The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) rendered some important decisions during its 2016-2017 term. Below is a brief summary of a few decisions, according to the Los Angeles Times, that are impactful for both legal practitioners and the average person who does not practice law.
State Grants and Church Schools: SCOTUS ruled in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer that a state’s refusal to send tax-funded grant money to a church-run preschool wanting to rubberize its playground was a violation of the First Amendment and its protection of the free exercise of religion.
Immigration and Presidential Power: The court ruled that a part of the Trump administration’s executive order suspending for 90 days the entry of foreign visitors and refugees of six Muslim-majority nations was allowable. Overturning the lower court’s entire halt of the travel ban, the SCOTUS held that the ban could not be enforced against foreign nationals who had a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S.
Birth Certificates and Same-Sex Couples: Part of an Arkansas law that granted opposite-sex couples, but not same-sex couples, the right to include a spouse’s name on a child’s birth certificate – even in the event of artificial insemination – was struck down. The court found the differing treatment in the case, Pavan v. Smith, violated the equal rights protections of same-sex couples.
High-Level Officials and Constitutional Violations: The SCOTUS threw out a damages suit, Ziglar v. Abbasi, filed against high-level officials for allegedly ordering a roundup of Muslim immigrants in New York after the September 11 attacks. Because they were not authorized by Congress, the justices found, the damages claims could not proceed.
Free Speech and Trademarks: A federal law prohibiting the government from registering trademarks that may disparage groups or people was struck down in Matal v. Tam. A unanimous SCOTUS ruling will likely help other organizations that have been facing pressure to change their name.
Sex Offenders and Social Media: An unusual North Carolina law making it a crime for a registered sex offender to post a message on any website that may be used by minors – including Twitter and Facebook – was struck down as too broad. In Packingham v. North Carolina, the defendant was charged by the state of North Carolina for posting the phrase “God is good” on his Facebook page.
Race and Redistricting: North Carolina was once again ruled against in Cooper v. Harris when the SCOTUS held the state engaged in unconstitutional gerrymandering when it moved tens of thousands of black voters into two congressional districts that already had elected African-American Democrats. The gerrymandering violated the equal protection clause of the constitution.
Stay in the Know
It is important for all of us to keep up with the changing laws across the country. For more information on these important decisions and others by the SCOTUS, click here