The biggest Supreme Court decisions from this term, and what’s next


FILE – This Nov. 5, 2020 file photo, shows the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The 2020-2021 term for the Supreme Court is over with its latest batch of opinions. This session featured decisions on voting rights, pandemic restrictions, and first amendment rights for students. Here are the biggest decisions — and dismissals — of the year.

Supreme Court decision on voting rights

The court’s most recent decision handed a win to states seeking to tighten voting laws after the 2020 election. It reversed a lower court ruling in deciding that Arizona’s limits on who can return early ballots for another person and refusal to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct are not racially discriminatory. The vote was 6-3.

Siding with teen in first amendment case

In one of the more influential decisions of the session, the court voted 8-1 that a school suspension for a 14-year-old girl over a profane social media rant was wrong. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote there are some instances when schools can regulate off-campus speech, but that was not one of them.

NCAA athletes can get benefits

This case was not directly related to schools paying athletes like professional teams do, but the court did rule schools should be allowed to offer the same types of benefits to NCAA athletes as regular students. This amounts to things like computers and paid internships.

Still, Justice Brett Kavanaugh ripped the NCAA’s business model of not allowing its athletes to get paid while high-profile coaches and administrators can make seven figure salaries or more.

Philadelphia can’t avoid foster agencies based on their sexual orientation policies

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled the city of Philadelphia couldn’t limit their work with a Catholic foster agency over their refusal to grant adoptions to same-sex couples.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Pandemic restrictions

Tuesday, the court ruled 5-4 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could keep its eviction ban in place through July as it planned, rejecting a group of landlords who were challenging it.

The court fielded several cases about pandemic restrictions, including a Colorado church suing the state over an order that prevented worship there. The court ruled lower courts needed to take another look at that case, and pointed to a decision that labeled New York’s capacity restrictions unconstitutional. It did the same for a California church in December.

In February 2021, the court ruled California and Santa Clara County couldn’t ban indoor worship because of the pandemic.

Cases on immigration

The court held migrants seeking asylum are not entitled to a hearing about whether they should be released from detainment while the government evaluates their petition.

In a separate decision, the court ruled thousands of people living in the U.S. for humanitarian reasons are not eligible to apply to be permanent residents. Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that federal immigration law prohibits people who entered the country illegally and now have Temporary Protected Status from seeking “green cards” to remain in the country permanently.

However, in April, one ruling offered new hope to thousands of long-term immigrants seeking to avoid deportation in a decision that faulted the federal government for improperly notifying a man who came to the United States illegally from Guatemala to appear for a removal hearing. The justices decided that federal immigration law requires authorities to include all relevant details for a notice to appear for a hearing in one document rather than sending the information across multiple documents.

Child slave labor

The court ruled 8-1 that Nestle and Cargill should not have been allowed to be sued by a group of six adult citizens from Mali who claimed they were taken from their homes and forced to work in cocoa farms. The group said Nestle and Cargill knew there was slave labor, but bought beans from the farm anyway.

The court said that the alleged crime did not happen in the U.S. and lower courts should not have let the lawsuit continue.

Nestle and Cargill have said they have taken steps to combat child slavery and have denied any wrongdoing.

Current inmates don’t benefit from The First Step Act

Unanimously, the court ruled that a slew of more lenient sentences for drug offenders outlined in The First Step Act do not apply to those already convicted.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a separate opinion agreeing with the ruling and calling for Congress to amend the law, saying that it is unfair that some offenders did not benefit.

“This is no small injustice,” Sotomayor wrote.

Other decisions

Google was vindicated in a lawsuit accusing it of plagiarizing thousands of lines of code from Oracle. Accident victims can sue Ford in state courts. Unions can no longer organize on California farmland. Muslim men placed on the no-fly list after refusing to work for the FBI can sue.

Cases the Supreme Court declined to hear

The court rejects more cases than it takes up. This month, the court upheld the Affordable Care Act for the third time since it was passed in 2010.

Also this session, the court turned down some high-profile cases. Most notably, they dismissed every challenge to the 2020 election results. They also declined to take up a case about then-President Trump being suspended from Twitter. The justices found it moot since they would not make a ruling before his term expired.

The justices also declined to look at a challenge to Maryland’s ban on bump stocks. It also left alone a lower court’s ruling that Kansas could not force people to produce proof of citizenship to register to vote.

It also decided not to touch a ruling from multiple lower courts that upheld an Oregon school’s decision allowing students to use bathrooms corresponding to the genders they identify with.

Cases the Supreme Court will hear in the fall

There are several high-profile cases the Supreme Court has agreed to hear in its next session. Arguably, none are more anticipated than upcoming hearings on abortion rights and gun rights since they will test the court’s 6-3 conservative majority.

They will review a lower-court ruling that upheld New York’s restrictive gun permit law. The court’s action follows mass shootings in recent months in IndianaGeorgiaColorado and California and comes amid congressional efforts to tighten gun laws.

Also, the court will look into whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb. Mississippi, which is asking to be allowed to enforce an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, is not asking the court to overrule the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision confirming a woman’s right to an abortion, or a decision 19 years later that reaffirmed it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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