What These Recent Supreme Court Cases Mean

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Whatever the outcome of this November’s election, rulings being handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court serve as regular reminders of the results in 2016.

During the previous administration, the entrance of Neil Gorsuch (2017), Brett Kavanaugh (2018), and Amy Coney Barrett (2020) to the highest bench in the land shifted the court’s balance. That new balance is a gift that keeps on giving for Americans passionate about liberty and eager to reign in the power of federal government.

Two cases in point: The June 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ended the 50-year supposed constitutional right to abortion, returning power to the states, and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina in June 2023 brought an end to affirmative action in college admissions.

In the final days before SCOTUS breaks for summer, three more monumental decisions have been handed down that continue to bode well for liberty-minded Americans.

The first ruling is the end of Chevron deference in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo on June 28.

Simply put, the Chevron deference (named for the Supreme Court case that established it in 1984, Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council) meant that whenever the law was ambiguous, federal agencies were free to interpret the scope and content of that ambiguity in any way that they liked, with the only limitation being that their interpretations be “reasonable.” As a result, agencies exploited this deference for 40 years, vastly expanding the power and reach of the federal bureaucracy.

But in a classic David-and-Goliath tale, a New Jersey–based, family-owned fishing company called Loper Bright Enterprises sued Biden Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, arguing that their company should not have to pay the salaries of the federal inspectors that federal law forced them to carry aboard their boats.

On the surface, it was a small victory—but it ultimately spelled the end of Chevron, one of the most frequently cited cases in American administrative law. Now, key decision-making powers that for decades rested with unelected “expert” bureaucrats have been returned to Congress and the courts.

The second ruling of note, handed down on the same day, was  Fischer v. United States, which came as a major rebuke to the Biden Department of Justice, which went too far in using obstruction charges to prosecute hundreds of January 6 defendants. The Daily Wire explains:

The court voted 6-3 in favor of defendant Joseph Fischer, a former police officer seeking to dismiss his charge of obstructing an official proceeding, Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory. …

The court determined that the law designating obstruction as a felony was not meant to be interpreted so broadly. The 2002 statute, enacted as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act after the Enron accounting scandal, was only meant to apply in cases involving tampering with physical evidence, the court ruled.

According to Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion for the majority, the Capitol breach did delay certification of the vote, but the law used by the DOJ to secure decades-long prison sentences for defendants was sorely misused. The decision “could also force prosecutors to reopen at least some of the January 6 cases,” The Daily Wire elucidates.

The third ruling, Trump v. United States, handed down on July 1, saw the former president’s claim of presidential immunity upheld.

SCOTUS ruled that even though presidents are not “above the law”—that is, immune from federal prosecution for unofficial conduct—they are “entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all … official acts.”

As such, the case brought by Jack Smith that framed Trump as conspiring to overturn the 2020 election will be sent back to a lower court in D.C. and likely will not be resolved until after the November election.

For Americans concerned about the erosion of their liberties, the ever-expanding power of the federal government, and the capture of high administrative posts by partisan interests, the last few days of this Supreme Court term come as a breath of fresh air.

Even more hopeful is that, in two out of the three cases outlined above, SCOTUS justices did not vote along ideological lines.

That’s good news for an America wearied by politicized leadership—and maybe a sign of greater reforms to come.

Image credit: public domain