Supreme Court decision guide: Takeaways from the Trump immunity ruling and other major decisions made this term

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued the final decisions of its term, including the highly anticipated ruling on former President Donald Trump's claims of immunity from criminal prosecution.

From rulings on social media moderation to abortion pill access, here's a look at some of the major cases the 6-3 conservative-majority court has heard this term.

🇺🇸 Presidential immunity for Trump

Case: Trump v. United States

Decided: July 1, 2024

Case argued: April 25, 2024

The ruling: In a 6-3 decision, the court held that a former president has absolute immunity for his core constitutional powers. Former presidents are entitled to at least a "presumption of immunity" for their official acts. However, there is no immunity for unofficial acts.

Ultimately the justices left it to the lower courts to decide what, exactly, constitutes an official act versus an unofficial act. This is considered a strategic win for Trump because it will likely delay the Jan. 6 federal election interference case until after the November election. If Trump wins the election, as president he could either pardon himself in this federal case or appoint an attorney general who would drop the case.

What it means: The Supreme Court ruled that Trump may have immunity for some of his alleged conduct in his federal election interference case because it falls under "official acts." Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court's opinion, "The president enjoys no immunity for his unofficial acts, and not everything the President does is official. The President is not above the law. But Congress may not criminalize the President's conduct in carrying out the responsibilities of the Executive Branch under the Constitution."

However, the judges rejected Trump's more general immunity claim over acts that fall under the category of what they called "unofficial" or private acts. Roberts wrote, "Trump asserts a far broader immunity than the limited one we have recognized."

The Jan. 6-related charges against Trump won't be dismissed as a result of this decision, but the court ruled that Trump is immune to prosecution for actions that qualify as official acts.

🗣️ Social media and the First Amendment

Cases consolidated into one: NetChoice, LLC v. Paxton; Moody v. NetChoice, LLC

Decided: July 1, 2024

Case argued: Feb. 26, 2024

The ruling: In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court declined to rule on the laws in Florida and Texas that would require social media platforms to keep up posts they would otherwise remove for violating content guidelines. The justices sent both cases back to the lower courts for review.

However, the court said that government interference with what social media platforms publish can pose a threat to the platforms' First Amendment rights.

What it means: The Florida and Texas laws in question argued that social media sites should not be able to moderate posts or ban someone, especially when it comes to political candidates. Justice Elena Kagan said in her opinion that the Supreme Court could not rule that Florida and Texas' laws were broadly unconstitutional.

Read the opinion here.

⚖️ Obstruction charges for Jan. 6 defendants — and Trump

Case: Fischer v. United States

Decided: June 28, 2024

Case argued: April 16, 2024

The ruling: In a 6-3 vote, the court ruled that because there was no proof the rioters tried to tamper with or destroy documents, they did not qualify for the obstruction charge.

What it means: The Supreme Court has made it harder to charge Capitol riot defendants with obstruction — a charge that was also brought against Trump following the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

More than 750 people have been sentenced for their involvement in the Jan 6. riots. Out of that number, around 50 have been convicted with obstruction as the only felony count, which means they will likely be most affected by the ruling.

⛺ Rights of homeless individuals

Case:City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson

Decided: June 28, 2024

Case argued: April 22, 2024

The ruling: In a 6-3 decision, the justices reversed a ruling from a San Francisco-based appeals court that found public sleeping bans were a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

What it means: It is not a violation of the Eighth Amendment to criminalize those who are involuntarily homeless from camping and sleeping in public, even when shelters are full or unavailable.

🏥 Abortion in health emergencies

Cases consolidated into one: Moyle v. United States; Idaho v. United States

Decided: June 27, 2024

Case argued: April 24, 2024

The ruling: In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court allowed Medicare-participating hospitals in Idaho to perform emergency abortions when a woman's health is at risk, overriding the state's near-total abortion ban.

What it means: Pregnant women in Idaho can now access emergency abortion care. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan noted in her concurring opinion that because of the state's ban, Idaho's largest emergency services provider has had to airlift women out of state roughly every other week for medical assistance.

The justices, however, did not answer the question of whether the Biden administration's interpretation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act — a federal law that the administration argues must allow doctors to provide emergency abortions — conflicts with Idaho's state ban.

The case will now continue to play out in lower courts. And with key questions unanswered, the issue could end up before the Supreme Court again.

📱 Social media and misinformation

Case: Murthy v. Missouri

Decided: June 26, 2024

Case argued: March 18, 2024

The ruling: In a win for the Biden administration, the justices decided in a 6-3 ruling that the White House did not violate the First Amendment when it urged major social media companies to take down what the government considers misinformation about the 2020 election and public health.

What it means: The Supreme Court ruling has established boundaries regarding free speech online and ruled that the government can call on tech companies to remove misinformation and falsehoods on its platform to serve the public interest.

❓Gun access for alleged domestic abusers

Case: United States v. Rahimi

Decided: June 21, 2024

Case argued: Nov. 7, 2023

The ruling: In an 8-1 ruling, the justices upheld a 1994 federal ban on firearms for domestic abusers under restraining orders to stay away from their partners. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that, “When a restraining order contains a finding that an individual poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner, that individual may — consistent with the Second Amendment — be banned from possessing firearms while the order is in effect."

“Since the founding, our nation’s firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms," Roberts added. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

What it means: It's a win for gun control advocates. The justices ruled in favor of a ban that aims to protect victims of domestic violence. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearms have been the most common weapon used in the homicides of domestic partners and family members in recent years.

❌ Ban on bump stocks

Case: Garland v. Cargill

Decided: June 14, 2024

Case argued: Feb. 28, 2024

The ruling: In a 6-3 ruling, the court struck down a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, which are rifle attachments that increase the speed at which bullets are fired. Justice Thomas, who delivered the opinion, said that bump stocks do not make semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic machine guns. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the majority opinion would have "deadly consequences."

What it means: The court found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives overstepped its authority by enacting the ban on bump stocks when it determined that the devices were classified as machine guns. Civilians now have access to bump stocks again. In the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed dozens of people, the ATF issued a rule that said rifles equipped with bump stocks should fall under the legal definition of machine guns, which have been banned since 1986. The Supreme Court decision did away with the bump stock ban, eradicating one of the few existing gun control measures in the U.S.

📫🩺 Abortion pill access

Cases consolidated into one: FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine; Danco Laboratories, LLC v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

Decided: June 13, 2024

Case argued: March 26, 2024

The ruling: In a 9-0 unanimous decision, the justices tossed out a lawsuit that challenged the Food and Drug Administration's guidelines allowing mifepristone, a widely used abortion drug, to be prescribed via telemedicine and accessed through the mail.

What it means: If the Supreme Court would have ruled against the FDA, restrictions on mifepristone would have reverted back to what they were when the drug was approved in 2000. But since the Supreme Court tossed the case, prescriptions will still be allowed during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and the medication can still be prescribed over telehealth visits and be delivered by mail in states that allow it. The ruling comes nearly two years after the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion established by Roe v. Wade. As a result of that historic decision, over a dozen states now have near-total abortion bans in place.

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