The Supreme Court will hear cases that could have lasting effects on American lifestyles, including a Mississippi abortion case and New Jersey case involving police officers and excessive force.
The United States Supreme Court has not met in-person in over eighteen months. The landscape of the current session reflects changes that were brought on by the pandemic.Read More »
There are several pivotal cases to be heard between now and the end of the Supreme Court session that is slated to end July 2022.
On Monday, the Justices entertained appeals in multiple cases. One of the first appeals involved a challenge by several pharmaceutical companies that were forced to pay billions of dollars to New York as a result of Andrew Cuomo’s Opioid Stewardship Act. The New York law is intended to address the cost of the opioid epidemic in the state, and its purpose was to impose a fee on drug manufacturers and distributors.
The Opioid Stewardship Act was challenged by the Association for Accessible Medicines and the Healthcare Distribution Alliance. These organizations represented companies such as Teva and McKesson, among others. With the Court’s dismissal of the appeal, states such as Minnesota, Delaware, and Rhode Island – all of whom have adopted similar legislation to New York’s law – can begin to collect on any amounts owed to them.
The Court also declined to hear a case regarding a New Jersey state trooper accused of using excessive force in the line of duty. The family of a mentally ill man was shot during a stand-off with the trooper; at the time of the incident, the civilian had a gun pointed to his head. The civilian died as a result of his wounds; the family’s suit involved the validity of “qualified immunity.”
Once any appeals are dismissed, the Court can begin hearing cases, and this session’s scheduled cases could change laws that have been on the books for decades. One of these cases involves another abortion case, this time out of Mississippi. In September, the Court ruled that the Texas state law regarding abortion could stand as written. Known as the “fetal heartbeat bill,” the Texas abortion law prohibits abortion after six weeks, the time when most physicians can locate a heartbeat in a fetus. Texas is one of fourteen states with a similar bill.
Mississippi’s abortion law is a little more lax than the Texas law. Current legislation holds that a physician in Mississippi cannot perform an abortion after fifteen weeks gestation. The law came about after backlash concerning Virginia’s then-governor, Ralph Northam, who was said by his critics to be a proponent of abortion up to birth and shortly after birth as well. Northam made comments about abortion on a national radio show, which spurred an uptick in stricter abortion laws in many conservative states.
Mississippi currently only possesses one clinic in the entire state where abortions are performed. When the fifteen week abortion ban was signed into law, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization filed suit against the state’s highest medical officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs. Individuals on both sides of the issue believe the case could overturn Roe v. Wade. This case will be heard in December, with an expected ruling by June 2022.
Another hotbed issue for the current Justices will be a case involving the Second Amendment. In 2008, the Court ruled that people have the right to have a gun in the home for the purposes of defending one’s self and the home. However, the Court gave no other specified rulings. However, the Court will hear a case brought forward in New York State.
The Court state in August that it would hear the case that is backed by the National Rifle Association, which challenges a New York law that requires “proper cause” in order for a citizen of the state to obtain licensure for the concealed carry of a firearm. The law in question has been on New York state books for over one hundred years. Although the law has been challenged several times over the years, lower courts allowed for the law to stand. Those opponents of the law recognize that New York is not the only state with this type of law mandating how one obtains a concealed carry license; they believe if the Court overturns the New York law, other states must follow suit.
Another potentially landmark case to be heard by the Justices has to do with religious rights. Maine has a law on the books that require counties pay tuition assistance for children living in areas without a public school; this is due to the fact that Maine is a sparsely populated, mostly rural state. Some counties do not have the population to warrant the building and maintenance of a free public school, so parents in those areas must send their children to a private school. In keeping with the right to a free education, Maine enacted a law that will provide tuition assistance to private schools for rural children. However, these funds cannot be used to fund tuition to a private religious school, even if this is the only option for children.
Two families whose children attend a Christian private school have brought suit in a case known as Carson v. Makin, and it challenges the Maine Department of Education’s policy on banning tuition to religious schools. The families state they are being discriminated against due to “singling out religion for exclusion from its tuition assistance program.” The state has maintained that religious schools do not always provide an adequate education for children. The timeline for hearing this case could be as early as November of this year or January of next year.
This session of the Supreme Court could prove to be one of the most exciting yet, and many laws could be forever changed due to upcoming rulings. These judgments may shake up or affirm decades of current law.
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