Jun 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Five biggest Supreme Court cases to watch

Picture of Supreme Court building
Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court tends to issue its biggest decisions in June. With a conservative super majority of justices, the public is focused on what new precedents the court could set — or even overturn.

The big picture: The court has 30 opinions to issue before the end of its term. Here's a look at some of the court's most prominent cases yet to be decided.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

This is the most prominent abortion case to head to the Supreme Court in years and could potentially lead to the end of Roe v. Wade and other precedents that protect abortion access.

Details: The court is considering the constitutionality of a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. The law has been blocked since 2018, when an appeals court ruled that it placed an undue burden on abortion access.

  • The court is answering the question of whether restrictions on abortion before viability — which is considered to be between 24 to 28 weeks after a patient’s last menstrual period — are unconstitutional.
  • If the court rules that these types of abortion bans are allowed, individual states would then get the authority to regulate abortion at any point in the pregnancy.

The intrigue: Politico in May published a story reporting that the court seemed prepared to overturn its precedents on abortion, publishing a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that says that "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start."

Biden v. Texas

The court will decide whether the Biden administration must continue to enforce the Trump-era "Migrant Protection Protocols," most commonly known as the "Remain-in-Mexico" policy, which requires asylum seekers to return to Mexico as they await their U.S. immigration proceedings.

The big picture: The Biden administration has attempted to end the policy, but several federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have ruled that the program must be restarted.

  • Courts have argued that the Homeland Security Department could not end the program because it is currently incapable to detain all "inadmissible noncitizens," and that ending the program violates the U.S. Code.

The intrigue: A decision in this case could affect a new president's ability to undo policies set by previous administrations, per the American Civil Liberties Union.

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen

This is the first Second Amendment case to be heard by the Supreme Court in over a decade. The justices will decide whether to allow laws that regulate concealed carry licenses.

Details: They are taking a look at a specific New York law that requires those applying to get a license to carry a concealed weapon to show that they have "proper cause" to carry a weapon, which includes self-defense.

  • The question posed in this case is whether the Second Amendment allows the government to prohibit citizens "from carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense."
  • The plaintiffs are two men whose applications were denied because a licensing officer said they failed to show "proper cause" to carry a firearm in public for self-defense reasons.

What this means: A decision in this case could set a precedent on states' ability to control access to firearms.

West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading 19 states seeking a Supreme Court review of the scope of EPA's authority over greenhouse gases, Axios' Ben Geman reports.

  • It comes amid the Biden administration's plans on wide-ranging climate initiatives.

Details: A decision could curtail the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

  • West Virginia argues that Congress did not clearly authorize the EPA to take steps to reduce carbon emissions solely by administrative rule-making, adding that in order for Congress to do so, they must do it with clear and specific language.

Catch up fast: A 2007 Supreme Court ruling gave the EPA the power to regulate heat-trapping emissions.

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

This case focuses on the issue of religious freedom. The Supreme Court will evaluate whether school-sponsored religious activity violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from "establishing" a religion.

Details: The plaintiff in this case is high school football coach Joseph Kennedy, who would pray midfield after games. The school district then asked him to stop doing so because it violated the board's policy and the U.S. Constitution.

  • After being placed on administrative leave, Kennedy sued the school, arguing that it violated his right to free speech.
  • The court will answer the questions of whether the coach was "engaged in government speech that lacks any First Amendment protection" and if religious expression is private and protected under the Constitution, whether "the Establishment Clause nevertheless compels public schools to prohibit it."

A decision from the court could "revise earlier understandings about when prayer is permitted in public schools, the rights of government employees and what counts as pressuring students to participate in religious activities," the New York Times writes.

Go deeper