The Major Supreme Court Cases of 2024

Gun Rights

No Supreme Court term in recent memory has featured so many cases with the potential to transform American society.

The consequential cases, with decisions arriving by late June or early July, include three affecting former President Donald J. Trump, two on abortion, two on guns, three on the First Amendment rights of social media companies and three on the administrative state.

In recent years, some of the court’s biggest decisions have been out of step with public opinion. Researchers at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Texas conducted a survey in March to help explore whether that gap persists.

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Trump’s Ballot Eligibility

Trump v. Anderson

9-0 ruling on March 4

Liberal bloc

Sotomayor

Sotomayor

Jackson

Jackson

Kagan

Kagan

Conservative bloc

Roberts

Roberts

Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh

Barrett

Barrett

Gorsuch

Gorsuch

Alito

Alito

Thomas

Thomas

The Supreme Court ruled that states may not bar former President Donald J. Trump from running for another term, rejecting a challenge from Colorado under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits insurrectionists from holding office.

Is there a major precedent involved?

No. The Supreme Court had never before considered the scope of Section 3. The unsigned majority opinion relied in part on an 1869 decision from Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. But that was, a dissent from the court’s three liberal members said, “a nonprecedential, lower court opinion by a single justice in his capacity as a circuit judge.”

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

No. The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in December disqualifying Mr. Trump from the state’s primary ballot acknowledged that “we travel in uncharted territory.”

What was at stake?

A decision that Mr. Trump was ineligible to hold office would have been a political earthquake altering the course of American history.

Where does the public stand?

Think Trump is eligible to run in 2024 Think Trump is not eligible

53%47%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Immunity for Former Presidents

Trump v. United States

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is immune from prosecution on charges that he plotted to subvert the 2020 election.

Is there a major precedent involved?

There are at least two. In 1974, in United States v. Nixon, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard M. Nixon, then still in office, had to comply with a subpoena seeking tapes of his conversations, rejecting his claims of executive privilege.

But in 1982, in Nixon v. Fitzgerald, a closely divided court ruled that Nixon, by then out of office, was absolutely immune from civil lawsuits “for acts within the ‘outer perimeter’ of his official responsibility.”

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled by a 7-to-2 vote in Trump v. Vance that Mr. Trump had no absolute right to block the release of his financial records in a criminal investigation. “No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority.

What is at stake?

The court’s decision will determine whether and when Mr. Trump will face trial for his attempts to overturn his 2020 loss at the polls.

Where does the public stand?

Think former presidents are not immune from criminal prosecution for actions they took while president Think former presidents are immune

74%27%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Obstruction Charges for Jan. 6 Assault

Fischer v. United States

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether prosecutors may use a federal obstruction statute to charge rioters involved in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.

Is there a major precedent involved?

In a series of decisions, the court has narrowed the reach of federal criminal laws aimed at public corruption and white-collar crime.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

In 2015, the Supreme Court limited the sweep of the statute at issue in the case, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for four of the justices in the majority, warned against cutting the law “loose from its financial-fraud mooring” in a case that involved a Florida fisherman who had thrown undersized fish into the Gulf of Mexico.

What is at stake?

The case has the potential to knock out half of the federal charges against former President Donald J. Trump for plotting to subvert the 2020 election and could complicate hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions.

Where does the public stand?

Think the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were criminal Think the events were not criminal

71%29%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Abortion Pills

Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether to overturn recent F.D.A. guidelines for distributing a commonly used abortion pill by mail and telemedicine.

Is there a major precedent involved?

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

In 2023, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked efforts to severely curb access to the pill, mifepristone, as an appeal moved forward. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. publicly noted that they would have allowed steps seeking to limit the availability of the pill, and Justice Alito wrote a dissent.

What is at stake?

The case will determine whether access to the drug, which is used in the majority of abortions in the United States, will be sharply curtailed.

Where does the public stand?

Think the F.D.A.’s approval of mifepristone should not be revoked Think the approval should be revoked

68%33%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Emergency Abortion Care

Moyle v. United States

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether a federal law that requires emergency rooms to provide stabilizing care to all patients overrides a state law, in Idaho, that imposes a near-total ban on abortion.

Is there a major precedent involved?

The case is another reminder that the court has not been able to leave the question of abortion to states, as it promised in overturning Roe v. Wade after nearly half a century.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

There are several court battles about various aspects of state abortion bans, including a fight in Texas over the federal law at issue in the case, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

What is at stake?

It is the first time the Supreme Court is considering a state law criminalizing abortion since it overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision may affect more than a dozen states that have passed near-total bans on abortion.

Where does the public stand?

Think Idaho hospitals must provide abortions in medical emergencies Think they are not allowed

82%18%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Second Amendment Rights of Domestic Abusers

United States v. Rahimi

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether a federal law that makes it a crime for people subject to domestic violence restraining orders to own guns violates the Second Amendment.

Is there a major precedent involved?

Yes. In 2022, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the court struck down a New York law that put strict limits on carrying guns outside the home. The decision established a new legal standard, one that required judges to assess restrictions on gun rights by turning to early American history as a guide.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

Lower courts have struck down federal laws prohibiting people who have been convicted of felonies or who use drugs from owning guns.

What is at stake?

The court may start to clear up the confusion it created in the Bruen decision, in the first major test of its expansion of gun rights. The standard it announced has left lower courts in turmoil as they struggle to hunt down references to obscure or since-forgotten regulations.

Where does the public stand?

Think barring domestic abusers from possessing firearms does not violate their Second Amendment rights Think it violates their rights

74%26%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Restrictions on the Homeless

City of Grants Pass v. Johnson

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether ordinances in Oregon aimed at preventing homeless people from sleeping and camping outside violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Is there a major precedent involved?

Yes. The argument by the homeless plaintiffs rests heavily on a 1962 decision, Robinson v. California, in which the Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalizing a person for being addicted to narcotics violated the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiffs argue that homelessness, like drug addiction, is a state of being that cannot be punished.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

In 2018, an appeals court ruled in Martin v. Boise that Boise, Idaho, had infringed on the constitutional rights of homeless people by making it a crime to sleep outside, even when they had nowhere else to go.

What is at stake?

The case could have major ramifications on how far cities across the country can go to clear homeless people from streets and other public spaces.

Where does the public stand?

Think banning homeless people from camping outside even when local shelters are full violates the Constitution Think it does not violate the Constitution

58%42%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Social Media Platforms’ First Amendment Rights

Moody v. NetChoice; NetChoice v. Paxton

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether Florida and Texas may prohibit large social media companies from removing posts based on the views they express.

The laws’ supporters argue that the measures are needed to combat perceived censorship of conservative views on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and claims of election fraud. Critics of the laws say the First Amendment prevents the government from telling private companies whether and how to disseminate speech.

Is there a major precedent involved?

There are at least two. In 1974, in Miami Herald v. Tornillo, the Supreme Court struck down a Florida law that would have allowed politicians a “right to reply” to newspaper articles critical of them.

In 1980, in Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, the court said a state constitutional provision that required private shopping centers to allow expressive activities on their property did not violate the centers’ First Amendment rights.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

In 2022, in the Texas case, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked that state’s law while the appeal moved forward. The vote was 5 to 4, with an unusual coalition in dissent.

What is at stake?

The cases arrive garbed in politics, as they concern laws aimed at protecting conservative speech. But the larger question the cases present transcends ideology. It is whether tech platforms have free speech rights to make editorial judgments.

Where does the public stand?

Think states cannot prevent social media companies from censoring speech Think states should be able to prevent censoring

60%41%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Disinformation on Social Media

Murthy v. Missouri

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether the Biden administration’s contacts with social media platforms to combat what the officials say is misinformation amounted to censorship of constitutionally protected speech.

Is there a major precedent involved?

Yes. In Bantam Books v. Sullivan in 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that informal and indirect efforts by the government to suppress speech can violate the First Amendment.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

The Supreme Court is also considering a case that raises similar issues, National Rifle Association v. Vullo, about whether a state official in New York violated the First Amendment by encouraging companies to stop doing business with the National Rifle Association.

What is at stake?

The case is a major test of the role of the First Amendment in the internet era, requiring the court to consider when government efforts to limit the spread of misinformation amount to censorship of constitutionally protected speech.

Where does the public stand?

Think federal officials urging private companies to block or remove users violates the First Amendment Think it does not violate the First Amendment

62%38%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

N.R.A. and the First Amendment

National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether a New York State official violated the First Amendment by trying to persuade companies not to do business with the National Rifle Association after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Is there a major precedent involved?

As in Murthy v. Missouri, the case implicates the 1963 decision Bantam Books v. Sullivan, in which the Supreme Court ruled that informal and indirect efforts by the government to suppress speech can violate the First Amendment.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

The case is one of two that will determine when government advocacy edges into violating free speech rights. The other, Murthy v. Missouri, concerns the Biden administration’s dealings with social media companies.

What is at stake?

The case centers on when persuasion by government officials crosses into coercion.

Where does the public stand?

Think the state regulator’s behavior violates the N.R.A.’s First Amendment rights Think it does not violate the N.R.A.’s rights

53%47%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Opioids Settlement

Harrington v. Purdue Pharma

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide on the legality of a bankruptcy settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin. In exchange for billions of dollars to battle the opioid epidemic, the deal shields members of the family behind the company, the Sacklers, from civil liability.

Is there a major precedent involved?

The case is the first time the Supreme Court will address whether a bankruptcy plan can be structured to give civil legal immunity to a third party, without the consent of all potential claimholders. The legal maneuver under scrutiny has become increasingly popular in bankruptcy settlements.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

What is at stake?

Approving the deal would funnel money toward states and others who have waited for years for some kind of settlement. Yet the Sacklers would be largely absolved from future opioid-related claims. More broadly, the case may have implications for similar agreements insulating a third party from liability.

Where does the public stand?

Think the Sackler family should not keep immunity from future lawsuits Think family should keep immunity

74%27%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Racial Gerrymandering

Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P.

Not yet decided

The justices will decide whether to reinstate a South Carolina voting map that a three-judge court had ruled was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The parties had asked the Supreme Court to rule by Jan. 1, but its delay in resolving the case ensured that the 2024 election would take place under the rejected map.

Is there a major precedent involved?

Yes. A series of Supreme Court decisions say that making race the predominant factor in drawing voting districts violates the Constitution.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

The case is superficially similar to one from Alabama in which the court ruled last year that state lawmakers had diluted the power of Black voters in drawing a congressional voting map. But the two cases involve distinct legal principles.

The Alabama case was governed by the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights statute, and the one from South Carolina by the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

What is at stake?

The case concerns a constitutional puzzle: how to distinguish the roles of race and partisanship in drawing voting maps when Black voters overwhelmingly favor Democrats. The difference matters because the Supreme Court has said that only racial gerrymandering may be challenged in federal court under the Constitution.

Where does the public stand?

Think these changes to the districts are unconstitutional Think they are constitutional

67%33%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Power of Federal Agencies

Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo; Relentless v. Department of Commerce

Not yet decided

The court will decide whether to overrule a foundational 1984 precedent on the power of government agencies, Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. It said that courts must defer to agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous statutes.

Is there a major precedent involved?

Yes. Chevron is one of the most cited cases in American law.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

Chevron has fallen out of favor at the Supreme Court in recent years, and several justices have criticized it. The court, which had invoked Chevron at least 70 times to decide cases, has not done so since 2016.

“The question is less whether this court should overrule Chevron,” Paul D. Clement, one of the lawyers for the challengers, told the justices, “and more whether it should let lower courts and citizens in on the news.”

What is at stake?

Overturning the decision could threaten regulations on the environment, health care, consumer safety, nuclear energy, government benefit programs and guns. It would also shift power from agencies to Congress and to judges.

Where does the public stand?

Courts should defer to administrative agencies when laws are unclear Courts should not defer to agencies

51%49%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Agency Funding

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Association of America

Not yet decided

The court will decide whether the way Congress funds a consumer watchdog violates the appropriations clause of the Constitution.

Is there a major precedent involved?

There is no precedent squarely on point.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that a different part of the law creating the consumer bureau was unconstitutional, saying that Congress could not insulate the bureau’s director from presidential oversight.

What is at stake?

A ruling against the bureau, created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act after the financial crisis, could cast doubt on every regulation and enforcement action it took in the dozen years of its existence. That includes agency rules — and punishments against companies that flout them — involving mortgages, credit cards, consumer loans and banking.

Where does the public stand?

Think this agency funding structure is unconstitutional Think it is constitutional

55%45%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Administrative Courts

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Jarkesy

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether the Securities and Exchange Commission’s in-house administrative courts are lawful.

Is there a major precedent involved?

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

What is at stake?

A ruling against the S.E.C. would not only require it to file cases in federal court but could also imperil administrative tribunals at many other agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Social Security Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.

Where does the public stand?

Think federal agencies bringing actions in administrative proceedings rather than in federal courts is not constitutional Think it is constitutional

68%32%

Source: SCOTUSPoll

Cross-State Air Pollution

Ohio v. Environmental Protection Agency

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether to temporarily stop the Biden administration’s “good neighbor” plan, which requires factories and power plants in Western and Midwestern states to cut air pollution that drifts into Eastern states.

Is there a major precedent involved?

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

What is at stake?

Prevailing winds carry emissions of nitrogen oxide toward Eastern states with fewer industrial sites. The pollutant causes smog and is linked to asthma, lung disease and premature death.

Bump Stocks for Guns

Garland v. Cargill

Not yet decided

The Supreme Court will decide whether the Trump administration overstepped its bounds by enacting a ban on bump stocks, gun attachments that increase a semiautomatic weapon’s rate of fire to hundreds of bullets per minute.

Is there a major precedent involved?

At first glance, the case looks as if it could be a Second Amendment challenge. But it is instead one of a number of cases aimed at curtailing the power of administrative agencies, in this instance, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Are there recent rulings on the subject?

The case involves how to interpret a federal law that banned machine guns, the National Firearms Act of 1934. The definition was broadened by the Gun Control Act of 1968 to include parts that can be used to convert a weapon into a machine gun. At issue is whether bump stocks fall within those definitions. Federal appeals courts have split on the issue.

What is at stake?

A decision could do away with one of the few efforts at gun control that gained political traction after the Las Vegas massacre in 2017. More broadly, a ruling could help clarify the scope of the power of federal agencies.

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