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January 09, 2024

SCOTUS Update | January 2024

Winter 2024 Edition

Maile Belnap, 2024 Spring Intern, Santa Clara University

Recent Decisions

Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer

Oral argument date: October 4, 2023
Decided on: December 5, 2023

Facts:  Deborah Laufer, a litigant with physical disabilities and vision impairments, sued Acheson Hotels for failing to publish information about their accessibility on their website, which is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The district court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that Laufer lacked standing to sue because had no plans to visit the hotel and thus suffered no injury as a result of the lack of information on the website. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed, concluding that Laufer’s lack of intent to book a room at the hotel operated by Acheson does not negate the fact of injury.


  1. Does an ADA “tester” have Article III standing to challenge a hotel’s failure to provide disability accessibility information on its website, even if she has no plans to visit the hotel?

Holding:  In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the Court held that because Deborah Laufer voluntarily dismissed her pending suits under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Laufer’s case against Acheson is moot.

Significance:  The case of Deborah Laufer suing Acheson Hotels over ADA compliance has broader implications for the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It delves into the question of whether individuals, labeled as "testers," who aim to enforce ADA provisions without intending to directly utilize the services, have the legal standing to challenge entities for non-compliance on accessibility information provided on websites. Laufer's situation underscores the debate about the threshold for establishing injury or harm in ADA-related cases, particularly concerning digital accessibility and the obligation of businesses to provide information. The Supreme Court's unanimous decision that Laufer's case became moot due to her voluntary dismissal of pending suits underscores the complexity of legal standing and its impact on ADA enforcement, potentially influencing future litigations around ADA compliance and accessibility standards.

The Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C.

The Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C.

Cases on the Docket from November and December 2023

United States v. Rahimi

Oral argument date: November 7, 2023

Facts: Between December 2020 and January 2021, Zackey Rahimi was involved in a series of violent incidents in Arlington, Texas, including multiple shootings and a hit-and-run. Rahimi was under a civil protective order for alleged assault against his ex-girlfriend, which explicitly prohibited him from possessing firearms. Police searched his home and found a rifle and a pistol, leading to Rahimi’s indictment for violating federal law 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), which makes it unlawful for someone under a domestic violence restraining order to possess firearms. Rahimi moved to dismiss the indictment on constitutional grounds but was denied. Rahimi pleaded guilty but continued his constitutional challenge on appeal. As the appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court decided New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, 579 U.S. __ (2022). Rahimi argued that Bruen overruled McGinnis and thus that § 922(g)(8) was unconstitutional, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed.


  1. Does 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), which prohibits the possession of firearms by persons subject to domestic violence restraining orders, violates the Second Amendment?

Significance: Gun violence and mass shootings are an ongoing problem in the United States, and despite recent legislative progress, many laws don’t protect those from spouses and live-in partners with a history of violence. Domestic violence and gun violence are highly prevalent in the United States and often intersect. One of the implications of this decision is an increasing threat of gun violence toward domestic violence victims or individuals with abusive partners. The Supreme Court decision for the Rahimi case will determine how precedent for domestic violence and gun violence is set. For more information, refer to the Section's Chair Chat Episode 4 with Julia F. Weber, which discusses this case.

Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, Missouri

Oral argument date:  December 6, 2023

Facts:  Muldrow is employed with the St. Louis, Missouri, Police Department (SLMPD). Muldrow was transferred out of a position with an intelligence unit with prestige and desirability to a different department. She alleges that this transfer occurred to make way for a man who wanted the position, thus discriminating against her on the basis of gender. Both positions had similar monetary benefits, however, Muldrow claims that the new position had significantly fewer special FBI-related privileges, opportunities for upward mobility, and scheduling flexibility. The US District Court Eastern District of Missouri ruled in favor of the SLMPD in 2019, granting summary judgment. 


  1. Whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in transfer decisions absent a separate court determination that the transfer decision caused a significant disadvantage. 

Significance: The holding for this case will have implications for employee rights, and determine whether an employee can sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for discrimination based on bias-motivated transfers in the workplace.

Cases Set for Argument in January and February 2024

Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce

Oral argument date:  January 17, 2024

Facts:  The Atlantic herring fishery is regulated by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), aimed at preventing overfishing and promoting conservation. The MSA sets up regional councils, including the New England Fishery Management Council, which oversees the Atlantic herring fishery. These councils create fishery management plans (FMPs) to set conservation measures, which must align with ten National Standards and other laws.

The Secretary of Commerce, through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), reviews and publishes these plans for public comment. In 2000, the New England Council established an FMP for Atlantic herring, updated with an industry-funded monitoring program in 2020. The program partially shifts the cost of at-sea monitoring to vessel owners but aims for a 50% target of monitored herring trips, which will cause reduced profits for the fishing industry and communities.

Owners of two fishing vessels, Relentless Inc., Huntress Inc., and Seafreeze Fleet LLC, challenged the Rule, arguing that the monitoring requirement disproportionately burdens them because of their longer trips and inability to qualify for exemptions. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Agency, ruling that the MSA’s ambiguity on industry-paid monitors allows for agency interpretation under Chevron deference, that the Rule complies with the MSA’s National Standards and the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and does not violate the Commerce Clause. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed.


  1. Should Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council be overruled?
  2. Does statutory silence concerning controversial powers expressly but narrowly granted elsewhere in the statute constitute an ambiguity requiring deference to the agency?

Significance: The case confronts the question of whether the Chevron precedent itself should be revisited. The outcome holds implications not only for the specific monitoring program but also for broader principles of regulatory agency authority and statutory interpretation within the realm of environmental conservation and resource management.

Moody v. NetChoice, LLC

Oral argument date: February 26, 2024

Facts: Social-media platforms collect third-party posts, including text, photos, and videos, and distribute them to other users. Importantly, they are private enterprises, not governmental entities, and thus are not subject to constitutional requirements for free speech. Users have no obligation to consume or contribute to the content on these platforms. And unlike traditional media, social-media platforms primarily host content created by individual users rather than the companies themselves (although they do engage in some speech of their own, such as publishing terms of service and community standards). They are not merely conduits of that content, however; they curate and edit the content that users see, which involves removing posts that violate community standards and prioritizing posts based on various factors.

The State of Florida enacted S.B. 7072 to address what it perceives as bias and censorship by large social media platforms against conservative voices. The legislation imposes various restrictions and obligations on social media platforms, such as prohibiting the deplatforming of political candidates and requiring detailed disclosures about content moderation policies. It aims to treat social media platforms like common carriers and focuses on those platforms that either have annual gross revenues exceeding $100 million or at least 100 million monthly individual participants globally. Enforcement mechanisms include substantial fines and the option for civil suits.

NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (together, “NetChoice”)—are trade associations that represent internet and social-media companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google (which owns YouTube), and TikTok. They sued the Florida officials charged with enforcing S.B. 7072 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the law's provisions (1) violate the social-media companies’ right to free speech under the First Amendment and (2) are preempted by federal law.

The district court granted NetChoice’s motion for a preliminary injunction, concluding that the provisions of the Act that make platforms liable for removing or deprioritizing content are likely preempted by federal law, specifically 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(2), and that the Act’s provisions infringe on platforms’ First Amendment rights by restricting their “editorial judgment.” The court applied strict scrutiny due to the Act's viewpoint-based purpose of defending conservative speech from perceived liberal bias in big tech. The court found that the Act does not survive strict scrutiny as it isn't narrowly tailored and doesn't serve a legitimate state interest. The State appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed these conclusions.


  1. Do Florida S.B. 7072’s content-moderation restrictions comply with the First Amendment, and do the law’s individualized-explanation requirements comply with the First Amendment?

Significance: This case raises critical questions about the intersection of free speech, private platforms, and government regulation in the digital age. This case underscores the importance of protecting free expression while navigating the responsibility and accountability of influential digital platforms in shaping public discourse, amplifying marginalized voices, and ensuring equitable access to information and dialogue in a rapidly evolving online landscape.

Cases Not Yet Set for Argument

Moyle v. United States and Idaho v. United States (Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act)

Facts:  In January 2024, the Supreme Court granted a request from Idaho and the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to temporarily put on hold a ruling by a federal district court that would require emergency rooms in the state to provide abortions to pregnant women in an emergency.

The federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, requires hospitals receiving Medicare funding to offer “necessary stabilizing treatment” to pregnant women in emergencies. In Aug. 2022, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the constitutional right to an abortion, the Biden administration went to federal court in Idaho, where it argued that EMTALA trumps an Idaho law that makes it a crime to provide an abortion except in a handful of narrow circumstances, including to save the life of the mother.


  1. Whether the federal law on which the lower court relied trumps an Idaho law that criminalizes most abortions in the state.

Significance: With the ‘abortion topic’ already sparking heavy debate and polarization, this particular case continues to raise crucial questions about the precedence of federal law over state legislation in matters of reproductive health and the constitutional rights of pregnant individuals, significantly impacting access to essential healthcare services and the balance of power between federal and state jurisdictions.

Escobar v. Texas

Facts: In 2011, Areli Escobar was convicted of the rape and murder of 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado. In 2020, a district court judge ruled that Escobar deserved a new trial because his conviction relied heavily on “scientifically unreliable” DNA evidence analyzed by a Travis County lab that was later closed down due to untrained staff and improper testing procedures. In 2016, the Austin Police Department was forced to shut down its crime lab after the Texas Forensic Science Commission found widespread issues with its DNA testing. The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider its decision to let a death row inmate be executed even though prosecutors now agree his conviction should be thrown out because it relied on potentially faulty DNA evidence.


  1. Whether the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals erred in holding that the prosecution’s reliance on admittedly false DNA evidence to secure the petitioner’s conviction and death sentence is consistent with the due process clause of the 5th Amendment because there is no reasonable likelihood that the false DNA evidence could have affected the judgment of the jury.

Significance: Escobar reveals many systematic flaws in forensic practices in the justice system. This case raises notable questions regarding the validity, ethicality, and admissibility of forensic evidence, emphasizing the balance between rigorous stands and oversight in forensic analysis and legal prosecution for crimes. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court's intervention underscores the critical constitutional question of whether the use of erroneous DNA evidence, even if prosecutors now acknowledge its fallibility, aligns with the principles of due process enshrined in the Fifth Amendment.

Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance For Hippocratic Medicine

Facts: Mifepristone—first approved by the FDA in 2000—is the first medicine in a two-step regimen used to end a pregnancy. Medication abortion accounts for more than half of all abortion care in the United States, and the frequency of medication abortion via telehealth has increased in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade.

In the more than two decades since the FDA first approved mifepristone, the agency has evaluated the safety of mifepristone at least four times, and the results are conclusive: Mifepristone has proved safe and effective and has been used by approximately 5.6 million women in the United States.


  1. Whether the Supreme Court should stay the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas's order blocking the Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone.

Significance: This case is highly significant in shaping the legal and reproductive landscape. Given the increased reliance on telehealth for medication abortion, the Court's decision regarding the stay on this order will directly impact the accessibility and availability of this method of abortion care, significantly influencing reproductive rights and healthcare access in the country. This case intersects with the larger debate surrounding abortion rights, particularly after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, amplifying its significance in shaping the landscape of reproductive health rights and access. The ruling will establish access to certain reproductive healthcare services and touch upon the realms of individual autonomy and privacy.

Murthy v. Missouri

Facts: Multiple plaintiffs, including epidemiologists, consumer and human rights advocates, academics, and media operators, claimed that various defendants, including numerous federal agencies and officials, have engaged in censorship, targeting conservative-leaning speech on topics such as the 2020 presidential election, COVID-19 origins, mask and vaccine efficacy, and election integrity. The plaintiffs argue that the defendants used public statements and threats of regulatory action, such as reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to induce social media platforms to suppress content, thereby violating the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. The States of Missouri and Louisiana also alleged harm due to the infringement of the free speech rights of their citizens.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting the federal government from meeting with social media companies or otherwise seeking to influence their content-moderation policies. The U.S. Supreme Court granted the government’s motion for an emergency stay and granted certiorari to review the case on the merits.


  1. Did the federal government’s request that private social media companies take steps to prevent the dissemination of purported misinformation transform those companies’ content-moderation decisions into state action and thus violate users’ First Amendment rights?

Significance: This case holds significance in delineating the extent of government influence over digital speech regulation and its potential impact on citizens' rights to free expression. It echoes broader concerns by addressing combating misinformation and safeguarding free speech, highlighting the complexities of private platforms' content control in the context of governmental pressure and its implications for digital liberties and public discourse.

Learn More

Curious about past Supreme Court terms and the status of case decisions? Check previous editions of our SCOTUS Updates ( Fall 2023 and Summer 2023) from the Section's quarterly e-Newsletter on cases related to civil rights and social justice. 

Additionally, the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice routinely hosts webinars and panels, discussing social inequities and their legal connection. If you are interested in learning more about these issues, recordings of past webinars can be found on the Section’s YouTube channel. 

Please refer to the directory of Amicus Curiae Briefs on the Section’s website, which contains amicus briefs filed by the ABA pertaining to civil rights cases. 

For existing policy, check out the Policy Project, featuring a compilation of all policy drafted by the ABA relating to the committees of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. 

The ABA has also created a Law, Society and the Judiciary Task Force to consider the range of issues implicated in Dobbs and Bruen.