Supreme Court Updates: What to Expect From SCOTUS Before Recess

Live Updates
  • The Supreme Court handed down two rulings Wednesday.
  • The Court ruled in favor of veterans returning to state jobs and ruled that states can try crimes committed by non-Native Americans against Native Americans on Native land.
  • Thursday, the court is expected to consider whether the Biden administration can end the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy that sends certain people seeking asylum in the U.S. to Mexico to await their cases. An opinion is also expected Thursday on the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.
  • These rulings come after the Court overturned the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade and sided with a football coach who refused to stop praying on the field.
  • Confidence in the SCOTUS is at an all-time low, according to a Gallup poll.
  • Associate Justice Stephen Breyer will retire once the Court issues its final rulings. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will then be sworn in as the Court's newest associate justice on Thursday at noon.
Supreme Court Rulings
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Washington state high school football coach had a right to pray on the field immediately after games. Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Live Updates Have Ended.

What to Expect From SCOTUS Before Recess

The U.S. Supreme Court has two major rulings remaining before its summer recess begins.

The court has announced several major decisions in the last week. On Wednesday, the court said in a press release that it "will announce all remaining opinions ready during this Term of Court on Thursday" starting at 10 a.m.

One of the remaining rulings will be on Biden v. Texas. The court's ruling will decide whether enforcement of the Migrants Protection Protocol, also known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy that began under former President Donald Trump, will continue.

The other major ruling will be on West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, a case that deals with the federal environmental agency's ability to regulate emissions.

In addition to the remaining rulings, the Supreme Court will have a change in membership on Thursday.

Earlier this year, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer announced his intent to retire at the end of the court's current term. Breyer said on Wednesday his retirement will go into effect on Thursday at noon, after the final rulings of the court's current session have been announced.

The Supreme Court will then swear in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom Biden nominated to fill Breyer's seat. Both Breyer and Chief Justice John Roberts are expected to participate in her swearing-in ceremony, which will stream live on the court's website starting at noon on Thursday.

Supreme Court two more rulings expected
The U.S. Supreme Court is photographed in Washington, D.C., on June 29, 2022. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Louisiana AG Warns Against Performing Abortions

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry penned a warning to the Louisiana State Medical Society on Wednesday advising medical professionals against performing abortions.

Medical providers who perform elective abortions in Louisiana would be doing so in violation of state law and would thus be risking their "liberty and medical license," Landry's letter said.

After the U.S. Supreme Court last week issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, a state trigger law restricting abortion access was due to go into effect in Louisiana. That trigger law was blocked by a state court on Monday.

Landry's letter said he believes "the injunction has limited reach" and that the claims it is based on are "meritless."

"The temporary restraining order does not—and cannot—immunize medical providers from liability from criminal conduct," Landry wrote. Instead, it blocks the state from taking legal action while the block is in place, he said.

Landry concluded his letter with a "word of caution."

"Subject to certain exceptions, abortion is a criminal offense in the State of Louisiana, and it has a been since last Friday," Landry wrote. "It is incumbent on this office to advise you that any medical provider who would perform or has performed an elective abortion after the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs is jeopardizing his or her liberty and medical license."

NAACP Says SCOTUS Is 'Extremist'

NAACP President Derrick Johnson described the U.S. Supreme Court as "extremist" in a statement shared with Newsweek that acknowledged Associate Justice Stephen Breyer's impending retirement.

His statement came in the wake of several controversial rulings by the court, including one last week that overturned Roe v. Wade.

"In the face of an extremist court, with so little regard for basic human rights, we're grateful to Justice Stephen Breyer for doing his part in upholding precedent, defending human rights and honoring the rule of law," Johnson's statement said.

Breyer, who joined the court in 1994, said earlier this year that he intended to retire after the court completed its current session. Breyer announced on Wednesday that his retirement would become official on Thursday at noon, after the Supreme Court unveils its final rulings of the current session.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom President Joe Biden nominated to fill Breyer's seat, is scheduled to be sworn in as the court's newest associate justice on Thursday.

"Now, after 115 justices and well over 200 years of the U.S. Supreme Court, a Black woman will finally sit on the bench," Johnson's statement continued. "It is way past time for a Black woman to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court."

The NAACP also celebrated Brown's upcoming swearing-in ceremony with a post on Twitter that included a photo of Brown and a #BlackWomenAreSupreme hashtag.

'Safe Abortion is Health Care,' WHO Says

World Health Organization Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke out this week against the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Ghebreyesus concluded a Wednesday media briefing by saying he wanted to "reaffirm" the international health organization's position on abortion access.

"All women should have the right to choose when it comes to their bodies and health. Full stop," Ghebreyesus said. "Safe abortion IS health care."

Ghebreyesus said abortion access "saves lives" by preventing pregnant women and girls from seeking unsafe medical procedures. Placing restrictions on abortion access "has a major impact particularly on women from the poorest and most marginalized communities," he said.

Ghebreyesus concluded his comments on the ruling by noting it is counter to global attitudes on abortion seen in recent years.

"Over the last 40 years, the global trend is toward women having greater access to safe abortion and while last week was a set-back, it is more important than ever to come together to protect women's right to safe abortion – everywhere," he said.

Women Have 'Sentiment of Despair,' Meghan Markle Says

Meghan Markle described her "guttural" reaction to learning the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade in an interview published by Vogue on Tuesday.

The Duchess of Sussex and Gloria Steinem discussed the ruling's implications and what comes next for the U.S. with journalist Jessica Yellin, who moderated their conversation for Vogue.

Markle said the ruling is already "having a very real impact on women's bodies and lives" and noted Black women and other women of color "are most impacted" due to systemic issues in health care.

At one point during their conversation, Yellin noted that "this shouldn't just be on women" and asked what Markle would say to men who are in support of women's reproductive rights.

"Men need to be vocal in this moment and beyond because these are decisions that affect relationships, families, and communities at large. They may target women, but the consequences impact all of us," Markle said.

She and Prince Harry have discussed these issues "a lot" in recent days, Markle added.

Markle said her husband's reaction to the ruling was "guttural, like mine."

"I know that for so many women right now, there is a sentiment of despair," she said. "But again, we have to band together and not wallow. We have to do the work."

Calls for Justice Thomas to Resign Grow in Recent Days

As the Supreme Court nears the end of its term, the American people have voiced their disapproval with the conservative Justices.

A petition created by advocate group MoveOn calling for conservative Justice Clarence Thomas to resign has seen a serge in signatures this week.

While the petition was started three months ago, the number of signatures jumped significantly this week.

This comes after Thomas sided with the majority opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade and wrote that the Court should "correct the error" of cases that protect the rights to private sexual acts, contraception and legalized same-sex marriage.

After Roe was overturned, the petition surpasses 300,000 signatures. As of the morning of June 29, the petition currently stands at more than 450,000, an increase of 150,000 signatures in two days.

The petition does not mention Roe and focuses on Thomas' role in the case involving the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

"Recently, Justice Clarence Thomas voted against a Supreme Court decision to compel the release of Donald Trump's records regarding the January 6 insurrection and attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election," the petition said.

"And it's only the latest in a long history of conflicts of interest in the service of a right-wing agenda and mixing his powerful role with his conservative political activism.

Calls for Justice Thomas to Resign
MoveOn activists call for the impeachment of Justice Clarence Thomas outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MoveOn

Ketanji Brown Jackson to Be Sworn in Thursday

Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in as the Supreme Court's newest associate justice on Thursday.

The court announced on Wednesday that Jackson's swearing-in ceremony will take place Thursday at noon. Earlier Thursday, the court is expected to issue two final rulings for its current session before breaking for the summer.

News of Jackson's impending swearing-in ceremony followed an announcement earlier Wednesday from Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who said earlier this year he would retire once the court's current session concludes. Breyer said in a letter addressed to President Joe Biden that his retirement will be in effect at noon on Thursday.

According to a news release from the court, Chief Justice John Roberts "will administer the Constitutional Oath and Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer will administer the Judicial Oath in a ceremony in the West Conference Room before a small gathering of Judge Jackson's family."

"A formal investiture ceremony will take place at a special sitting of the Court in the Courtroom at a later date," the release added.

The Supreme Court said it will stream Jackson's swearing-in ceremony live on its website.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson smiles as Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event celebrating her confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court on the South Lawn of the White House on April 8, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Cherokee Nation 'Disappointed' With Court Ruling

The Cherokee Nation said it is "disappointed" in the Supreme Court ruling in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta.

"With today's decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against legal precedent and the basic principles of congressional authority and Indian law," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement.

The Court ruled that Oklahoma and the federal government can try crimes committed by non-Native Americans against Native Americans on Native land.

Hoskin said the dissent "did not mince words," saying that the Court failed in its duty to honor this nation's promises, defied Congress's statutes, and accepted the 'lawless disregard of the Cherokee's sovereignty.'"

With the Cherokee Nation is "disappointed in this ruling," Hoskin said he will continue to protect Oklahomans on the reservations and across the state.

Hoskins added that the affirmation of the Cherokee reservation and the nation's sovereignty remains unchanged, "despite the Oklahoma governor's lies and attacks."

"Tribal and federal jurisdiction remain unchanged by this decision, but the need to work together on behalf of Oklahomans has never been more clear," he said.

Hoskins noted that the Court did not overturn McGirt v. Oklahoma, which ruled much of Oklahoma remain as Native American lands. The decision said that prosecuting crimes by Native Americans on these lands fall under the jurisdiction of tribal courts and federal judiciary.

"As we enter a chapter of concurrent jurisdiction, tribes will continue to seek partnership and collaboration with state authorities while expanding our own justice systems," he said.

GW Law Refuses Calls to Fire Clarence Thomas

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas will not lose his position as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School (GW Law), the university said this week.

The school commented on its plans to retain Thomas as an adjunct professor in response to a petition calling for support to "help us kick Clarence Thomas out of Foggy Bottom." The student-led petition launched after the Supreme Court released Thomas' concurring opinion in last week's decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

In an email obtained Tuesday by the student newspaper The GW Hatchet, university officials wrote Thomas would remain employed as a professor and added none of his classes would be canceled.

"Because debate is an essential part of our University's academic and educational mission to train future leaders who are prepared to address the world's most urgent problems, the University will neither terminate Justice Thomas' employment nor cancel his class," a portion of the email shared by the paper said.

The university had separately released a statement saying top officials within its health and medical programs were "deeply concerned" about the "implications" of the court's ruling.

The petition calling for Thomas' firing amassed more than 7,300 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. Jon Kay, the student who started the petition, cited Thomas' concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in explaining to The GW Hatchet why he said he believes it is "unacceptable" for Thomas to continue teaching students.

In public remarks delivered hours after the ruling was announced, President Joe Biden noted Thomas had in his concurring opinion "explicitly called to reconsider the right of marriage equality" and "the right of couples to make their choices on contraception."

"This is an extreme and dangerous path the Court is now taking us on," Biden said last week.

Kay also referenced Thomas' opinion in the petition description.

"With the recent Supreme Court decision that has stripped the right to bodily autonomy of people with wombs, and with his explicit intention to further strip the rights of queer people and remove the ability for people to practice safe sex without fear of pregnancy, it is evident that the employment of Clarence Thomas at George Washington University is completely unacceptable," the petition said.

Justice Department Pledges Support to Tribal Partners

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) promised to continue to enforce federal law on Native lands in Oklahoma following the Supreme Court decision in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta.

"Today's decision does not diminish the United States' trust responsibility to our tribal partners," United States Attorneys Christopher J. Wilson, Clinton J. Johnson, and Robert J. Troester said in a statement.

The DOJ said the U.S. Attorney's Offices in the Eastern, Northern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma will "continue to enforce federal law in Indian Country."

"We will also continue to coordinate and cooperate with our state, local and tribal law enforcement partners as well as state and tribal prosecutors to promote public safety and provide justice to all Oklahomans in Indian Country," the statement read.

Jon Stewart Celebrates Court Win for Veterans

Comedian and veteran advocate Jon Stewart is celebrating the latest Supreme Court ruling.

He congratulated U.S. Army veteran Le Roy Torres, the plaintiff in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, on his victory in Court Wednesday.

The Court ruled that Torres can sue the state after he lost his job due to a medical condition he suffered while serving in the Army.

Stewart has joined members of Congress in the fight to protect the rights of veterans who have illnesses from there time serving, including from exposure to burn pits. They promoted a bill to expand health care for veterans exposed to burn pits.

Torres suffered lung damage from burn pits used to get rid of waste on a military base in Iraq. When he returned to the United States, his employers, the Texas Department of Public Safety, refused to accommodate his disability.

He argued that this violated the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which prohibits adverse employment actions against an employee based on the employee's military service.

Stewart had promised to help Torres and other veterans in his fight on Congress and the Courts.

Muscogee Nation Says Ruling Is 'Step Backward'

The Muscogee Nation described the Supreme Court's ruling in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta as "an alarming step backward" in a reaction thread posted Wednesday morning on Twitter.

The ruling "hands jurisdictional responsibility in these cases to the State," which the tribe said had previously "failed to deliver justice for Native victims." The Oklahoma-based tribe said it is "not optimistic that the quality" of Oklahoma's effort "will be any better than before."

The Wednesday ruling "will have a ripple effect throughout Indian Country" as state authority on reservations broadens to "unprecedented levels," the Muscogee Nation said.

The tribe wrote that public safety would be better off if tribal authorities were left to prosecute crimes committed on tribal lands in collaboration with federal authorities.

The tribe concluded its reaction to the ruling by saying it hopes to work with Congress and the federal government "to identify all options available to empower Tribal governments to ensure the safety and prosperity of all who reside, work or visit our reservation."

"This is a pivotal moment for all tribal nations," the Muscogee Nation added.

Justice Stephen Breyer to Retire Thursday

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer will officially retire Thursday after the Supreme Court announces two final rulings ahead of its summer recess.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court shared a letter Breyer had penned to President Joe Biden. The letter said Breyer's retirement would be official at noon on Thursday. The court is expected to share its final two rulings of the current session earlier in the day.

"It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law," Breyer wrote in his letter.

At 83, Breyer is the oldest justice currently serving on the court and one of three associate justices nominated by a Democratic President. Breyer was nominated by former President Bill Clinton in May of 1994, and he began serving on the court later that year.

Breyer in late January announced he intended to retire at the end of the court's current session. In the year after Biden took office, Breyer was encouraged by several Democrats to retire ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, so that Biden would have an opportunity to nominate a justice and get them confirmed while Democrats held a majority in the U.S. Senate.

After Breyer announced his plans to retire, Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill Breyer's seat. She became the first Black woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court once the Senate confirmed her in April.

Court to Rule on 'Remain in Mexico' Policy

The Supreme Court is expected to deliver a ruling on a Trump-era immigration policy Thursday.

In 2018, the Trump administration announced the Migrants Protection Protocol (MPP), a policy that sends certain asylum-seekers from Central and South America arriving at the southern U.S. border to Mexico during their immigration proceedings.

The MPP, also known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, faced several legal challenges after it was enacted, but was upheld by the SCOTUS.

When the Department of Homeland Security (DPH) under the Biden administration ended the policy in June 2021, Texas and Missouri sued. The states argued that terminating the policy violated federal immigration law and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. A federal court agreed with the states and ordered the Biden administration to continue the MPP.

DHS issued a new memorandum in October 2021 explaining its decision to terminate the policy. A district court ruled against DPH and the Fifth Circuit upheld that decision.

The Biden administration appealed that decision. The case before the Supreme Court, Biden v. Texas, will determine whether the Biden administration must continue to enforce the MPP or if the DHS decision to end the policy has legal effect.

Protests Against Remain in Mexico Policy
The Safe Not Stranded Coalition protest the "Remain in Mexico" policy" outside the US Supreme Court on June 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Safe Not Stranded Campaign

Texas Veteran Ruling Explained

The Supreme Court on Wednesday released a ruling allowing a veteran who lost his job with the Texas Department of Public Safety after serving overseas to sue the state.

Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety started when Le Roy Torres, a former state trooper, sued Texas over the state's refusal to move him into a new position after returning from active duty. Torres was part of the Army Reserves for nearly 20 years before he was called to active duty in 2007 and deployed to Iraq. The toxic burn pits he was exposed to while serving overseas made him unable to commence his earlier work as a state trooper when he returned home, and when the Texas Department of Public Safety did not reassign him, Torres pursued legal action.

Texas attempted to get Torres' lawsuit dismissed by arguing it had "sovereign immunity."

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Torres, with Associate Justice Stephen Breyer writing the majority opinion and Associate Justice Elena Kagan writing a concurring opinion. They were joined by Justices John Roberts, Sonia Sotomayor and Brett Kavanaugh.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

The majority ruling cites the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a 1994 federal law that "protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to undertake military service or certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System," according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"By ratifying the Constitution, the States agreed their sovereignty would yield to the national power to raise and support the Armed Forces," Breyer wrote in his majority opinion. "Congress may exercise this power to authorize private damages suits against nonconsenting States, as in USERRA."

Breyer's opinion concluded by saying, "the Court therefore holds that, in joining together to form a Union, the States agreed to sacrifice their sovereign immunity for the good of the common defense."

Kavanaugh Says Ruling Will Protect Natives and Non-Natives

The Supreme Court issued a ruling that will have a major impact on Native American lands across the country.

Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta, a non-Native, was convicted of child neglect in Oklahoma state court. He was sentenced for 35 years. The crime against his stepdaughter, a Native American, was committed within the Cherokee Reservation.

Castro-Huerta argued that the state cannot prosecute crimes committed on Native lands without federal approval, citing the Supreme Court's 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

The state of Oklahoma argued that McGrit did not apply to this case because it involved a Native defendant, whereas Castro-Huerta is non-Native.

The Supreme Court sided with Oklahoma, ruling that states can prosecute non-Native Americans for crimes committed on tribal lands.

"The State's interest in protecting crime victims includes both Indian and non-Indian victims," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the majority opinion.

The dissent argued that this decision "allows Oklahoma to intrude on a feature of tribal sovereignty recognized since the founding."

"Where our predecessors refused to participate in one State's unlawful power grab at the expense of the Cherokee, today's Court accedes to another," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote.

"One can only hope the political branches and future courts will do their duty to honor this Nation's promises even as we have failed today to do our own," he added.

The Cherokee Nation is the country's largest Native American tribe by population with about 400,000 citizens, about 261,000 of whom live in Oklahoma, according to the Associated Press. The Census Bureau reported that Native Americans make up just under 10 percent of Oklahoma's population of nearly 4 million.

Court Expected to Rule on EPA, Immigration Thursday

The Supreme Court will only announce two opinions Wednesday.

Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta and Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety will be the final rulings of the day.

The Court said it will announce all remaining opinions ready during this term on Thursday, June 30, 2022. Those opinions will begin at 10 a.m. ET.

The Supreme Court is expected to deliver rulings on West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency and Biden v. Texas.

These cases will determine the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants and whether the Biden administration must continue to enforce the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy.

Court Ruling Favors Veterans Returning to State Jobs

In the second and final opinion given today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of veterans.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the 5-4 opinion in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, ruling that states cannot invoke sovereign immunity to block lawsuits by veterans who want to reclaim prior jobs with state employers.

"Upon entering the Union, the States implicitly agreed that their sovereignty would yield to federal policy to build and keep a national military," Breyer wrote. "States thus gave up their immunity from congressionally authorized suits pursuant to the 'plan of the Convention,' as part of 'the structure of the original Constitution itself.'"

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.

In his dissent, Thomas said the majority's ruling is resting on "contrived interpretations" of the court's prior decisions.

SCOTUS Rules on Crimes Committed on Native American Land

The Supreme Court rules that the federal government and the states can try crimes committed by non-Native Americans against Native Americans on Native land.

"The Federal Government and the State have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country," the majority opinion read.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued the opinion in the 5-4 decision in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, reversing the Oklahoma state court. Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.