conservative majority cast doubt that the administration had the authority to cancel the debt, expected to be in the billions of dollars.

However, before striking down the plan as unlawful, the justices must first decide if any challengers have legal standing.

The two individual borrowers and six GOP-led states challenging the plan have promoted several arguments. The argument from Missouri received the most attention. Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court’s three liberal justices in questioning the state’s theory during oral argument. The cases are Department of Education v. Brown and Biden v. Nebraska.

‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory

The court continues to weigh a major election clash that will decide who gets the final word on setting federal election rules.

GOP North Carolina legislators appealed a state court ruling that struck down their congressional map and promoted an argument known as the “independent state legislature” theory to the justices.

The theory asserts that state legislatures have sole authority to set federal election rules under the Constitution.

Adopting the theory would claw back the ability of state courts and constitutions to block legislatures’ congressional map designs and other regulations surrounding federal elections. However, the court may need to reach the theory’s merits to toss the case.

While the justices considered the case, the GOP regained control of North Carolina’s top court and overturned the underlying decision that struck down the state’s congressional map. The SCOTUS hasn’t been paying close attention to whether they still have jurisdiction in the case.

Gorsuch or Roberts is the likely author of the majority decision based on the findings released. The case is Moore v. Harper.

The high court has four additional cases it is also considering.