What’s at stake: US Supreme Court 2023-2024 Term

What’s At Stake: US Supreme Court 2023-2024 Term

October 2, 2023 marks the beginning of a new Supreme Court term which already includes several important cases with the potential for long-lasting, widespread impact. The 6-3 majority conservative court will, as in the previous term, revisit issues decided years ago, raising the possibility of turning back the clock on legal precedent and our rights. National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) will be closely watching the cases listed in this document and adding more as the Supreme Court adds to their docket. Be sure to check back regularly.

Gun Violence

United States v. Rahimi

In 2020, a Texas court issued a civil restraining order against Zackery Rahimi due to accusations of assault by his girlfriend. The order barred him from specified harassing behavior toward his girlfriend and her child as well as prohibited him from owning a firearm. As a suspect in another crime, Rahimi’s residence was searched, and police found a firearm, leading him to be charged with unlawful firearm possession due to the previous restraining order’s provision. His appeal of the charge was rejected at the district court level and, initially, the Fifth Circuit Court agreed. In the meantime, the Supreme Court issued its decision in NY State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022) which changed the way the court assessed Second Amendment cases. In February 2023, as a result of the Bruen decision, the Fifth Circuit struck down the Texas law that kept individuals from owning firearms when they had a court restraining order involving harassment or threats to an intimate partner. As a result, Rahimi’s conviction on unlawful gun possession was overturned. The Department of Justice appealed the case to the Supreme Court which will decide whether the law barring individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing a firearm is constitutional under the Second Amendment.

Oral Arguments: November 7, 2023

Why We’re Watching: NCJW’s Resolutions support: “Laws, policies, programs, and services that protect every woman from all forms of abuse, exploitation, harassment, discrimination, and violence.” Further, NCJW supports laws to reduce gun violence and promote gun safety. 

Civil Rights

Acheson Hotels v. Laufer

In 2020, Deborah Laufer, a disabled woman who uses a wheelchair, sued Acheson Hotels, LLC which operates hotels in Maine. She did so because their website did not provide sufficient accessibility information as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which requires public accommodations like hotels to provide enough accessibility information so that disabled individuals can decide whether the hotel will meet their needs. Laufer is a self-professed ADA ‘tester’ who monitors hotel websites to see if they comply with the ADA and has sued hundreds of such hotels. The federal district court in Maine agreed with Acheson Hotels that Laufer had no intention of checking in and therefore could claim no injury. On appeal, the First Circuit reversed the lower court decision. Their decision was based on a case in which a fair housing tester successfully sued a realty company for racial discrimination because they lied about the availability of a rental unit on account of the tester’s race even though the tester was not really interested in renting the unit. Testers have often been key to identifying and investigating civil rights violations. Acheson appealed to the Supreme Court which agreed to take the case. In the meantime, Acheson revised its website and, along with Laufer, asked for the appeal to be dismissed as moot. Regardless of this, the Supreme Court decided it would go ahead with the appeal and consider whether the case was in fact moot as part of the argument.

Oral Arguments: October 4, 2023

Why We’re Watching: NCJW advocated for passage of the ADA and continues to be a strong supporter of disability rights. In addition, we understand the important role that testers play in the implementation and enforcement of civil rights laws and are concerned about the implications of this case.

Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

In 2022, the Republican-controlled South Carolina legislature approved a gerrymandered congressional map, moving hundreds of thousands of voters into new districts, making sure that the percentage of Black voters in all but one district would be insufficient to afford those voters the equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. As a result, Black voters in six of seven congressional districts have no meaningful chance to elect the candidates of their choice. The state NAACP along with other organizations, alleging racial gerrymandering, sued under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which bars legislatures from sorting voters based on race. A three-judge panel in the federal district court found that the map constituted racial gerrymandering. The state legislature appealed to the Supreme Court stating that the redistricting was motivated not by race but by partisan politics. In the past the Supreme Court has said that partisan politics may not be used as a proxy for racial gerrymandering. The Supreme Court will decide whether South Carolina’s redistricting was based on politics rather than race. 

Oral Arguments: October 11, 2023

Why We’re Watching: NCJW supports voting rights and has opposed laws and policies, like gerrymandering, that deny Black voters and people of color equal opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice. 

Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, Missouri

Jatonya Muldrow, a sergeant in the St. Louis Police Department, sued her employer alleging sex discrimination because she was involuntarily transferred from the Intelligence Division to a patrol position. She contends that she was transferred because her supervisor wanted to hire a man for her job. The Eighth Circuit ruled against her because her transfer had not resulted in a significant employment disadvantage. Sergeant Muldrow appealed to the Supreme Court which asked the Biden Administration for their opinion. The Solicitor General responded that the Eighth Circuit ruling had no foundation in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the part of the law that protects against employment discrimination. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and decide whether Title VII bars discrimination in transfers if a court has not decided separately that the transfer caused a significant disadvantage to the employee. 

Oral Argument: TBA

Why We’re Watching: NCJW opposes sex discrimination in employment as well as other spheres and  supports Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s protections against discrimination. We believe that additional hurdles that are not in the law diminishes that protection. 

Economic Justice

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Assoc. of America

Founded in 2020 in response to the 2008 financial crisis, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) works to protect consumers from financial abuses, fraud, and unfair practices by financial institutions. From its inception, it has been the target of Republican legislators, supported by powerful financial corporations. In creating the bureau, Congress attempted to shield it from partisan pressure by funding it through fees paid to the Federal Reserve rather than through the annual appropriations process. This has been challenged as a violation of separation of powers. In a case, challenging the CFPB’s rules governing payday lenders, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the funding for the CFPB was unconstitutional and therefore the payday lending rule was invalid — calling into question all of the other rulings of the bureau. The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal. In another case in 2020, the Supreme Court allowed the CFPB to continue operating but determined that the provision of the law that created the bureau that said the CFPB director could only be removed ‘for cause’ violated the separation of powers doctrine. The Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of the CFPB.

Oral Arguments: October 3, 2023

Why We’re Watching: NCJW’s Resolutions support: “Consumer laws, policies, and programs that protect and enhance financial well-being, general welfare, and promote economic justice.” The CFPB has proved to be an invaluable protection for consumers against abuse and unfair practices.

Moore v. United States

The Moores, a couple from Washington state, owned a 13% share in a company based in India which reinvested its profits rather than distributing dividends. As a result, the couple never received any income. The “mandatory repatriation tax” of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act requires US taxpayers owning shares in foreign companies to pay a one-time tax on their share of the company’s earnings regardless of whether they received a payout from their investment. Article I of the Constitution requires Congress to apportion any “direct taxes” among the states, but the 16th Amendment carves out an exception to that rule which allows Congress to tax “incomes, from whatever source derived,” without apportioning that tax among the states. The Moores went to federal court to challenge the repatriation tax as a violation of the 16th Amendment. They contend that income must be distributed before it can be taxed and therefore the repatriation tax is a direct tax that is not apportioned among the states. The Ninth Circuit rejected that argument and appealed to the Supreme Court. Depending on what the Supreme Court decides, this case could impact other tax laws and result in the loss of billions of dollars to the US treasury, imperiling an important revenue stream for, among other things, critical social programs. 

Oral Arguments: TBA

Why We’re Watching: NCJW’s Resolutions support: “Equitable laws, policies, and programs, including fiscal and tax policies, that provide a level of services that ensure a sufficient standard of living to meet basic human needs.”

Protecting our Democratic Institutions

Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo

After the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) implemented a rule that required the fishing industry to pay for monitoring at sea, Loper Bright Enterprises, a herring fishing company operating in the Atlantic, sued in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals contending that the 1976 law that deals with conservation and the management of the fishing industry — the Magnuson-Stevens Act — did not authorize the NMFS to create industry-funded monitoring requirements and that they failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures. The DC Circuit applied the landmark 1984 Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council decision and found for the NMFS. The Chevron doctrine or deference, as it is known, compels the federal courts to defer to the federal agency interpretation of an ambiguous or unclear statute that Congress gave that agency the power to administer. In 2022, a coalition of commercial fisheries challenged the DC Circuit decision and appealed to the Supreme Court, asking it to reverse the NMFS rule “whether by clarifying Chevron or overruling it.” Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson participated in the case when she was on the DC Circuit and so has recused herself from this appeal. With several of the justices openly critical of Chevron over the years, this case goes well beyond the fishing industry and directly targets the power of government agencies to administer and, in general, carry out their basic missions. It has the potential to radically alter their power and effectiveness.

Oral Arguments: TBA

Why We’re Watching: NCJW believes that our democracy is strengthened by the role of federal agencies in providing the expertise and services essential to the well-being of our society and communities. We believe this case could bolster efforts to weaken government institutions to the detriment of our social safety net, the environment, and other vital functions.