Supreme Court cases to keep an eye on

Posted: May 26, 2023

A little less than a year ago, June 24 2002, the entire United States had their eyes looking towards the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) when they released Dobbs v Women’s Health Association, overturning the 50 year old decision of Roe V. Wade, ruling abortion is not a protected right under the constitution. Since then, about 24 states have used the new status quo to ban abortion.

Court terms typically end mid July and start again in October, the same court that overturned Roe V. Wade should be almost ready to realize another year’s worth of cases. There are too many cases to know them all, most usually fairly mundane, but here are some current SCOTUS cases which have the potential for an impact maybe not quite as large as overturning Roe V Wade, but large enough to keep an eye on.

Affirmative Action

Minnehaha is a college prep school, and for most students college applications are an approaching goal and nightmare laying at the end of junior year. An upcoming supreme court case, Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, could change college admissions in a dramatic way for the United Sates as the supreme court is ruling on affirmative action.

Affirmative action is when colleges consider race as a factor in who they admit. While at first glance it may seem discriminatory, colleges use affirmative action because students in minority groups often face obstacles conventional metrics don’t represent.

For example, African Americans score an average 2.43 fewer points than caucasians (whites) while taking the ACT. Caucasians aren’t smarter than African Americans; African Americans are just typically poorer, a 42% poverty rate compared to 15%, and can’t always afford private tutors and classes which help students take the test.

Race blind admissions can actually be more unfair because they don’t count for this and other inequities.
Furthermore, multiple studies have proven more diverse academic settings lead to better overall performance.
“I think the goal of affirmative action is really honorable, which is to ensure equity in education.” said Blake Mayes, one of the student counselors at Minnehaha Academy. “Not everyone has had a fair access to education throughout the history of our country”

In this case, the Petitioner Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), sued the University of North Carolina over their use of affirmative action claiming it violates the 14th amendment.

The conservative majority of the Supreme Court could use this opportunity to declare affirmative action constitutional and banning them altogether.

Banning affirmative action is not unprecedented; nine states have already banned the practice for their public colleges. In all of these states, diversity in their public colleges dropped significantly.

For any white or Asian American student of Minnehaha, SCOTUS ending affirmative action could improve their chances of admission to selective colleges. Especially for colleges at the most competitive level , where the practice is more common.

For any African American, Native American, Latino, or student belonging to any minority SCOTUS removing affirmative action would almost certainly hurt their chances at admission to selective colleges.

“It will affect everybody, from every background.” said Mr Mayes, “Colleges will no longer be allowed to ask for your racial background… [the] common app would take it off the application… Students could still write about their experiences growing up however… it will change the way that colleges consider decisions.”

Affirmative action also exists outside of higher education. If SCOTUS bans affirmative action not just in colleges but everywhere, everything from job applications to government aid could also change drastically.

Antitrust laws

On Nov. 15, 2023, almost 15 millions of Taylor Swift fans stormed the Ticketmaster website trying to buy tickets for her first tour in five years. The vast majority of them met only disappointment when the site crashed, and they were unable to buy the tickets they hoped for.

This caused mass outrage at Ticketmaster, which Taylor herself, long annoyed at Ticketmaster, supported.
The Federal Trade Commision (FTC), the organization that enforces most of the nations consumer protections laws, has even begun investigating Ticketmaster.

The reason this happened is because Ticketmaster is what is called a monopoly, when a company has almost complete control of the selling of a commodity.

Monopolies do not usually benefit the consumer, as when a company has enough control over a market, they don’t have to compete anymore, giving them little incentive to lower prices or improve their services.

In this case, Ticketmaster had little reason to improve how many people their website could handle because consumers had nowhere else to go. It also caused all the traffic to concentrate in a single spot.

There are two types of monopolies, vertical monopolies-when a company controls all the companies along a supply chain- and horizontal monopolies-when a company owns all of one type of company.

In this case, Ticketmaster was both; they are almost the only ticket selling company and also own Live Nation Entertainment the main producer of concerts. This combination makes it almost impossible for anyone to sell tickets outside of them.

There are laws dating all the way back to the late 1800s meant to prevent monopolies called “antitrust laws”, they just aren’t often enforced due to the power these companies have.

The FTC is now attempting to enforce these antitrust laws on Ticketmaster, not just for this incident, but for a history of aggressive prices and poor service.

If they are successful, it should lower the extreme prices for most concert tickets, and improve the experience of buying them.

While not about Ticketmaster directly, an upcoming supreme court case, Axon Enterprise, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission, could have massive ramifications on the FTC’s efforts to break up Ticketmaster and other monopolies.

In 2018, Axon Enterprises, a company that manufactures personal body cameras for law enforcement valued at $16.8 billion, acquired one of its competitors, Vievu. The Federal Trade commission (FTC), believing this action would violate antitrust laws by establishing a horizontal monopoly, blocked the merger.

A year later, after investigation into the matter, the FTC officially declared they would not let the merger occur. Axon Enterprises sued.

Their claim was that this action violated their 5th amendment rights of due process, the FTC was not politically neutral in this decision, and that this merger was fully legal.

What makes this case particularly special, is that Axon is actually suing the FTC. Normally, these arguments would be part of administrative proceedings handled by the FTC, not a lawsuit in federal court.

The question has become, can companies sue the administrative proceedings of the FTC and other government agencies in federal court, or do these complaints have to be part of the normal process?

A decision against the FTC would likely weaken the ability of most government agencies to take action. In particular it would mostly slow down actions from the current administration to break up the many monopolies in the US like Ticketmaster.

A decision in favor of the FTC could very well do the opposite, helping to further break monopolies like Ticketmaster and more.

Abortion pills

As previously mentioned, about a year ago SCOTUS overturned the 50 year long standing Roe v. Wade, the case that established abortions as a constitutional right, and allowed states to outlaw abortion. Since then, 14 states have.

Now, the Supreme Court is poised to rule on a tangential topic, whether or not abortion pills can be allowed on the market.

There are two types of abortion, medical abortions and in-clinic abortions.

When most people talk about abortion, they usually refer to in-clinic abortions, the ones that must be performed by a doctor. Medical abortions are far less invasive, consisting of taking two pills, and are usually successful in ending pregnancies less than 11 weeks old.

Recently, the FDA attempted to lessen restrictions on medical abortions, moving the latest date into a pregnancy the pills can be taken from seven weeks to 11 weeks.

A coalition of anti-abortion rights groups called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine sued the FDA, claiming mifepristone, the pill in question, was unsafe.

To be clear, this lawsuit is not about whether or not states can ban abortion pills like Roe V Wade was.
If SCOTUS sides entirely with the anti-abortion activists it would remove mifepristone from the entire national market.

The Supreme Court has made an emergency ruling that allows mifepristone to remain for the moment, but it’s only an emergency one. Their final, permanent, decision is yet to arrive.

SCOTUS in the limelight

As mentioned earlier, SCOTUS tends towards hearing more than a hundred cases every year, most ending not particularly major or contested.

It’s possible these cases don’t cause major change to the current status quo. It’s also possible some seemingly innocuous case not listed here leads to a massive decision far outweighing these three. Whatever the outcome, when they overturned Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court entered the limelight and their other finished decisions appear to show they don’t intend to leave. 

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