The United States Supreme Court has issued a flurry of high profile decisions in the last week. While this post will not comprehensively address each one, a summary of key points can be found below. Suffice it to say, there’s more to be said.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, et al., 597 U.S. ____ (2022)
On June 24, 2022, in a 5-1-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), holding that the U.S. Constitution does not confer any individual right to an abortion and that the states are free to enact abortion regulations just like any other medical procedure so long as these state regulations can pass minimal constitutional scrutiny (called rational basis review). The majority opinion, written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito and joined by Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, took pains to spell out historical and other deficiencies with Roe and Casey while also spelling out the ways in which the U.S. Constitution’s silence regarding abortion cannot be construed to imply any individual right to obtain termination of a pregnancy at any stage of pregnancy. You can read the full decision here:
Chief Justice John Roberts concurred in judgment only and wrote separately to state he would have upheld the state law at issue in the case, which banned abortions after 15-weeks of pregnancy, and would have overruled Roe and Casey‘s “viability” standard for scrutinizing abortion regulations, but would not have overruled Roe and Casey outright.
The three liberal justices, Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, wrote a joint dissent, reproving the majority for discarding precedent and the rights of women across the United States. The dissent also cautioned that the majority would likely destabilize other substantive due process decisions of the High Court, including decisions recognizing the right to same sex intimacy and marriage.
Wyoming has a so-called “trigger ban,” which could take effect in the next two months, that will reduce legal abortion to only those “necessary to preserve the woman from a serious risk of death or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including any psychological or emotional conditions, or the pregnancy is the result of incest as defined by W.S. 6-4-402 or sexual assault as defined by W.S. 6-2-301.” Read more about Wyoming’s laws here.
New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc., Inc., et al. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. ____ (2022)
On June 23, 2022, in a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court held that the individual right to possess and bear firearms for self-defense provided by the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and recognized in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010) extends to public carrying handguns outside of the home for self-defense purposes. In Bruen, the State of New York had enacted a regulatory scheme wherein individuals needed to make a showing of some “special need” different from the ordinary public to possess and carry handguns outside the home for self-defense. The High Court, through a majority opinion written by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, held that laws restricting or regulating the right of people to carry firearms must be part “of the historical tradition that delimits the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms.” Slip Op. at 10. The Supreme Court summarized the constitutional analysis of firearm regulations as follows:
When the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct. The government must then justify its regulation by demonstrating that it is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. Only then may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s unqualified command.Bruen, 597 U.S. at ____, slip op. at 15
The Court recognized that laws banning the carrying of firearms in certain “sensitive places” like schools and governmental buildings are constitutional. Slip Op. at 21. Further, the Court quietly recalled that the rights secured by the Second Amendment, and by extension/incorporation the Fourteenth Amendment, are “not unlimited.” Slip Op. at 12 (quoting Heller, 554 U.S. at 626). Still, Bruen amounts to a constitutionally massive enlargement of the individual right to keep and bear arms and a correspondingly hefty restriction on state and federal legislative efforts to limit or regulate this right.
I have speculated previously that Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s addition to the Court may have added one more vote to the High Court to hold that laws restricting nonviolent felons from possessing, keeping, or bearing arms are unconstitutional. I suspect, post-Bruen, my prediction should come true soon.
You can read Bruen in full here:
Vega v. Tekoh, 597 U.S. ____ (2022)
I did not think I would include Vega v. Tekoh in this collection of BIG decisions this June. However, social media and questions from friends have made it necessary to address.
First, an important PSA: Vega *did not* overrule Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) or the right to remain silent in the face of police interrogation or a person’s right to refuse to be a witness against him/herself.
On June 23, 2022, in 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court held that a violation of Miranda cannot be the basis for a civil rights lawsuit seeking monetary damages against a police officer under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court reiterated that so-called § 1983 suits must be predicated upon a deprivation of “any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the . . . laws” and that Miranda rules created prophylactic tools to preserve and protect a person’s Fifth Amendment rights, but violation of Miranda alone does not constitute a violation of the Constitution for purposes of stating a § 1983 claim.
So, in short, Vega was a technical decision about civil lawsuits for money following a Miranda violation. It did not concern the substance of Miranda or the related protections flowing from Miranda. You can read the whole decision here: