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June 30, 2023 Top Legal News of the Week

Supreme Court wraps up term with momentous ruling

The Supreme Court wrapped up its term, but not before issuing a landmark decision that ruled colleges and universities can no longer take race into consideration as a specific basis in admissions.

The U.S. Supreme Court concluded its term with landmark rulings on affirmative action, student loan forgiveness and LGBTQ+ rights

The U.S. Supreme Court concluded its term with landmark rulings on affirmative action, student loan forgiveness and LGBTQ+ rights

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Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the 6-3 majority in the case that combined two cases -- Students for Fair Admissions v Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions. v. University of North Carolina – saying the schools’ admissions programs violated the Equal Protection Clause because they failed to offer “measurable” objectives to justify the use of race. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote scathing dissents.

ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross issued a statement after the ruling saying, “We believe it is imperative that colleges, universities and state legislatures find alternative ways to create a diverse and talented student body. Law schools are training grounds for lawyers and play an important role to ensure a diverse bench and bar, which are critical to minimizing implicit bias and inspiring greater public faith in the rule of law.”

President Joe Biden strongly disagreed with the ruling and said his administration vowed to take "swift action" to support diversity in higher education, laying out a series of steps it will take through the Department of Education and other relevant agencies.

The Court issued several other significant rulings in the final week of its term. Two cases addressed student-loan forgiveness. In one case, Department of Education v Brown, the plaintiff was ruled not to have had standing. But in Biden v Nebraska, the Court ruled the Secretary of Education does not have authority to establish a student loan forgiveness program that will cancel roughly $430 billion in debt principal and affect nearly all borrowers. The 6-3 decision by Roberts strikes down Biden’s plan for federal student loan forgiveness so the millions of federal borrowers will not see their debts decreased or erased.

In a case that pitted free speech and religious freedom against LBGTQ+ rights – Creative 303 v. Elenis -- the court sided with the website designer, Lorie Smith, who did not want to make websites for same-sex marriages. The 6-3 decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, ruled that the First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing Smith to create expressive designs messages with which she disagrees.

In an opinion earlier last week in U.S. v. Texas, the Court sided with the Biden administration allowing its rules and guidelines on immigration enforcement to stay in place and rejecting the standing of Texas and Louisiana to sue.

Two important voting rights cases also were decided this term with the Court upholding Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act with a 5-4 decision authored by Roberts in the case of Allen v Milligan.

In Moore v Harper, the justices rejected the so-called “independent state legislature theory” that could have given state legislatures broad power over federal elections, without any role for state courts in supervising the exercise of that power. Roberts also wrote the opinion for the 6-3 majority in this case.

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