The Supreme Court issued a number of opinions as it ended the term:
The justices invalidated President Joe Biden’s student-loan forgiveness program.
- In a pair of cases, Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown, the justices were asked to determine whether the Biden administration had the authority to cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loans for many borrowers and cancel up to $20,000 in federal loans for recipients of Pell Grants (loans that are available for students from low-income families). Lawsuits challenging the loan forgiveness program were filed by six states with Republican attorneys general and two individuals who were unable to collect the full benefits of the program.
- In Brown, a unanimous Court dismissed the claim brought by the two individuals because they lacked standing to sue in the first place. Justice Samuel Alito wrote that “Brown and Taylor fail to establish that any injury they suffer from not having their loans forgiven is fairly traceable to the Plan.”
- In Nebraska, however, the Court’s conservative bloc ruled that federal law did not grant the administration the power to cancel student debt. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the initiative “created a novel and fundamentally different loan forgiveness program…The question here is not whether something should be done; it is who has the authority to do it.”
- The Court’s three liberal justices dissented. Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the case should have been dismissed because, in her view, the states lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. Regardless, she wrote, federal law “provides the Secretary with broad authority to give emergency relief to student-loan borrowers, including by altering usual discharge rules,” such as canceling student debt.
- Biden called the Court’s decision “wrong,” and vowed to explore new avenues to bring student debt relief to many borrowers, including invoking the powers of other laws such as the Higher Education Act.
The Court ruled that a Colorado website designer may refuse her services to LGBTQ+ customers.
- In 303 Creative v. Elenis, website designer Lorie Smith challenged a Colorado law that prohibits businesses from discriminating against LGBTQ+ people. Smith says that she objects to same-sex marriages due to her Christian religious beliefs.
- Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote on behalf of the six-justice majority, which included all conservative members of the Court. The majority ruled that the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee prohibits a state from “forc[ing] an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance.”
- Once again, the Court’s three liberal justices dissented. They argued that the Constitution “contains no right to refuse service to a disfavored group.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the Court’s ruling “declares that a particular kind of business, though open to the public, has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class…By issuing this new license to discriminate in a case brought by a company that seeks to deny same-sex couples the full and equal enjoyment of its services, the immediate, symbolic effect of the decision is to mark gays and lesbians for second-class status.”
The Court’s October 2022 term has come to an end, but the justices have a number of high-profile cases on their docket for next term.
- The justices just added to their docket a major gun case. In United States v. Rahimi, the Court is tasked with deciding whether a federal law that prohibits individuals subject to a domestic-violence restraining order from possessing firearms violates the Second Amendment.
- The Court also previously agreed to hear a case that could greatly scale back the power of administrative agencies. At issue in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo is whether the justices should overturn a 1984 decision that granted deference to agency decision-making. That case stood for the proposition that courts should defer to the agency’s expertise when Congress has not spoken directly to the issue at question.
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: cafe.com/brief