The most controversial Supreme Court cases that lie ahead and what they mean for the US

By Abby Amoakuh

Published Oct 3, 2023 at 01:49 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Yesterday, 2 October 2023, was the first Monday in October. And while this won’t mean anything for Europeans, like yours truly, for Americans, this means that the Supreme Court is back on the bench for a brand new term.

Most gen Zers, especially those who sit on the liberal and progressive side of the political spectrum, are probably a bit nervous about what to expect this term. And they’d have a point.

In case you don’t remember, we are currently facing one the most conservative Supreme Courts of all time, with a majority of six out of the nine judges leaning towards the conservative side. This means that the court’s rulings have been drastically more right-wing in the past two years. So, let’s dive into all of the most worrying rulings we’ve seen so far.

The court took action to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to address water pollution, as well as to undercut its ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.

It also overrode FDA regulations on the abortion pill, making access to the medication more difficult and infamously reversed Roe v. Wade, the constitutional right to abortions. It’s been quite a wild ride with these judges, to say the least.

This time around, the court has its eyes pinned on issues like gun control, gerrymandering, and social media censorship, among others. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we can expect:

First Amendment and social media censorship

The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of speech, the press, and the right to assembly. Consequently, it provides quite a headache for the debate on online moderation and censorship. Elon Musk famously bought Twitter, now known as X, with the goal of implementing absolute free speech on the platform.

However, some would argue that this has just resulted in an online dumpster fire of uncontrolled misinformation and hate speech. In this current term, we can expect the judges will weigh in on the question of whether states have the authority to control how social media companies operate. It could expose companies like Meta and X to more content moderation lawsuits.

Gun control in the US

The Second Amendment infamously protects the right to keep and carry firearms. In 2022, the court ruled to expand gun rights nationwide by deciding that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defence.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration critiqued that the decision threatens victims of domestic violence, considering that nearly two-thirds of domestic homicides in the US in 2019 were committed with a gun. This year, the court will most likely be dealing with the fallout from lower courts, which needed to reconsider firearm regulations across the country.

Racial gerrymandering and South Carolina congressional maps

Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating electoral district boundaries with the intent of creating an advantage for a party. Under this suspicion, the court will be looking at a redistricting plan drawn by South Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature.

According to CNN, critics have noted that it was designed with a discriminatory purpose and amounts to an illegal racial gerrymander. This case comes on the heels of a decision the court has made in June. It had ordered Alabama to scrap a congressional map that did not account for the fact that the state is 27 per cent Black. The court’s ruling made it possible for maps to include at least two districts where Black voters could elect their candidates of choice.

Taxing the rich

“Tax the rich” was undoubtedly the motto of 2021, and not just because Alexandra Ocasio Cortez (AOC) wore it on her iconic Met Gala dress. Nevertheless, it does not seem like the court is planning on getting with this programme any time soon.

The US tax code currently only taxes some unrealised investments. This means that people frequently aren’t taxed until they sell an investment, or otherwise realise the value of it. A lot of Democrats support proposals to tax extremely wealthy individuals on their accumulated wealth, including unrealised assets. However, if the court decides to prohibit taxes on unrealised profits, it could severely undermine these plans.

Altogether, it looks like we have a highly important and unprecedented term ahead of us. The Supreme Court will decide the course for some of the most pressing debates in American politics like wealth disparity, social media censorship, and racial discrimination. So buckle up, it’s about to be another wild ride.

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