A view of the US Supreme Court on June 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
The Supreme Court’s tenure is drawing to a close.
On Thursday morning the judges will give the final opinions of their current session. After a flurry of decisions over the past few days, there are only two cases left to resolve: Two closely watched disputes over voting rights and California’s nonprofit donor disclosure requirements.
In typical years, the court often decides the most prominent cases when the term ends in late June or July. This year, the most notable judgments – including Obamacare and LGBT rights cases – came a few weeks earlier.
The end of the term is about to be one of the Supreme Court’s most transformative terms in memory. Because it was the first after the death of the liberal judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her successor by the conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Despite this change in membership – or perhaps as a result of it – the court’s file was relatively subdued. The lack of key decisions by the court, with its new Conservative 6-3 majority, came amid calls by some Democrats to expand the bank or otherwise overhaul the judiciary.
The Democrats had warned that Barrett’s endorsement for the bank would undo both Obamacare and the court’s reproductive rights precedents, including Roe v. Wade. However, none of these results came about in her first term. The court maintained health legislation and did not address abortion.
However, the next term is expected to be more explosive, as the court has already agreed to hear an abortion case designed to reverse Roe’s safeguards, in addition to a major battle over the second amendment on open carrying laws. The court will start hearing arguments again in October, with decisions expected by around the end of June 2022.
One area where Barrett’s addition to the bank appeared to affect the law was in the Covid-19 regulations for religious groups.
While the court, along with Ginsburg, largely approved the state-imposed restrictions on religious gatherings that were challenged in the Supreme Court, it ended with Barrett’s swearing-in. In November, Barrett was part of a 5-4 majority setting rules in New York that limited attendance at religious gatherings. The three court-appointed Democrats and presiding judge John Roberts, a Conservative, disagreed on the case.
The court could further restrict the scope of the Voting Rights Act
One of the two outstanding decisions concerns a democratic challenge to two voting laws in Arizona. A verdict in this case could extend the scope of the Voting Rights Act, which the court passed in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder watered down, effectively restrict.
Continue reading: Supreme Court justices examine the scope of voting rights protection for minorities
The dispute revolves around Arizona rules that prohibit outside of the county voting and third party ballot collection in what critics call the ballot harvest. The Democratic National Committee challenged the laws in 2016 on the grounds that they disproportionately influenced minority voters, allegedly in violation of Section 2 of the Suffrage Act, which requires elections to be “equally open” for all races.
In the Shelby County case, the Supreme Court ended the long-standing requirement that certain venues with racial oppression of voters receive state approval before new electoral laws are implemented. Suffrage activists and Democrats have stated that Shelby County’s decision made Section 2 of the Suffrage Act even more important as it is one of the few remaining avenues to ensure minorities are not excluded from the polls.
Republicans, including Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, have said they defend sound electoral rules that exist in dozens of states. Brnovich has warned that repealing Arizona laws could undermine public confidence in elections.
Brnovich won at the district court level, but the DNC managed to overturn that judgment in the US 9th Court of Appeals.
Judges say California can require nonprofits to disclose their donors
The other case, which is expected to be resolved on Thursday, concerns a rule in California requiring nonprofit groups to refer certain donors to prosecutors.
Two conservative groups, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Thomas More Legal Center, have challenged the rule for violating their First Amendment rights. While the disclosure forms are supposed to be confidential, the groups cited a case where 1,800 were leaked online, arguing that such glitches resulted in their donors being exposed to harassment, boycott or violence.
California, on the other hand, has argued that disclosure is required for regulating nonprofits. Xavier Becerra, now secretary of health and welfare for the Biden government, wrote in a letter he filed as California’s attorney general that relying on subpoenas or other methods of obtaining donor information “would undermine the state’s ability to effectively serve the public to protect”.
A district court sided with the nonprofits, but that decision was overturned by the 9th district.
The case also contains controversy surrounding Barrett. In April, three Democratic senators called on the former law professor to withdraw from the case, citing Americans for pressure from Prosperity to retrofit Barrett in the Supreme Court. The group said they were spending seven-digit amounts on their Barrett campaign. Barrett has not said she will retire and is expected to cast a vote.