Don’t Sleep on These 8 Supreme Court Cases

From democracy to guns, the current slate of Supreme Court cases is poised to set back the reproductive justice movement.

The Supreme Court building
As we wait for the Supreme Court to issue its decisions in two abortion cases, we're also watching these eight other cases. Cage Rivera/Rewire News Group illustration

While we wait for the Supreme Court to issue rulings in the twin abortion rights cases, we have our eyes on a few non-abortion Court cases.

Some relate to basic civil and human rights:

  • The right not to be slaughtered with a gun that acts like a machine gun by using bump stocks, even though it’s not technically a machine gun (Garland v. Cargill);
  • The right to live without fear that your domestic abuser can access legal firearms and then murder you with them (U.S. v. Rahimi);
  • And the right to have a place to sleep, even if it’s in public (City of Grants Pass v. Johnson).

Others relate to the preservation of democracy itself:

  • The right to use social media platforms without being bombarded by misinformation about vaccines, COVID-19, or election interference (Murthy v. Missouri);
  • Forcing hate speech and misinformation into our social media spaces (Moody v. Netchoice);
  • Or whether the expertise of federal agencies like FDA, EPA, or HHS will give way to the conservative ideological policies that put people’s right to health care, safe drugs, and clean air at risk (Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo).

But you may be asking: What does any of this have to do with abortion? Why should I care?

Because it’s all about reproductive justice, my friends.

Reproductive justice has three main principles: (1) the right to have a child; (2) the right not to have a child; and (3) the right to raise your children in a safe and healthy environment. And each of these cases puts at least one of those principles at risk.

Nobody wants their kid machine gunned down at school. Nor do they want to raise their children in a city where the water is filled with lead. They also don’t want Christofascists determining who is allowed to access what types of health care. Each of these cases are part of the fabric of our democracy and if you haven’t noticed, our democracy is being shredded. So, while we wait for that to happen, let’s go through the cases we’re still waiting for.


Moody v. NetChoice, LLC and NetChoice, LLC v. Paxton

In 2021, after the far-right January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Florida and Texas enacted laws restricting social media platforms’ ability to moderate content and to, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis put it, stop Big Tech from pursuing its “effort to silence, intimidate, and wipe out dissenting voices by the leftist media and big corporations.” That these laws were passed in the wake of former President Donald Trump being banned from social media platforms and relegated to Truth Social should give an indication of the type of grievance DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are peddling.

The Supreme Court will be issuing rulings on two aspects of these laws. First, the must-carry provision, which requires social media platforms to host speech even if they don’t want to, and second, transparency requirements that require platforms to explain why they removed or deprioritized certain posts on their sites.

Those of us who have been active on Twitter/X both in the pre- and post-Elon Musk eras understand that if the Court rules in favor of the states, social media platforms will become even bigger hotbeds of misinformation and hate speech. And it will be unbearable.

These cases are ultimately about speech, but they are also part of a concerted effort by conservatives to play victim and dilute the meaning of discrimination. Both Texas and Florida argue that their laws prohibit discrimination, just as civil rights laws do.

Notably, the decisions in these cases could have implications for media outlets like ours, since the intrusion on editorial autonomy could undermine traditional publishers’ First Amendment rights. Also, given that Texas and Florida are leading the charge in book banning, these states complaining that conservative viewpoints are suppressed on social media is bitterly ironic.

Murthy v. Missouri

In Murthy v. Missouri, Louisiana and Missouri sued the federal government, alleging that government officials violated the First Amendment when they “pressured” or “coerced” social media companies to censor certain viewpoints and content regarding COVID-19, vaccines, the efficacy of masking, and whether the 2020 election was stolen—so, you know, all the conservative hits.

The Supreme Court is set to decide whether these requests transformed social media companies’ decisions about content moderation into state action, thereby violating social media users’ First Amendment rights. An injunction blocking certain government entities (the White House, the FBI, the CDC, the Office of the Surgeon General, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) from communicating with social media platforms is currently stayedpaused.

Should the justices side with Louisiana and Missouri, it will be difficult for social media platforms to collaborate with government entities to share information and combat misinformation regarding elections or public health matters like COVID-19, vaccines, and masking.


Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce

Conservatives have been champing at the bit to gut the administrative state in a power-grab, but they’ve unfortunately have found themselves hamstrung by a legal principle known as “Chevron deference.” The principle, established in the 1984 case Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, requires courts to defer to a federal agency’s reasonable interpretation of ambiguous statutes it is charged with administering.

The facts of Raimondo are rather dull: The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a rule requiring the fishing industry to pay for at-sea monitors to collect data on fishery conservation and management. A group of commercial fishermen filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration challenging the rule, arguing that the underlying law did not explicitly authorize the Fisheries Service to force the fishing industry to bear those costs.

Agencies have become a hindrance to the conservative agenda—which raises the question: Do we need federal agencies at all?

On the surface, it’s a case about fish. But more broadly, it’s about the conservative effort to dismantle the administrative state and blow a hole in the separation of powers doctrine.

Chevron deference was conservatives’ best friend for decades because it meant deferring to agency interpretations of statutes and not leaving that interpretation to their most-feared foes: liberal activist judges. But now that they have virtually completed their takeover of the courts, conservatives can rely on their newly constituted conservative judiciary to issue rulings that align with right-wing orthodoxy.

These days, deferring to agency statute interpretations means letting some radical leftist holdover from a Democratic administration hold corporations accountable for pollution, for example. Or letting woke liberal HHS prohibit health-care workers from discriminating against trans kids who need health care.

Quite simply, agencies have become a hindrance to the conservative agenda—which raises the question: Do we need federal agencies at all? Maybe Trump judges should have the last word on all matters of statutory interpretation and administrative law.


City of Grants Pass v. Johnson

This case, which will determine whether a local law banning public camping in an Oregon town constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment, is ultimately about housing justice. City officials in Grants Pass, Oregon believed their town had a homelessness problem. Initially, the city tried to handle it by having police officers buy bus tickets and send unhoused people out of the city, but Grants Pass found that policy unworkable because—surprise, surprise—people kept coming back to their homes.

So, to make it as uncomfortable as possible for unhoused people to remain in the city, Grants Pass passed a law criminalizing camping on public property or in a car. While the law purports to be applicable to the general population, it is only being enforced against unhoused people.

Housing should be a human right, but sadly, it isn’t. And given this country’s penchant for forcing people to have children against their will, it would seem obvious that increasing affordable housing would be a top priority. As I wrote in 2020 for Rewire News Group’s special report on housing justice:

“How can a person parent their children in a safe and healthy environment if they don’t have stable housing?

And how can a person who finds themselves pregnant think about carrying that pregnancy to term if they are already housing insecure and likely to find themselves homeless or plunged into poverty with the added expense of a new baby?”


Garland v. Cargill and United States v. Rahimi

This term’s two gun cases also hit that third tenet of reproductive justice—that people have a right to parent their children in a healthy and safe environment—hard. The rampant gun violence in this country makes that virtually impossible, regardless of whether a child’s school is a victim of a school shooting. The incessant shooter drills and subsequent trauma piled on these kids as a result of this country’s deeply unhealthy relationship with firearms makes gun violence a reproductive justice issue.

In Garland, the Supreme Court is set to decide whether a bump stock device—which converts a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic weapon—counts as a “machine gun” as defined under the law. Without getting into the mechanics of how bump stocks work, a gun outfitted with a bump stock acts is, for all intents and purposes, a machine gun. And machine guns have been outlawed in this country since 1986.

The arguments in the case—and believe me, they are unhinged—are less important than the fact that Jonathan Mitchell argued the case. He’s the architect of the Texas bounty hunter law that pits neighbor against neighbor in a bid to collect $10,000 for ratting an abortion patient out. Mitchell is a rising star in the conservative movement, and I for one am terrified of what havoc an Attorney General Mitchell could wreak.

The second gun case this term, U.S. v. Rahimi, wasn’t argued by Mitchell, but it’s right in his wheelhouse—since his wheelhouse seems to be figuring out ways to make women’s lives miserable, and a bad ruling in Rahimi will do exactly that.

The facts of Rahimi are pretty horrifying: In 2020, a state court in Texas issued a protective order against Zackey Rahimi, finding that he had engaged in “family violence” and that it was likely to happen again. Rahimi had assaulted his then-girlfriend in a parking lot and shot at a bystander who witnessed the assault. The protective order prohibited Rahimi from approaching, threatening, or harassing his ex-girlfriend and her family, and it also prohibited him from owning a firearm. The issuance of the protective order triggered a federal criminal law that prohibits people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from owning guns.

But Rahimi loves shooting stuff, and no criminal law was going to stop him. Between 2020 and 2021, he repeatedly violated the restraining order and engaged in random shooting sprees, including shooting at a driver he thought had flashed their lights at him and shooting up a Whataburger because his friend’s credit card was declined. But despite Rahimi’s violent history, the Fifth Circuit ruled that the federal criminal law violates the Second Amendment.

Why? Because in 2022, the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen said that states can’t implement restrictions on guns unless those restrictions are consistent with this country’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation,” and there’s no question that a pesky penchant for beating up women would not have barred some 18th-century fucker from owning a gun.

And even though studies show that women are five times more likely to end up dead in a domestic violence situation where a gun is present, who cares? If the Founders thought beating up women was so bad, they probably should have said so in the Constitution. And even though in the late 18th century, shooting someone with the types of guns available then—muskets and such—would give many women enough time to bash a man over the head with a cast iron pan in between shots, who are we to question the Founders’ ammosexuality?

Women are in mortal danger when it comes to intimate partner violence and guns. And it remains to be seen whether this country’s love affair with guns will trump women’s safety in the home.