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  Supreme Court - Legal News


The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed likely to preserve access to a medication that was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. last year, in the court’s first abortion case since conservative justices overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago.

In nearly 90 minutes of arguments, a consensus appeared to emerge that the abortion opponents who challenged the FDA’s approval of the medication, mifepristone, and subsequent actions to ease access to it, lack the legal right or standing to sue.

Such a decision would leave in place the current rules that allow patients to receive the drug through the mail, without any need for an in-person visit with a doctor, and to take the medication to induce an abortion through 10 weeks of pregnancy. Should the court take the no-standing route, it would avoid the more politically sensitive aspects of the case.

The high court’s return to the abortion thicket is taking place in a political and regulatory landscape that was reshaped by its abortion decision in 2022 that led many Republican-led states to ban or severely restrict abortion.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the Biden administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, said the court should dismiss the case and make clear that anti-abortion doctors and organizations don’t “come within 100 miles” of having standing.

Even three justices who were in the majority to overturn Roe posed skeptical questions about standing to the lawyer for the abortion opponents. Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are former President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court appointees.

Barrett, for example, seemed to doubt that two doctors identified by lawyer Erin Hawley could show that they were actually harmed by the FDA’s actions, one of the requirements for showing standing.

“I think the difficulty here is that, at least to me, these affidavits do read more like the conscience objection is strictly to actually participating in the abortion to end the life of the embryo or fetus. And I don’t read either ... to say that they ever participated in that,” Barrett said.

Kavanaugh had only one question during the entire session and it too seemed to be focused on the technical issue of standing. He asked Prelogar to confirm that “under federal law, no doctors can be forced against their consciences to perform or assist in an abortion.”

Abortion opponents are asking the justices to ratify a ruling from a conservative federal appeals court that would limit access to mifepristone, one of two drugs used in medication abortions.

That ruling had immediate political consequences, and the outcome in the current case, expected by early summer, could affect races for Congress and the White House.


A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Friday that public officials can sometimes be sued for blocking their critics on social media, an issue that first arose for the high court in a case involving then-President Donald Trump.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing for the court, said that officials who use personal accounts to make official statements may not be free to delete comments about those statements or block critics altogether.

On the other hand, Barrett wrote, “State officials have private lives and their own constitutional rights.”

The court ruled in two cases involving lawsuits filed by people who were blocked after leaving critical comments on social media accounts belonging to school board members in Southern California and a city manager in Port Huron, Michigan, northeast of Detroit. They are similar to a case involving Trump and his decision to block critics from his personal account on Twitter, now known as X. The justices dismissed the case after Trump left office in January 2021.

The cases forced the court to deal with the competing free speech rights of public officials and their constituents, all in a rapidly evolving virtual world. They are among five social media cases on the court’s docket this term.

Appeals courts in San Francisco and Cincinnati had reached conflicting decisions about when personal accounts become official, and the high court did not embrace either ruling, returning the cases to the appeals courts to apply the standard the justices laid out Friday.

“When a government official posts about job-related topics on social media, it can be difficult to tell whether the speech is official or private,” Barrett said.

Officials must have the authority to speak on behalf of their governments and intend to use it for their posts to be regarded essentially as the government’s, Barrett wrote. In such cases, they have to allow criticism, or risk being sued, she wrote.

In one case, James Freed, who was appointed the Port Huron city manager in 2014, used the Facebook page he first created while in college to communicate with the public, as well as recount the details of daily life.

In 2020, a resident, Kevin Lindke, used the page to comment several times from three Facebook profiles, including criticism of the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Freed blocked all three accounts and deleted Lindke’s comments. Lindke sued, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Freed, noting that his Facebook page talked about his roles as “father, husband, and city manager.”

The other case involved two elected members of a California school board, the Poway Unified School District Board of Trustees. The members, Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff and T.J. Zane, used their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts to communicate with the public. Two parents, Christopher and Kimberly Garnier, left critical comments and replies to posts on the board members’ accounts and were blocked. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the board members had violated the parents’ free speech rights by doing so. Zane no longer serves on the school board.

The court’s other social media cases have a more partisan flavor. The justices are evaluating Republican-passed laws in Florida and Texas that prohibit large social media companies from taking down posts because of the views they express. The tech companies said the laws violate their First Amendment rights. The laws reflect a view among Republicans that the platforms disproportionately censor conservative viewpoints.

Next week, the court is hearing a challenge from Missouri and Louisiana to the Biden administration’s efforts to combat controversial social media posts on topics including COVID-19 and election security. The states argue that the Democratic administration has been unconstitutionally coercing the platforms into cracking down on conservative positions.

The cases decided Friday are O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier, 22-324, and Lindke v. Freed, 22-611.


Texas’ plans to arrest migrants who enter the U.S. illegally and order them to leave the country is headed to the Supreme Court in a legal showdown over the federal government’s authority over immigration.

An order issued Monday by Justice Samuel Alito puts the new Texas law on hold for at least next week while the high court considers what opponents have called the most dramatic attempt by a state to police immigration since an Arizona law more than a decade ago.

The law, known as Senate Bill 4, had been set to take effect Saturday under a decision by the conservative-leaning 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Alito’s order pushed that date back until March 13 and came just hours after the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

“Make no mistake: S.B. 4 bypasses federal immigration authority and threatens the integrity of our nation’s constitution and laws,” a coalition of groups that sued over the law, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law in December as part of a series of escalating measures on the border that have tested the boundaries of how far a state can go to keep migrants from entering the country.

The law would allow state officers to arrest people suspected of entering the country illegally. People who are arrested could then agree to a Texas judge’s order to leave the country or face a misdemeanor charge for entering the U.S. illegally. Migrants who don’t leave after being ordered to do so could be arrested again and charged with a more serious felony.

The Justice Department told the Supreme Court that the law would profoundly alter “the status quo that has existed between the United States and the States in the context of immigration for almost 150 years.” It went on to argue that the law would have “significant and immediate adverse effects” on the country’s relationship with Mexico and “create chaos” in enforcing federal immigration laws in Texas.

The federal government cited a 2012 Supreme Court ruling on an Arizona law that would have allowed police to arrest people for federal immigration violations, often referred to by opponents as the “show me your papers” bill. The divided high court found that the impasse in Washington over immigration reform did not justify state intrusion.


The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide whether former President Donald Trump can be prosecuted on charges he interfered with the 2020 election, calling into question whether his case could go to trial before the November election.

While the court set a course for a quick resolution, it maintained a hold on preparations for a trial focused on Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss. The court will hear arguments in late April, with a decision likely no later than the end of June.

That timetable is much faster than usual, but assuming the justices deny Trump’s immunity bid, it’s not clear whether a trial can be scheduled and concluded before the November election. Early voting in some states will begin in September.

The court’s decision to intervene in a second major Trump case this term, along with the dispute over whether he is barred from being president again because of his actions following the 2020 election, underscores the direct role the justices will have in the outcome of the election.

Trump’s lawyers have sought to put off a trial until after the election.

In the end, the timing of a possible trial could come down to how quickly the justices rule. They have shown they can act fast, issuing a decision in the Watergate tapes case in 1974 just 16 days after hearing arguments. The decision in Bush v. Gore came the day after arguments in December 2000.

By taking up the legally untested question now, the justices have created a scenario of uncertainty that special counsel Jack Smith had sought to avoid when he first asked the high court in December to immediately intervene. In his latest court filing, Smith had suggested arguments a full month earlier than the late April timeframe.

Trump wrote on Truth Social that legal scholars “are extremely thankful” the court stepped in to decide on immunity. “Presidents will always be concerned, and even paralyzed, by the prospect of wrongful prosecution and retaliation after they leave office,” he wrote.

The trial date, already postponed once by Trump’s immunity appeal, is of paramount importance to both sides. Prosecutors are looking to bring Trump to trial this year while defense lawyers have been seeking delays in his criminal cases. If Trump were to be elected with the case pending, he could presumably use his authority as head of the executive branch to order the Justice Department to dismiss it or could potentially seek to pardon himself.


The Supreme Court is allowing West Point to continue taking race into account in admissions, while a lawsuit over its policies continues.

The justices on Friday rejected an emergency appeal seeking to force a change in the admissions process at West Point. The order, issued without any noted dissents, comes as the military academy is making decisions on whom to admit for its next entering class, the Class of 2028.

The military academy had been explicitly left out of the court’s decision in June that ended affirmative action almost everywhere in college admissions. The court’s conservative majority said race-conscious admissions plans violate the U.S. Constitution, in cases from Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, the nation’s oldest private and public colleges, respectively. But the high court made clear that its decision did not cover West Point and the nation’s other service academies, raising the possibility that national security interests could affect the legal analysis.

In their brief unsigned order Friday, the justices cautioned against reading too much into it, noting “this order should not be construed as expressing any view on the merits of the constitutional question.”

Students for Fair Admissions, the group behind the Harvard and North Carolina cases, sued the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in September. It filed a similar suit against the U.S. Naval Academy in October.

Lower courts had declined to block the admissions policies at both schools while the lawsuits are ongoing. Only the West Point ruling has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

“Every day that passes between now and then is one where West Point, employing an illegal race-based admissions process, can end another applicant’s dream of joining the Long Gray Line,” lawyers for Students for Fair Admissions wrote in a court filing.

West Point graduates account make up about 20% of all Army officers and nearly half the Army’s current four-star generals, the Justice Department wrote in its brief asking the court to leave the school’s current policies in place.

In recent years, West Point, located on the west bank of the Hudson River about 40 miles (about 65 kilometers) north of New York City, has taken steps to diversify its ranks by increasing outreach to metropolitan areas including New York, Atlanta and Detroit.

“For more than forty years, our Nation’s military leaders have determined that a diverse Army officer corps is a national-security imperative and that achieving that diversity requires limited consideration of race in selecting those who join the Army as cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point,” wrote Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the Biden administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.


The Supreme Court agreed Friday to review lower-court rulings that make it harder for cities in the western United States to prevent people from sleeping on the streets when there aren’t enough beds in homeless shelters.

The justices will hear an appeal from the city of Grants Pass, in southwest Oregon, that has the backing of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, as well as other Democratic and Republican elected officials who have struggled to deal with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

The court’s action comes a day after a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling blocking anti-camping ordinances in San Francisco, where Newsom once was the mayor.

A separate 9th circuit panel ruled in the Oregon case that Grants Pass could not enforce local ordinances that prohibit homeless people “from using a blanket, pillow, or cardboard box for protection from the elements.” The decision applies across nine western states, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The two rulings, like a 2018 decision from the 9th circuit in a case from Boise, Idaho, found that punishing people for sleeping on the streets when no alternative shelter is available amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Constitution.

Elected officials urged the justices to take up the case because they say the rulings complicate their efforts to clear tent encampments, which have long existed in West Coast cities, but have more recently become more common across the U.S. The federal count of homeless people reached 580,000 last year, driven by a lack of affordable housing, a pandemic that economically wrecked households, and a lack of access to mental health and addiction treatment.

“The Supreme Court can now correct course and end the costly delays from lawsuits that have plagued our efforts to clear encampments and deliver services to those in need,” Newsom said in a statement.

Theane Evangelis, a lawyer for Grants Pass, said in a statement that the appellate decisions “are actually harming the very people they purport to protect.”

Homeless people and their advocates say the sweeps are cruel and a waste of taxpayer money. They say the answer is more housing, not crackdowns.


The Supreme Court on Friday allowed Idaho to enforce its strict abortion ban, even in medical emergencies, while a legal fight continues.

The justices said they would hear arguments in April and put on hold a lower court ruling that had blocked the Idaho law in hospital emergencies, based on a lawsuit filed by the Biden administration.

The Idaho case gives the court its second major abortion dispute since the justices in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed states to severely restrict or ban abortion. The court also in the coming months is hearing a challenge to the Food and Drug Administration’s rules for obtaining mifepristone, one of two medications used in the most common method of abortion in the United States.

In the case over hospital emergencies, the Biden administration has argued that hospitals that receive Medicare funds are required by federal law to provide emergency care, potentially including abortion, no matter if there’s a state law banning abortion.

The administration issued guidance about the federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, two weeks after the high court ruling in 2022. The Democratic administration sued Idaho a month later.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Idaho agreed with the administration. But in a separate case in Texas, a judge sided with the state.

In a statement Friday night, President Joe Biden objected to the high court’s decision and said his administration “will continue to defend a woman’s ability to access emergency care under federal law.”

Idaho makes it a crime with a prison term of up to five years for anyone who performs or assists in an abortion.

The administration argues that EMTALA requires health care providers to perform abortions for emergency room patients when needed to treat an emergency medical condition, even if doing so might conflict with a state’s abortion restrictions.

Those conditions include severe bleeding, preeclampsia and certain pregnancy-related infections. “For certain medical emergencies, abortion care is the necessary stabilizing treatment,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in an administration filing at the Supreme Court.

The state argued that the administration was misusing a law intended to prevent hospitals from dumping patients and imposing “a federal abortion mandate” on states. “EMTALA says nothing about abortion,” Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador told the court in a brief.

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