2023-2024 Supreme Court Term Preview
Moore v. United States
Oral argument on December 5th
In Moore v. United States, the Court could throw decades of established tax law into chaos in a brazen attempt to shield centi-millionaires and billionaires—and the corporations they own—from taxation. While the case is nominally about a one-time “transition” tax on offshore corporate profits enacted as part of the 2017 Trump-GOP tax cuts, conservatives hope to use the case as an avenue to preempt taxation of the ultra-wealthy’s largest source of income: growth in their investments, whether they sell assets or simply borrow against them. The plaintiffs in Moore claim that under the 16th Amendment, Congress cannot tax “unrealized gains” (for example, gains from investments that haven’t been sold yet). But more than a dozen long-standing taxes, potentially worth trillions of dollars, do just that in order to address ways that sophisticated investors and big corporations can use accounting and investment maneuvers to disguise income as non-taxable. Many of the billionaires at the center of the Court’s current ethics scandals stand to profit enormously from the case, both by preempting future taxes and from the windfall that the corporations they control could receive. (Meanwhile, many of the Justices would also see their own personal net worths rise by siding with the Moores.) News outlets have documented the extensive quid that is billionaires buying the Supreme Court’s conservative Justices. Moore could well be the pro quo.
Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo
(Administrative Law, Environment & Climate)
Oral argument date TBD
In Loper Bright, the Court could upend decades of administrative law, jeopardizing protections for our health and safety. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a rule that required fishing companies to pay for third party observers on certain boats. The fishing companies sued the agency, arguing that NMFS did not have the power to implement this rule. Though the dispute at the center of this case may seem to be about fisheries, the actual dispute is over the Chevron Doctrine.
The Chevron Doctrine is at the core of administrative law and requires courts to defer to agency expertise. To better explain how Chevron works, let’s take a brief look at the FDA: The FDA is tasked with determining whether a new medication is safe and effective. The agency is staffed with thousands of experts – from public health specialists to research scientists to physicians – all of whom work together to make this complex decision. Under Chevron, these experts get to decide what constitutes “safe” and “effective” when it comes to approving new drugs. If the Court overturns Chevron, individual judges could have the power to ignore experts in these agencies, transforming the way complex policy decisions are made in the U.S.
United States v. Rahimi
(Gun Safety, Second Amendment)
Oral argument on November 7
In Rahimi, the Supreme Court will determine whether a federal law which bans individuals with domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns is constitutional. In 2022, the Court ruled in Bruen that gun restrictions must be rooted in the history and tradition of the United States in order to be constitutional. Mr. Rahimi, who was sent to jail for possessing a gun while subject to a domestic violence restraining order, argues that since there were no domestic violence restrictions on gun ownership during the Founders’ era, the restriction is unconstitutional. These types of regulations on gun ownership are critical for protecting people who have experienced domestic violence and face threats of further violence, as well as for providing them with the opportunity to protect themselves without seeking criminal prosecution. The repercussions of a Supreme Court ruling in Mr. Rahimi’s favor cannot be overstated, as it could also significantly widen the scope of Second Amendment protections in this country.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Association of America
Oral argument on October 3 (read AFJ’s statement following oral argument)
In response to the 2008 financial crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which authorized the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as an independent agency within the Federal Reserve. The CFPB was created as a means to protect consumers from predatory lending practices. Much of the CFPB’s work focuses on helping consumers most vulnerable to the excesses of misconduct by the financial industry, such as Americans who struggle to make ends meet and marginalized communities. The CFPB adopted a rule that prohibited lenders from further attempting to withdraw funds from borrowers’ bank accounts after two consecutive attempts failed for lack of funds. A group of lenders sued the CFPB over that rule, arguing that the agency’s funding scheme was unconstitutional because the CFPB receives funding directly from the Federal Reserve instead of receiving money allocated to it each year by Congress. Depending on the outcome of this case, this decision could dismantle the CFPB, upending CFPB regulations that borrowers and consumers depend on to protect them from wrongdoing in the financial services industry.
Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP
(Democracy & Voting Rights)
Oral argument on October 11
Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP concerns one of the greatest threats to democracy and voting rights: racial gerrymandering. Historically, racial gerrymandering has been used to dilute the voting power of minority groups, preventing them from using their political power to elect their preferred candidates. Last year, a federal court in South Carolina found that Republican legislators engaged in racial gerrymandering in the creation of their new electoral maps. On appeal, the Republican legislators argue that they actually engaged in partisan gerrymandering, not in racial gerrymandering. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that, while racial gerrymandering is barred, partisan gerrymandering is not reviewable by federal courts. Partisanship and race can be very closely related; 90% of Black voters in South Carolina voted Democratic in the last presidential election. Therefore, if the South Carolina map is upheld, legislators engaged in racial gerrymandering could simply claim they are engaged in partisan gerrymandering – and those gerrymandered maps will be upheld. The outcome of Alexander could significantly impact the ability of voters of color to enjoy true political representation.
Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer
(Health & Disability Rights)
Oral argument on October 4
In Acheson Hotels v. Laufer, the plaintiff sued Acheson Hotels after learning that the Hotel’s website failed to include legally required accessibility information. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires hotels to disclose sufficient details about their accessibility on their website. Acheson Hotels argues that Ms. Laufer lacks standing (the capacity of a party to bring suit in court) because she had no plans to visit the hotel and therefore suffered no injury. There are 61 million disabled people in the U.S and the outcome of this case could severely affect the rights of those with disabilities to redress violations of the ADA. Absent federal monitoring and enforcement, people like Ms. Laufer fill a critical role in ensuring businesses nationwide comply with ADA’s accessibility requirements.
Muldrow v. City of St. Louis
(Labor & Economic Justice)
Oral argument date TBD
In Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, Missouri, a police sergeant sued the City of St. Louis for employment discrimination, claiming she was transferred to a different department because of her sex. The Court will decide whether this type of transfer, which did not substantially impact the plaintiff’s job duties, benefits or salary, constitutes the type of harm that can be redressed under Title VII. A ruling in Muldrow’s favor would make it easier for employees facing discrimination to bring legal claims, but on the other hand, employees could also more easily bring reverse-discrimination claims against diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. For example, employees who are men could more easily sue over women’s mentorship programs.