The biggest upcoming Supreme Court cases in 2023

Graphic by Sasha White and Sydney Smith

The Supreme Court made the historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. In 2023, the court will be hearing more cases that will have ramifications for minority rights, democracy and the environment. 

Arellano v. McDonough 

Aldolfo Arellano served in the navy for four years from 1977 to 1981. The current policy for applying for disability benefits after service gives veterans a one year window to apply after being discharged. 

Arellano attempted to apply for disability benefits 30 years after he stopped serving. In Arellano’s case, he is seeking benefits retroactively because his disability rendered him incapable of applying within the deadline. 

The court did not grant Arellano an extension based on “good cause,” upholding the current one year window. According to John Hawbaker, interim director of veteran services at Boise State University, while it would help veterans get aid retroactively, an amendment to the policy itself may be required.

“I’m kind of uniquely positioned to help people from here, help veterans least on campus to not have that same experience,” Hawbaker said. “We bring in a lot of people from other agencies in the same community, so the Idaho Veterans Services Division, we bring in people from the VA itself, the Vet Center and some other organizations that are specifically like their mission is to help veterans putting these claims.”

303 Creative LLC v. Elenis

Lorie Smith is the owner of the graphic design website, 303 Creative LLC. She wants to be able to refuse service to LGBTQ+ customers on the basis of her religion. She also wants to be able to post a message on her site on why she refuses to cater to LGBTQ+ clients. 

Smith has not had an LGBTQ+ customer, but Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act prevents discrimination against protected identities, such as sexuality, by businesses — meaning Smith would not be able to refuse service if she had a queer customer. Smith is bringing the case forward on the basis that this section of the Colorado Constitution is a violation of her First Amendment rights. 

The law also prevents proprietors from posting messages that implies people are not welcome on the basis of a protected identity. Idaho doesn’t have the same protections, but Javier Smith, a board member at the Idaho Community Center, still believes this could have legal ramifications for queer residents in Idaho.

“The ruling party had been seeing a great use for the religious extremists,” Smith said. “And they were great for a while, but now suddenly they fed the beast and now it’s taken over their party. So now they have to pass these laws and get these things in there in order to appease the people that support them.” 

Idaho has been experiencing a wave of anti-LGBT legislation, with multiple bills targeting gender non-conforming individuals being introduced in recent months. According to Smith, the best way to ensure legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community is for congress to pass federal legalization codifying protection against discrimination based on sexuality into law.

Moore v. Harper

North Carolina Republicans drew a redistricting map 99.9% more radical than all other map options, legislating out of all democratic seats except for four. 

[Design of a gavel illustrating upcoming Supreme Court cases.]
Design by Sasha White and Sydney Smith

The map was struck down by the state court. However, local republicans are challenging the court’s ability to strike down policies related to elections on the basis of independent state legislature theory. 

The independent state legislature theory is a reading of the constitution that claims that the state legislature has the sole right to determine the manner of elections. According to Charles Hunt, assistant professor of political science in the School of Public Service at Boise State, this is a very narrow reading of the Constitution.

“It is not widely accepted,” Hunt said. “It’s that strict of an interpretation that courts cannot have any kind of judicial review on questions of elections.”

According to Hunt, this theory would grant state legislatures more power before and after elections take place. At its fullest extent, the independent state legislature theory would allow legislators to make policies about elections that contradict existing laws, without any other government check or judicial review. 

Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College

This case is a combination of cases from Harvard University and University of North Carolina, where plaintiffs accuse Harvard University of North Carolina of having discriminatory admissions practices against Asian American students. 

The case deals with the issue of whether or not colleges have the ability to enforce race conscious practices. Harvard’s race-conscious processes were upheld in the circuit court ruling as acceptable under the previous supreme court rulings on race-conscious admissions practices.

According to Harvard University, this is one of many attacks launched by Edward Blum, a conservative legal strategist, against affirmative action admissions policies. The practice of using race as a limited admissions consideration to create diverse campuses has been upheld in multiple Supreme Court cases, including Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003. 

Sackett v. EPA

This case was originally brought in 2012 when the Sackett brothers attempted to build wetlands on their property. Under current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy, wetlands are within their jurisdiction under the Clean Waters Act. The EPA ordered the Sackett brothers to stop filling in the wetlands. 
This case will determine whether or not wetlands qualify as freshwaters and the ability of the EPA to enforce the Cleans Waters Act. According to the National Wildlife Federation, a ruling in favor of Sackett would severely restrict the EPA’s scope of powers and its ability to enforce environmental regulations.

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