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June 25, 2024

SCOTUS Update | June 2024

Sumer 2024 Edition | Updated as of June 26, 2024

Zoe Wen, 2024 Summer Intern, Georgetown University

Recent Decisions

Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

Oral argument date: October 11, 2023
Decided on: May 23, 2024

Facts:  After the 2020 Census, South Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature developed a new congressional map that moved tens of thousands of Black voters to a different congressional district. The South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP sued, and a three-judge panel ruled that the district was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. State legislators appealed and claimed that the map was a political gerrymander that solely had a racial effect in practice.

Issue: Does the South Carolina legislature’s redistricting map constitute impermissible racial gerrymandering, even if the legislators claim the intent was political gerrymandering?

Holding:  The district court erroneously found that race predominated the design of the contested congressional district. The two doctrines guiding the distinction between racial and political gerrymandering are that (1) the party challenging the map’s constitutionality must “disentangle race and politics,” and (2) when assessing a legislature’s work, the court must presume that the legislature acted in good faith.

Significance:   2021 marks the first redistricting cycle since the Court invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. Without the once-required formula for determining whether changes to a state’s voting procedure need to be federally reviewed, South Carolina no longer had to submit redistricting plans for approval to a federal court or the Department of Justice to ensure that the maps did not dilute the voting power of Black voters or other voters of color. Now, without the protection of this critical section of the Voting Rights Act, voters must sue in federal court to challenge racial discrimination in redistricting and meet the demanding burden of proving that the state legislature “‘subordinated’ race-neutral districting criteria such as compactness, contiguity, and core preservation to ‘racial considerations’” through a combination of direct and circumstantial evidence. This case highlights the growing burden on plaintiffs in racial gerrymandering cases and the continuing threats to voters’ rights.

Thornell v. Jones

Oral argument date:  April 17, 2024
Decided on: May 30, 2024

Facts:  In 1992, Jones was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder in Arizona. At sentencing, testimony exposed Jones’s traumatic childhood. A forensic psychiatrist assessed Jones and noted a history of substantive abuse, potential mood disorders, and susceptibility to aggression due to drug use. The judge ultimately sentenced Jones to death despite his request for a continuance for further psychological testing. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld Jones's conviction. Jones then filed a federal petition for habeas relief but was dismissed by the district court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and concluded that Jones’s counsel was ineffective based on his failure to obtain a mental health expert and his failure to present additional mitigating evidence.

Issue: What is the proper standard for assessing prejudice when determining an ineffective assistance of counsel claim?

Holding:  When a capital defendant claims a prejudiced sentence due to their counsel’s inability to present available mitigating evidence, the court must decide whether it is reasonably likely that the additional evidence would have avoided a death sentence. To determine whether a change of sentencing outcome was reasonably probable, the court should evaluate the strength of all the evidence and compare the aggravating and mitigating factors. 

Significance:  The Court clarified that to establish ineffective assistance of counsel, Jones had to show that his counsel’s performance was deficient and prejudiced the outcome, indicating a reasonable probability that additional evidence would have changed the sentencing outcome. This case raised the significant question of the value of post-conviction mitigation evidence concerning intellectual disabilities, mental disorders, and psychological trauma in capital cases. The Court majority reweighed the evidence and concluded that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals erroneously reversed Jones’s sentence. The Court's reasoning also illustrated the importance of state-specific sentencing practices and precedents in noting how Arizona law gives significant weight to aggravating circumstances such as multiple homicides and financial motivation.

Becerra v. San Carlos Apache Tribe

Oral argument date:  March 20, 2024 
Decided on: June 6, 2024

Facts:  The Indian Health Service (IHS) administers health care programs for Native American tribes and gets most of its funding from the federal government; the IHS also bills Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance companies for its services. Passed in 1975, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA) empowered tribes to run their own healthcare programs under self-determination contracts instead of using IHS programs. To account for the lack of bureaucratic infrastructure and slow billing processes, Congress enacted 25 U.S.C. § 5325(a)(2)(3), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1641(d)(1), (d)(2)(A), and 5325(m), requiring IHS to provide “contract support costs” to cover additional administrative expenses and allowing tribes to bill private insurance directly. The third-party revenue — also known as program income, from the direct billing of insurance companies — must go to providing healthcare services. The San Carlos Apache Tribe sued, alleging that IHS had to pay contract support costs for healthcare services that the tribe administered using third-party revenue from 2011 to 2013.

Issue:  Does the Indian Health Service (IHS) need to pay “contract support costs” to support both IHS-funded activities and the tribe’s expenditure of income collected from third parties?

Holding: The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA) requires the Indian Health Service to pay contract support costs for all activities tribes carry under self-determination contracts, including fees from collecting and spending program income from third-party payers like Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers.

Significance: The Court concluded that the various administrative and overhead costs from collecting and spending third-party program income fall within “contract support costs” that must be reimbursed by the IHS. Significantly, this decision helps to ensure that Tribal Nation healthcare programs function on equal footing with IHS-run programs, as envisioned by ISDA. A victory for tribal self-determination and tribal sovereignty, this ruling helps to assure that Tribal Nations administering healthcare services to their communities are not burdened by additional administrative costs and receive the full funding they are entitled to under federal law. The Court honored Congress’s commitment to Tribal Nations’ rights of self-determination in designing and implementing their own healthcare programs.

Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

Oral argument date:  March 26, 2024
Decided on: June 13, 2024

Facts:  Over half of all U.S. abortions use mifepristone with the two-drug regimen of medication abortion. Initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000, the distribution of mifepristone remained restricted under additional safety procedures. In 2016 and 2021, the FDA expanded mifepristone access by extending the permissible usage period in pregnancy, allowing healthcare practitioners to prescribe the medication, and approving distribution via mail and pick-up at approved pharmacies. The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine challenged the FDA’s current regulatory scheme of mifepristone, claiming that the FDA's actions lacked adequate safety studies and jeopardized patient and healthcare provider safety. A federal district court judge ruled in favor of the petitioners and suspended the distribution of mifepristone. Then, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the initial approval and struck down the regulatory changes in 2016 that expanded mifepristone access. 


  1. Were the FDA’s modifications to the usage conditions of mifepristone adequate and within their authority?
  2. Did the federal district court properly grant preliminary relief in suspending the FDA’s approval?
  3. Do respondents have Article III standing to challenge the FDA’s actions?

Holding:  Respondents lacked Article III standing to challenge the FDA’s regulatory actions regarding mifepristone’s approved conditions of use. Despite respondents’ legitimate legal, ideological, and policy concerns regarding abortion, they did not have Article III standing to sue in federal court since these doctors and medical associations did not prescribe or use mifepristone or allege direct monetary or physical injuries from the FDA’s actions.

Significance:  In the aftermath of the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the elimination of the constitutional right to abortion, many states and various anti-abortion groups have tried to restrict access to medication abortion. In this unanimous decision by Justice Kavanaugh, the Court ruled that under Article III of the Constitution, “a plaintiff ’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue.” Thus, even though this decision upheld the current regulatory scheme of mifepristone, the Court has left the door open for future challenges to access to medication abortion as states continue to restrict access to reproductive care, including imposing more in-person visit requirements and limiting mail distribution. However, the Court set the important precedent that simply wanting a medication to be less accessible for others because of one’s moral and ideological objections does not satisfy the requirements for establishing standing when the petitioners do not prescribe nor use the drug and the FDA is not requiring them to do or refrain from doing anything.

U.S. v. Rahimi

Oral argument date:  November 7, 2023
Decided on: June 21, 2024

Facts:  Petitioner Zackey Rahimi was involved in multiple violent incidents in Texas when he was subject to a civil protective order for alleged assault against his ex-girlfriend, which explicitly prohibited him from possessing firearms. Rahimi was indicted for violating federal law 8 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) after law enforcement found a rifle and a pistol at his home. Rahimi’s initial constitutional challenge was denied. When the Supreme Court decided New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen in 2022, Rahimi posited that 922(g)(8) was unconstitutional under Bruen. The Fifth Circuit agreed with Rahimi and reversed its initial decision.

Issue: Does the federal law 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), which prohibits individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms, violate the Second Amendment?

Holding:  When a court has found that an individual poses a credible threat to the physical safety of another, temporary disarmament is consistent with the Second Amendment.

Significance:  In reversing the decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court held that since the founding of the U.S., firearm laws have consistently included provisions that prevent people who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms; since Section 922(g)(8) fits within this tradition, it is consistent with the Second Amendment. In applying the historical tradition standard for firearm regulations established in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, the Court found that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) is “relevantly similar” to firearm regulations during the founding era. This case clarified that the Bruen test does not require the challenged statute to have an identical historical firearm regulation law to be constitutional. Significantly, upholding the decision of the lower court would have undermined the state’s authority to regulate gun possession to historical periods when governments disregarded many forms of violence against women, Black people, Indigenous communities, and other marginalized groups. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) has been in effect for almost 30 years and protects abuse victims and survivors; finding it unconstitutional would have likely increased domestic gun violence and put numerous lives at risk. The Court upheld a critical law that protects domestic abuse victims and survivors and established that firearm regulations consistent with the country's historical tradition of disarming people deemed to pose a danger to society and others are constitutional.

Murthy v. Missouri

Oral argument date:  March 18, 2024
Decided on: June 26, 2024

Facts:  Petitioners asserted that respondents, including federal agencies and officials, have engaged in censorship by targeting conservative-leaning speech on topics such as the 2020 presidential election and attempting to compel social media platforms to suppress particular types of content through public statements and threats of regulatory action, thereby violating the First Amendment. The district court granted the petitioners’ motion for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the federal government from meeting with social media companies or other means of influencing their content-moderation policies. The Supreme Court granted the government’s motion for an emergency stay.

Issue: Does the federal government’s challenged conduct transform private social media companies’ content-moderation decisions into state action and violate petitioners’ First Amendment rights?

Holding:  Plaintiffs failed to establish Article III standing because they failed to demonstrate that they were directly harmed by the communication between federal officials and social media platforms nor that the social media companies’ decisions to remove particular posts were traceable to the government.

Significance:  This case examined the proper role of government officials in communicating with social media companies regarding the development and implementation of content moderation policies. Writing for the majority, Justice Barett highlighted how even though the records reflected that government officials played a role in some of the social media platforms’ content-moderation choices, they had “independent incentives to moderate content and often exercised their own judgment.” The Court emphasized how the overly broad assertion that the government engaged in a pressure campaign to pressure social media platforms to suppress certain viewpoints was insufficient. The Court was tasked with shaping how government officials interact with social media platforms and communicate with the public online. Critics argue that by focusing on standing, the Court failed to draw a clear line between “legitimate government persuasion” and “illegal government coercion.” However, the Court has set the important precedent that linkage between a social media platform’s content restrictions and the government’s communications with the platform is necessary to establish standing for a First Amendment challenge.

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

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

Pending Decisions

Ohio v. Environmental Protection Agency

Oral argument date: February 21, 2024

Facts:  The Clean Air Act requires upwind states to submit plans consistent with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations to ensure their pollution emissions will not interfere with the downwind states’ ability to meet federal ozone standards. If the state’s proposed plan fails to comply with EPA requirements, the EPA will put forth its own plan, known as the Good Neighbor Provision. In February 2023, the EPA found that 23 had failed to submit an adequate plan under the relevant standards and developed their own plan for an emissions-control program. Petitioners have challenged the EPA rule as “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal agencies develop and issue regulations. 


  1.  Should the Court stay the EPA's Good Neighbor Plan?
  2. Are the emissions controls imposed by the Good Neighbor Plan reasonable regardless of the number of states subject to the rule?

Significance: This case has significant implications for the U.S.’s transition to greener energy and the future success of environmental goals. Even though this decision is primarily procedural, the Court will address the merits to determine whether pausing the plan would cause irreparable harm to Americans’ health and the environment. Importantly, exposure to ozone pollution leads to critical health problems, particularly for children and the elderly, including triggering asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and early death. Since wind carries ozone pollutants across state borders, a federal solution is necessary to ensure that states work together to reduce overexposure to ozone. In 2022, the Court ruled in West Virginia v. EPA that under the "major questions doctrine," without explicit Congressional approval, the EPA cannot implement rules of “economic and political significance.” Environmental advocates worry that the outcome of this case can be similarly detrimental to the EPA’s ability to enforce national pollution regulations and protect Americans' health.

NetChoice, LLC v. Paxton

Oral argument date:  February 26, 2024

Facts:  Texas House Bill 20 (HB 20) prohibits social media platforms from censoring content based on the speaker's viewpoint. Petitioner NetChoice challenged two provisions of HB 20 as unconstitutional: Section 7, which prohibits viewpoint-based censorship of posts, and Section 2, which requires platforms to disclose how they moderate and promote content. The district court issued a preliminary injunction and held Sections 7 and 2 to be facially unconstitutional since they interfere with social media platforms’ editorial discretion protected by the First Amendment. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and ruled that HB 20 regulates social media platforms’ conduct, not speech, and protects user speech.

Issue: Do Sections 7 and 2 of HB 20, which prohibit social media platforms from censoring user content and impose strict disclosure requirements, respectively, violate the First Amendment?

Significance: This case has significant implications for both social media companies and state governments in determining the scope of social media platforms’ discretion in implementing content mediation policy. Petitioner argues that when private parties choose not to publish particular speech, they exercise the constitutional right to editorial discretion, not censorship; the First Amendment protects the freedom of choosing how and whether to disseminate certain speech. On the other hand, Texas asserts that HB 20 is a regulation of conduct, not speech, since hosting users is not inherently expressive. Until now, social media companies have been allowed to moderate their platforms as they see fit since content moderation by private entities is considered a protected exercise of editorial judgment under the Constitution. Some fear that upholding SB 20 would empower state officials to compel online discourse in their favor; supporters of the Texas law argue that requiring platforms to publicize their content moderation algorithms would discourage compelled speech by making it harder for the government to influence social media platforms’ anti-discrimination policies. In an age where social media has become the primary tool for public discourse, the Court will need to weigh the editorial discretion of private social media companies against the state's interest in restricting content moderation.

City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson

Oral argument date:  April 22, 2024

Facts:  Due to the lack of available shelter beds, homeless people sleeping on the streets or in the parks of Grants Pass have been subjected to civil penalties under the city’s ordinances against camping and sleeping on public grounds. In 2018, the Ninth Court of Appeals decided Martin v. City of Boise, holding that the Eighth Amendment prohibits criminal penalties for “sitting, sleeping, or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter.” Even though the city claims that the Grants Pass ordinances are generally applicable to everyone camping on public property, petitioners argue that they effectively make homelessness a crime. A federal district court concluded that the city’s ordinances violated the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment and issued a permanent injunction.

Issue: Does the enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property against involuntarily homeless people constitute “cruel and unusual punishment,” thereby violating the Eighth Amendment?

Significance: This case has significant implications for cities across the U.S. that have implemented similar generally applicable laws against public camping that effectively criminalize involuntary homelessness. Advocates highlight how if the Court reverses the lower court's decision, it will worsen the persistent lack of adequate shelter for the vulnerable homeless population, including potential criminal records that make finding employment and shelter exponentially more difficult. The criminalization of unsheltered homelessness detrimentally perpetuates cycles of poverty, pushing more into the criminal justice system and stripping them away from any support system. Concerning constitutional jurisprudence, this case tasks the Court with clarifying whether the Eighth Amendment limits the scope of punishable conduct itself or just the punishment of offenses. It also poses the critical question of state versus federal authority when determining criminal penalties. See our Chair Chat on this City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson for additional information.

Moyle v. U.S.

Oral argument date:  April 24, 2024

Facts: In 2022, the Biden administration challenged Idaho’s Defense of Life Act, which criminalized the performance of all abortions except those to save the life of the mother. The United States argued that the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires all hospitals receiving Medicare funding to offer “necessary stabilizing treatment” to pregnant patients in emergencies, preempts the Idaho law. The district court granted a stay partially blocking this Idaho law because of the Supremacy Clause and the potential medical consequences of the abortion ban. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the partial stay.

Issue: Does EMTALA preempt Idaho’s Defense of Life Act and require Idaho to perform abortions under certain circumstances?

Significance: This decision will determine whether state abortion bans can override federal law and deny pregnant patients emergency abortion care. This ruling will have critical implications for pregnant patients in Idaho, as well as in other states with increasingly restrictive abortion bans, as pregnant patients continue to experience delayed or denied abortion care. With this close-to-complete ban, residents of Idaho must travel longer distances to receive prenatal care or to deliver due to the expansion of “obstetric deserts.” Therefore, this decision will have significant implications for abortion rights, the separation of powers, and state sovereignty. The Court will decide whether EMTALA preempts state law via the Supremacy Clause or if there is no conflict between the two laws. For access to reproductive care, this case demonstrates how restrictive abortion bans that only have exceptions for the life of the mother fail to cover serious harms to one’s health that require stabilizing treatment that may not pose a risk of death. This decision will have profound implications for reproductive health and the patchworked abortion landscape of the country.

United States v. Skrmetti

Oral argument date:  to be determined; most likely not until next fall

Facts: Samatha and Brian Williams and their transgender daughter challenged a Tennessee law banning medically necessary gender-affirming care for transgender people under 18, including hormone treatments and gender-transition surgeries. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Tennessee law in 2023. Trial courts have blocked similar bans in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee by applying the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020, which held that firing an individual employee merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Issue: Does the Tennessee law prohibiting all medical treatments intended to allow “a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex” or to treat “purported discomfort or distress from a discordance between the minor’s sex and asserted identity” violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause?

Significance: The Court will consider multiple critical issues in this case, including whether states can ban gender-affirming care for transgender adolescents, what standard of review courts should review state laws that target transgender people, and whether these laws violate the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions about medical care for their children. This decision has tremendous implications for transgender adolescents across the country, as the Court will determine if state bans seeking to restrict gender-affirming care, which is supported by the mainstream medical community, violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Access to gender-affirming care is essential for transgender youth and their families; no families should have to choose between not providing their children with the medical care they need and leaving their state. Upholding the Tennessee statute would fundamentally infringe upon the rights of transgender youth and have broad ramifications for other states that have enacted similar anti-transgender measures in recent years.

Petitions not yet Granted Cert

Bassett v. Arizona

Facts:  Petitioner Lonnie Allen Bassett received a natural life sentence for an offense committed when he was 16 when parole was not an option in Arizona at the time of his sentencing, Juvenile Law Center, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and Human Rights for Kids filed an amicus brief in the Arizona Supreme Court in support of Bassett, arguing that his sentence is an illegal mandatory juvenile life without parole sentence. The Arizona Supreme Court found that Bassett’s sentence was not mandatory, thus consistent with Miller v. Alabama.

Issue: Does sentencing a juvenile to life without parole under a system that did not afford the sentencing court discretion to choose any other option violate the Eighth Amendment?

Significance: The Supreme Court has reprimanded the Arizona Supreme Court for denying its precedents in capital cases twice already, and Bassett’s sentence fails to comply with the Court’s precedent again. The Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that for mandatory sentences for youths who committed murders before turning 18 to be constitutional, state laws must allow judges the option of life with the possibility of parole. In 2021, the Court reaffirmed in Jones v. Mississippi that minors may only be sentenced to life without parole if the sentence is not mandatory and the judge has discretion to impose a lesser punishment. The Arizona Supreme Court incorrectly concluded that Bassett’s sentence was constitutional due to the state law’s distinction of “natural life” without the possibility of release and life without parole with the theoretical possibility of clemency from the governor. The Court must uphold the requirement of the availability of parole when sentencing juvenile offenders, protect Arizonans’ constitutional rights, and reverse the decision of the Arizona Supreme Court.

J. W. v. Paley

Facts:  Paley, a school police officer, tased a high school student with intellectual disabilities who was attempting to exit the school building after a hostile encounter with another student. The student’s mother sued and claimed that the brutal tasing violated his civil rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendments. Paley was granted qualified immunity from the Fourth Amendment claim, and a federal district court dismissed the 14th Amendment claim based on a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals precedent holding that harm from excessive discipline at school does not infringe upon students’ rights to due process. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision on appeal.

Issue: Should a claim that a school official has used excessive force against a student that meets the definition of a Fourth Amendment seizure be evaluated under the Fourth Amendment’s objective-reasonableness standard or the 14th Amendment’s shocks-the-conscience standard?

Significance: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reasoned that school police officers can only violate a student’s constitutional rights if they injure them maliciously or arbitrarily; excessive force is permissible while imposing “corporal punishment” to maintain order or discipline. Concluding that Paley’s decision to tase the student was constitutional because he was responding to a disturbance at school is deeply problematic, as this decision leaves students without any constitutional protection from excessive force by law enforcement. Using the Fourth Amendment’s objective-reasonableness standard to determine the permissible use of force reduces the likelihood of law enforcement abusing their power under the guise of corporal punishment. This issue is particularly critical considering the dramatic increase of police presence in public schools since the 1970s and the consistent over-policing of students of color and students with disabilities, leading to disproportionate rates of school-based arrests, referrals to law enforcement, and negative educational outcomes. To protect students’ constitutional rights and promote educational equity, the use of excessive force must be considered in conjunction with the recognition of the disproportionate targeting of students of color and students with disabilities and the lack of adequate mental health support in public schools.

Learn More

Curious about past Supreme Court terms and the status of case decisions? Check previous editions of our SCOTUS Updates (Winter 2024Fall 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.