Here is some of the legal news making the headlines this week:

The Arizona Supreme Court upheld a 19th-century law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.

  • In a 4-2 ruling, Arizona’s highest court revived an 1864 law (enacted nearly 50 years before Arizona became a state) that makes it a felony punishable by 2-5 years in prison for anyone to perform an abortion or help a woman obtain one. The law includes an exception for an abortion carried out to save the woman’s life. In 2022, Arizona passed a 15-week abortion ban, but the 1864 law remained on the books.
  • The court wrote in its opinion that the ruling stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which held, “The [U.S.] Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.” In the current case, the Arizona court wrote, “Absent the federal constitutional abortion right, and because [the 2022 law] does not independently authorize abortion, there is no provision in federal or state law prohibiting [the 1864 ban, which] is now enforceable.”
  • The decision is expected to be appealed. Meanwhile, reproductive rights advocates are gathering signatures to put a constitutional amendment on abortion on the state’s ballot in November. 

In a brief filed on Monday, special counsel Jack Smith urged the Supreme Court to reject former President Donald Trump’s claim that former presidents are absolutely immune from criminal prosecution for actions taken while president.

  • Trump raised the immunity defense in his effort to dismiss Smith’s election subversion prosecution of Trump in the District of Columbia. Thus far, the district and appellate courts have ruled against Trump. The D.C. Circuit Court panel unanimously held, “The Executive Branch’s interest in upholding Presidential elections and vesting power in a new President under the Constitution and the voters’ interest in democratically selecting their President…compel the conclusion that former President Trump is not immune from prosecution under the Indictment.”
  • In his brief, Trump argued that the specter of criminal prosecution would chill a president’s ability to carry out the duties of the office and “incapacitate every future President.” Trump continued, “The threat of future prosecution and imprisonment would become a political cudgel to influence the most sensitive and controversial Presidential decisions, taking away the strength, authority, and decisiveness of the Presidency.”
  • Smith has taken the opposite stance, writing, “The President’s constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed does not entail a general right to violate them.” Smith also rebuked Trump’s claim that bringing criminal charges against a former president is unprecedented, arguing that “The absence of any prosecutions of former Presidents until this case does not reflect the understanding that Presidents are immune from criminal liability; it instead underscores the unprecedented nature of petitioner’s alleged conduct.”
  • The Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on the matter on April 25.

Week In a Nutshell is part of the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter. 

Sign up free to receive the CAFE Brief in your inbox every Friday: