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5 issues to watch this Supreme Court decision season

A slew of hot-button issues will be ruled on by the Supreme Court before the end of its decision season that could transform the nation’s political landscape in a pivotal election year.

By the end of June, the high court is expected to decide matters including access to a widely used abortion pill, the rights of social media platforms and the limitations of gun rights.

Former President Trump is also front and center as the Supreme Court weighs whether former presidents can be criminally prosecuted for official conduct — an argument Trump’s team is making in order to shield him from a set of legal matters separate from his recent conviction.

Here are five key issues the Supreme Court is set to address.

Trump criminal cases 

Trump’s assertion that former presidents enjoy criminal immunity for official acts now rests with the justices, who are hearing his appeal in his federal election interference case.

The Supreme Court’s decision stands to impact not only whether Trump’s charges in the case, as well as those brought in Georgia and Florida, must be tossed, but also whether the three cases proceed to trial at all.

At oral arguments, the justices appeared inclined to carve out some immunity for former presidents, leaving for a lower court whether the specific allegations against Trump fall within that shield.

That narrow resolution could provide Trump with more pathways to delay his cases, as he hopes to retake the White House following November’s election and grind his remaining indictments to a halt.

A Jan. 6 rioter’s appeal could also prove beneficial to Trump’s legal woes.

In his federal election interference case, one of the four charges Trump faces is obstruction of an official proceeding.

When the justices in April heard a rioter’s challenge to the same provision, they seemed skeptical of the Justice Department’s use of the charge.

While the Supreme Court’s decision could have profound implications on the Justice Department’s years-long prosecution of those who participated in the Capitol attack, it could also undermine Trump’s own obstruction charge.

Social media

Several cases involving social media not yet decided by the Supreme Court could have resounding implications for free speech online.

The rights afforded to social media platforms are on the line in two cases stemming from controversial laws regulating social media bans in Texas and Florida.

The laws aim to prevent social media companies from banning users based on their political views — even if users violate platform policies.

Tech industry groups challenged the legislation as a violation of private companies’ First Amendment rights, arguing that the laws allowed the government to walk all over platforms’ editorial discretion.

The justices appeared conflicted over the laws during oral arguments in February.

A third case against the Biden administration threatens to upend how the federal government quells misinformation online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 presidential election.

Two Republican attorneys general challenged efforts to curb misinformation online, suggesting federal officials violated the First Amendment by urging platforms to remove posts they deemed false or misleading.

Biden administration officials have argued that barring talk between the federal government and social media companies limits officials’ ability to address matters of public concern, prevent national security threats and relay information.

When the justices heard the case in March, they seemed wary of imposing harsh limits on federal officials’ communications with platforms about content moderation decisions.

Abortion pill 

In the biggest abortion dispute at the Supreme Court since the conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade, the justices are set to hand down a ruling that could restrict access to mifepristone, a widely used abortion pill.

A group of anti-abortion doctors and medical associations challenged changes made by the Food and Drug Administration over the past decade easing access to the pill, including increasing the gestational age at which mifepristone can be used to up to 10 weeks of pregnancy and allowing the medication to be mailed.

The high-stakes case could impact abortion access in both red and blue states, with mifepristone being used in more than half of abortions nationwide.

At oral arguments in March, a majority appeared skeptical that the challengers had suffered sufficient harm to have legal standing to bring their case — a technicality that the justices focused on as opposed to conservative or liberal beliefs about abortion access.


The Supreme Court has two major gun cases on its docket this term, though they are legally distinct.

The first case is the biggest gun case at the high court since the conservative majority in 2022 handed down the most significant expansion of Second Amendment rights in a decade, laying out a new test for the constitutionality of firearm restrictions.

Now, the justices are set to decide the constitutionality of the federal crime of gun possession for people under qualifying domestic-violence restraining orders.

Though a majority at oral arguments last fall appeared inclined to uphold the provision, advocates on both sides of the gun rights debate are closely watching for how the opinion more broadly clarifies the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment test.

The second gun case on the justices’ docket this term doesn’t concern the Second Amendment. Instead, it considers the legality of the Trump-era regulation banning bump stocks, which outlaws owning the devices by categorizing them as machine guns.

Congress has long made it unlawful to own machine guns. The Trump administration made the change following the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, at which the gunman used a bump stock.

At oral arguments, the justices appeared divided about the legality of bump stocks.

Federal agency power

The justices this month could do away with Chevron deference, a bedrock precedent of administrative law that for decades has bolstered federal agencies’ powers to regulate wide areas of American life.

The doctrine instructs judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation of a law when it is ambiguous.

Cited in thousands of subsequent decisions, it has provided the executive branch with wide latitude to implement policy change in countless areas, including environmental protections and cryptocurrency.

But conservatives have increasingly looked to eliminate the precedent as part of a broader attack on the “administrative state.”

At oral arguments, some of the Supreme Court’s conservatives who have long criticized the precedent railed against it, but it remains unclear if a majority is willing to put Chevron deference on its deathbed.


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