The Supreme Court is about to begin issuing decisions every Monday until the summer after hearing arguments in several high-profile and hot-topic matters.
Here is a digest of six of the most highly-anticipated opinions from the high court this summer:
BIDEN’S STUDENT LOAN HANDOUT: Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown
Well after he declared the COVID-19 pandemic “over,” Biden’s administration fought to keep one pandemic response in place — the student loan relief program that would cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in borrower debt.
A coalition of six GOP-led states sued the administration seeking to block its debt forgiveness plan and calling it an executive branch overreach absent any clear congressional mandate.
During more than three hours of oral arguments, an ideological divide was apparent over the limits of executive power during the health crisis and whether the White House properly implemented its debt forgiveness plan.
While tough questions alone are not a clear sign of how the justices might rule, the court’s 6-3 conservative majority appeared skeptical of the Biden plan and suggested he may have exceeded his executive authority.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College
The court last fall heard two cases dealing with how colleges and universities look at race in making admissions decisions.
For decades, schools have been able to use affirmative action to give preferences to applicants from underrepresented minorities using the argument that it promotes the interest of having diversity on campus. Students for Fair Admissions, however, claims that policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina discriminate against applicants who are not from such minority groups on the basis of their race. In particular, the group claims that Asian Americans suffer from the practices of both schools and that White applicants are also harmed by UNC’s.
At issue in both cases is whether the court should overrule its precedent in 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger, which said colleges and universities can consider race to have a diverse student body. The court decided to hear the cases separately because UNC is a public school and Harvard is private, so legal issues are not totally identical.
In the UNC case, the court needed to consider whether the school acted properly in rejecting a race-neutral alternative. In the Harvard case, it looked at whether the school violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian Americans with its policies.
WORKPLACE SPEECH/LGBTQ+ RIGHTS: 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis
Lorie Smith is a business owner who says she puts her Christian faith above financial profit. But her efforts to manage both have put Smith in conflict with Colorado officials over the limits of workplace speech.
At issue is whether she can refuse to create any website for a same-sex wedding despite a state’s “public accommodation” law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
While the basis for Smith’s legal challenge stems from her religious beliefs, the justices examined the free speech issues involved in a state law that Smith says would compel speech by forcing her to create sites that she does not want to and would prohibit posting the statement about her religious views.
COPYRIGHT LAW/FAIR USE DOCTRINE: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith
In a case that will decide whether artist Andy Warhol violated copyright laws when he based a series of paintings of pop icon Prince on photographs he didn’t own, the justices could make significant changes to the rights of artists in media from illustration to songwriting.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether the “fair use” doctrine of the Copyright Act protects Warhol, who used images of Prince captured by celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith to create new works of art without her credit or consent.
BIG TECH & SECTION 230: Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh and Gonzalez v. Google LLC
Free speech access to the internet as we know it could soon be dramatically transformed depending on how the justices weigh in on cases about holding social media companies liable for content posted by third-party providers.
At issue in one case is the scope of legal protections in the nearly 30-year-old Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and whether they apply to the algorithms that digital service providers like Google and YouTube use to recommend what videos and websites to show users.
Section 230 gives broad legal immunity to social media companies, largely preventing litigation for content their sites.
A separate case against Twitter deals with liability under Section 2333 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and whether hosting terrorist content online could constitute “aiding and abetting” under federal civil law, regardless of liability protections in Section 230.
TAKINGS CLAUSE: Tyler v. Hennepin County
It sounds like a Big Brother nightmare: The home of a 94-year-old grandmother is seized by the state for unpaid taxes, and all the sale proceeds — far above what she actually owed — go to public coffers.
In a two-hour oral argument, a clear majority of justices on both the left and right appeared to be receptive to arguments from lawyers for Geraldine Tyler, 94, whose condominium was seized by Hennepin County, Minnesota, in 2015.
The seizure was carried out as payment for approximately $15,000 in outstanding property taxes, penalties, interest and costs. The condo was ultimately sold for $40,000, and under the state’s forfeiture laws, the county kept the surplus proceeds. Minnesota is one of more than a dozen states (along with Washington, D.C.) that allows the practice.
The case could have nationwide implications for the power of the state to order homeowners to pay up or risk lose everything.
The Supreme Court will issue opinions Mondays at 10 a.m.
Fox News’ Bill Mears, Shannon Bream and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.