High-profile Supreme Court cases to watch in 2023-24
The Supreme Court is scheduled to decide several key cases in its 2023-24 term, which starts Monday.
Nearly three dozen appeals are on the argument docket.
Several dozen more are expected to be added in coming months. The caseload is usually settled by February, with the term effectively ending in late June.
Other important appeals that may be added to the court’s calendar cover such issues as abortion medication, social media regulation, affirmative action in secondary school education, 2020 election interference prosecutions and other 2024 election disputes.
Important petitions already on the Supreme Court’s argument docket:
Arguments Tuesday, Oct. 7
AT ISSUE: Major gun rights case challenging the constitutionality of a federal ban on gun possession by individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs).
THE CASE: Zackey Rahimi, after being charged with separate state offenses in the alleged physical assault of his ex-girlfriend and another woman by use of firearms, pleaded guilty to a violation of federal law for later possessing a handgun despite an earlier restraining order.
THE ARGUMENTS: This will be a key test of precedent from the high court’s 2022 ruling expanding gun rights outside the home. The Biden administration says “governments have long disarmed individuals who pose a threat to the safety of others.” Rahimi’s lawyers say the appeals court ruling striking down the DVRO ban was a “faithful application” of last year’s high court decision.
THE IMPACT: What the justices decide could affect defendants like Hunter Biden and whether current and former drug users can be denied gun ownership.
Arguments Tuesday, Oct. 3
AT ISSUE: Whether the federal law providing funding to the CFPB is unconstitutional under the Appropriations Clause, nullifying a regulation promulgated at a time when the agency was receiving such funding.
THE CASE: The consumer watchdog agency was created after the 2008 financial crisis. The specific challenge involves when lenders have the power to withdraw payments from delinquent borrowers’ bank accounts.
THE ARGUMENTS: CFPB’s unique funding process operates outside the normal congressional appropriations process. It gets its money directly from the Federal Reserve, which collects fees from member banks. The CFPB director who imposed the regulation was shielded from removal by then-President Trump under a statutory provision the high court later found was unconstitutional. The Biden administration says an adverse high court ruling could raise “grave concerns” for “the entire financial industry” and “calls into question virtually every action the CFPB has taken” since its creation.
THE IMPACT: Republicans have long chafed at the CFPB’s authority, saying it wields too much unchecked power. Backers say the agency has fulfilled its mandate by forcing errant banks to return billions to consumers. Other quasi-independent agencies not subject to annual federal funding, like the Federal Reserve, FDIC, Postal Service and the Mint, also could see their authority curbed.
Arguments Wednesday, Oct. 11
AT ISSUE: Challenge to the Republican-controlled South Carolina legislature’s redrawing of congressional voting boundaries, which civil rights groups say disenfranchised Black voters.
THE CASE: A federal court in January ordered the state to create a new congressional map in time for the 2024 election. The three-judge panel found the coastal 1st Congressional District now held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace was an unlawful racial gerrymander, when Republican lawmakers shifted a sizable number of Black voters from Charleston County over to the state’s 6th Congressional District, which became more solidly Democratic than it was before. That seat is held by Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat and longtime member of Congress who is Black.
THE ARGUMENTS: The state in its appeal to the Supreme Court said the lower court “failed to apply the presumption of good faith” to the legislature when it created its map. Groups like the NAACP and ACLU challenging the boundaries said the GOP-led legislature adopted “perhaps the worst option of the available maps” for Black voters.
THE IMPACT: The ruling could broadly affect the 2024 elections and ongoing redistricting efforts in states like Alabama, Ohio, New York and Texas. There are more than two dozen pending lawsuits across 12 states challenging congressional maps.
AT ISSUE: Potential far-reaching appeal over another legal effort to have the so-called “Chevron” deference overturned by the Supreme Court. That 1984 ruling says when congressional federal laws are not clearly defined, federal agencies should be allowed broad discretion to interpret and enforce those policies.
THE CASE: Lead plaintiff Loper Bright Enterprises of New Jersey, represented by the Cause of Action Institute, challenges a federal mandate requiring Atlantic herring fishermen to pay more than $700 per day for monitors to ride their boats, observe their activities and report to the government.
THE ARGUMENTS: A federal appeals court found the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) interpretation of a federal fishery law to be “reasonable.” The fishermen argue Congress never granted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the authority to force fishermen to pay for monitors. Groups supporting them say the “Chevron” precedent forces courts to defer to an agency’s interpretation of “ambiguous” statutes. Those supporting continued deference say an adverse ruling would sow “chaos” across the federal government and would concentrate rulemaking authority with unelected judges, who are not experts in specific policy matters.
THE IMPACT: Conservatives have long chafed at the “Chevron” decision. The high court has been incrementally reining in federal regulators, including a June 2022 decision limiting EPA authority over greenhouse gas emissions. Overturning “Chevron” or further weakening federal agency discretion would have enormous impacts on key areas like the environment, workplace safety, consumer protections, public health and immigration. The court has the option of broadly addressing the use of “Chevron” deference or clarify specific areas of its application by federal agencies.
Arguments December TBA
AT ISSUE: The Justice Department seeks to block a bankruptcy settlement for OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, following thousands of lawsuits against the drugmaker dealing with the opioid crisis. Bankruptcy proceedings were paused by the high court until its final opinion is issued.
THE CASE: The settlement has been criticized since it would shield the Sackler family, owners of the company, from personal liability over their role in the opioid epidemic.
THE ARGUMENTS: The deal would allow Purdue Pharma to emerge from bankruptcy as a different company with its profits used to fight the health crisis. Members of the Sackler family would contribute up to $6 billion. The U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee, represented by the Justice Department, opposes releasing the Sacklers from legal liability.
THE IMPACT: Opioids have been linked to more than 70,000 fatal overdoses annually in the U.S. in recent years. The crisis was fueled in part by OxyContin and other powerful prescription painkillers. Recent deaths have been linked to fentanyl and other laced synthetic drugs, but the crisis widened in the early 2000s as OxyContin became prevalent.
AT ISSUE: Whether social media platforms’ handling of user content is protected by the First Amendment.
THE CASE: Separate laws in Florida and Texas would require large companies like X, formerly Twitter, and Facebook to host third-party communications and would prevent those businesses from blocking or removing users’ posts based on political viewpoints.
THE ARGUMENTS: The laws aim to address what some lawmakers call “censoring” of conservative messages and banning politicians like former President Trump for violating policies over offensive or “problematic” content. A federal appeals court had ruled for the tech industry in the Florida case, saying as private entities, those companies were “engaged in constitutionally protected expressive activity when they moderate and curate the content that they disseminate on their platforms.”
IMPACT: Trump and a coalition of 16 states are among those filing separate amicus briefs supporting Florida. The Biden administration has opposed the state laws.
Pending appeal that could soon be added to the Supreme Court’s argument docket:
AT ISSUE: Lawsuit seeking to restrict access to mifepristone, one of two drugs typically used to induce a medicated abortion.
THE CASE: The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000 to end a pregnancy, and it is used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol. That pill combination is approved for use up to the tenth week of pregnancy.
THE ARGUMENTS: Groups opposing the FDA say it failed to follow proper procedures when determining the drug’s safety risks. The Biden administration warned an adverse ruling would severely disrupt the way drugs are tested and brought to market. The Supreme Court has allowed the FDA to regulate the drug while the case is being litigated on its merits. While the case is still being litigated, a nationwide injunction could be issued by the judge, preventing medication abortions even in states where it remains legal.
THE IMPACT: Any high court decision could impact 40 million women nationwide, and the Guttmacher Institute research group says more than half of all abortions in the U.S. use mifepristone. Supreme Court involvement in arguably the most contentious social issue could have enormous political implications in a presidential election year.