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Understanding the Courts

How Does the Supreme Court Work?

The U.S. Supreme Court acts as the protector and interpreter of the Constitution. The nine Supreme Court justices remain the final arbiters of the law, charged with ensuring the American people receive the promise of equal justice under the law.

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Notable Cases in the 2023-2024 Term

FDA and Abortion Pill

In 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved mifepristone as part of a two-drug regimen to end an early pregnancy. As part of the approval, FDA imposed certain requirements on the drug’s use. In 2016, FDA relaxed those requirements by extending the approved use from seven weeks to ten weeks, reducing the number of required in-person clinical visits, and allowing certified nonphysician health-care providers to prescribe the drug. Then, in 2021, FDA eliminated the in-person dispensing requirement.

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President Trump and the Fourteenth Amendment

Colorado voters sued former President Donald J. Trump and the Colorado secretary of state in state court seeking an order excluding Trump from the state’s 2024 presidential primary ballot. The plaintiffs argued that Trump was not qualified for the presidency under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment because of his role in the insurrection on January 6, 2021. The U.S. Supreme Court is asked to determine whether the secretary of state would commit a “wrongful act” under state election law if she placed his name on the ballot.

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Second Amendment

In February 2020, a Texas court granted C.M. a domestic violence protective order against Zackey Rahimi, effective for two years. About a year later, in investigating a separate spate of shootings by Rahimi, police found a pistol, a rifle, magazines, and ammunition in Rahimi’s home. Rahimi was convicted of possessing a firearm while under a domestic violence protective order. In United States vs. Rahimi, the Court weighs the question: Can the government prohibit a person subject to a domestic violence protective order from possessing a firearm?

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Bankruptcy and the Opioid Crisis

Facing thousands of claims related to opioid painkillers, Purdue Pharma L.P. filed for bankruptcy in 2019. The bankruptcy proceedings resulted in a plan of reorganization that—in addition to resolving opioid claims against Purdue—released related claims that Purdue’s creditors held against members of the family who owned and controlled Purdue (the Sacklers). In exchange, the Sacklers agreed to contribute billions of dollars to Purdue’s bankruptcy estate. The plan was approved by over 95 percent of the voting claimants, but the United States Trustee objected and appealed arguing that such “nondebtor releases” require unanimous consent of the released parties. In Harrington v. Purdue Pharma, L.P. The Court is now asked to determine whether the Bankruptcy Code authorizes a court to approve releases, as part of a plan of reorganization under Chapter 11, that extinguish claims held against nondebtor third parties without the claimants’ consent.

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Agency Law and the Administrative State

This case concerns the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) ability to bring enforcement actions for securities fraud before administrative law judges, rather than in federal district court. The target of an enforcement action argues this venue choice stems from an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the SEC and that the proceeding violates the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. In U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Jarkesy, the Court has the potential to change the way government agency claims are adjudicated.

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Presidential Immunity

A federal grand jury indicted former President Donald J. Trump for conspiring to “overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election.” Trump moved to dismiss the indictment, however, arguing that as a former President he enjoys absolute immunity from criminal liability for official acts that he took during his time in office.

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Free Speech and Social Media in SCOTUS

This term, the Court is actively engaged in deliberating on several cases that encompass pivotal issues at the intersection of politics, free speech, and the expansive realm of social media. These cases represent a significant juncture in legal discourse, grappling with the complex dynamics of how constitutional principles apply to the digital age.

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2022 - 2023 Notable Cases

Explore the pivotal role of the Supreme Court in safeguarding American democracy by viewing these standout cases of 2022-2023, offering insight into the Court's workings.

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Reproductive Rights at the U.S. Supreme Court

For over 30 years, the ABA has taken an active role in engaging lawyers and educating the public on the role of the courts in defining these rights and access. Learn more about ABA policies and statements here.

Career and Professional Development Resources

Tips and resources for law practice related to the Supreme Court, including litigation, advocacy and judicial clerkships.

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On the Docket

Looking at the Supreme Court Term

A Zoom webinar exploring the 2022-2023 term of the Court, which is shaping up to be another blockbuster. Sponsored by the WCL Program on Law & Government and the American Bar Association Division for Public Education.