The Supreme Court of the United States opens the judicial course with the hearing of a case in which it must decide whether in a criminal law passed a few years ago the word "and" really means "and", as some lower courts maintain, or if it really means "or", as someone else has ruled. It is a case that may delight the followers of the Supreme, but it will be less politically charged than those who have allowed a conservative revolution the last two years. However, the new course also promises: freedom of expression on social networks, the use of the abortion pill, electoral maps, the right to use weapons and the powers of the supervisor of the stock market and other public agencies will be some of the star issues. But the big question is whether the Supreme Court will have to rule on any of the trials facing Donald Trump, the president who appointed three of the nine members of the court, or even on his ability to compete in the 2024 elections.
Last year ended with a final blow that blew up positive discrimination in universities on racial grounds, gave license to discriminate against homosexual couples under freedom of expression and canceled the partial reduction of student loans. Until those last judgments, many cases had been resolved with relative consensus and with more focused positions than the previous year. In 2022, the Supreme Court repealed the federal right to abortion, undermined the fight against climate change, expanded the right to carry firearms, gave a greater role to religion in schools, questioned the mandatory vaccination of workers against covid and disempowered federal agencies.
With its prestige on the floor for some of the sentences of the last two years and for the scandals of donations, gifts and undeclared perks of some magistrates, the Supreme Court begins the course with a menu of cases already admitted and some scheduled hearings, but it can add more to the list during the year.
The justices already have on the table a case that deals with Trump, but in a tangential way. When he was a candidate in the primaries for the 2016 elections, he called his rival, Senator Marco Rubio, "little Marco." This, tired of that contempt, stood in a debate: "You know what they say about guys with small hands. You can't trust them!" At some rallies he later insisted that his hands were "too small". Steve Elster, a progressive activist, tried to register the trademark "Trump too small" in 2018, but the patent office rejected it, as the law requires consent from the cited person. Elster appealed and a court sided with him last year, claiming that his freedom of speech was being violated, since Trump is a public figure. The patent office appealed and the Supreme Court will decide in Vidal v. Elster.The hearing is scheduled for 1 November.
Disqualification for the 2024 elections?
The transcendent cases about Trump that can reach the Supreme Court are not yet scheduled. On the one hand, there are the four criminal charges for 91 crimes. The court rarely allows it to rule on procedural incidents, but it cannot be ruled out that it may intervene in some of them. And, above all, on the horizon is the famous dispute over whether Trump is disqualified from running in the 2024 elections under Article 14 of the Constitution, which reads: "No person may be (...) President ... if, having previously taken an oath of support for the Constitution of the United States, he has participated in an insurrection or rebellion against it, or has given aid or comfort to his enemies." Some states want to ban his name from the ballot and the Supreme Court would have the final say.
Another possible star case has not yet arrived more than provisionally to the Supreme. This is the validity of the authorization granted by the FDA, the pharmaceutical regulator, to the abortion pill mifepristone. A Texas judge overturned it. After an appeal, a federal court allowed its use, but with restrictions, while deciding on the merits. The judges of the Supreme Court cautiously maintained its full legality, but the case advances in the federal court and seems destined, this course or the next, to reach the Supreme Court.
While waiting for those cases, the Supreme Court has already admitted enough for another year of sentences that mark the lives of Americans. Two of the latest inductees, Moody v. Netchoice and Netchoice v. Paxton, will define the contours of free speech on social media. At stake in these lawsuits between technology companies and the states of Texas and Florida is whether platforms can act as publishers and moderate their content without being impelled to publish messages they do not want (hate speech and incitement to violence, for example) or if those who have the right to express themselves without restrictions are users.
The right to bear arms will return to court with United States v. Rahimi. The justices expanded that right last year in a ruling that invalidated restrictions imposed by New York State. Now, she wonders whether the rule prohibiting people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms violates the Second Amendment, which enshrines the right to keep and bear arms. The sentence will have a double reading in full indictment of Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, for buying a gun and possessing it when he was a drug addict.
Several cases target government agencies. At stake in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Associationis whether it is legal that the Bureau of Financial Consumer Protection has been operating with funds received from the Federal Reserve since its inception in the aftermath of the financial crisis. A court ruled that it was illegal, that the money should have been authorized by Congress. If the Supreme Court confirms it, all its actions and its regulation in more than a decade could be challenged, with "catastrophic economic consequences", as alleged by mortgage associations and real estate employers.
Something similar is true of another case, SEC v. Jarkesi, in which the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is called into question. George Jarkesy claimed his right to a jury trial after being fined $ 300,000 (283,000 euros) and the return of $ 685,000 (647,000 euros) of illicit benefit for an administrative procedure. He appealed and a court agreed with him. Now, the Supreme Court will redefine the contours of the supervisor's actions. And there is another case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, in which judges will have the opportunity to limit the power of government agencies, one of their favorite hobbies.
The court will also address Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy at an oral hearing in December, it announced in August. The judges then blocked a bankruptcy settlement that would have protected members of the billionaire Sackler family, which once controlled the company, from additional civil lawsuits over the opioid epidemic and limited the Sacklers' personal liability to 6,000 million dollars (5,700 million euros). The case is Harrington v. Purdue Pharma.
The oral hearings resume this Monday with Pulsifer v. United States the convoluted case on the meaning of the word "and", but that may affect more than 10,000 convicted of minor drug trafficking offenses. The rule says that judges are not obliged to impose mandatory minimum sentences, but at their discretion, if the sentenced person "does not have" a criminal record of a type A, of another type B "and" of another type C, in short. The negative verb form and the copulative conjunction do not combine very well in this context, so there are judges who interpret that it is enough to have one of the three types of antecedents to be excluded from the possibility of lesser penalties. Others, on the other hand, argue that only those who have all three types of background at the same time are left out. The solution, in a few months.
Follow all the international information on Facebook and Twitter, or in our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber