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Voting rights and affirmative action top Jackson's Supreme Court docket

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 7/3/2022 Kaelan Deese
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As the Supreme Court comes to recess after a groundbreaking term, newly sworn-in Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will face a litany of major cases when the high court returns in the fall.

Jackson, who made history as the first black woman to ascend to the Supreme Court, was sworn in Thursday afternoon during a small ceremony following the retirement ceremony of Justice Stephen Breyer after his nearly 28-year tenure on the bench. She'll bring a unique perspective to the high court as a former public defender and past vice chairwoman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

When the Supreme Court resumes in October, Jackson's presence will not alter the ideological 6-3 conservative majority, though the court will now have four members who have joined in only the past five years.


Jackson's first term will be marked by several major disputes, including voting rights, affirmative action in college admissions, and finding a balance between religious liberty and gay rights.

Here are some of the cases the court will hear when the term begins in October.

Voting rights

The Supreme Court announced Thursday that it would take up a widely anticipated elections case that could upend state courts’ ability to regulate federal elections.

The high-stakes case, Moore v. Harper, centers on a dispute over North Carolina’s congressional map, which was thrown out by the state Supreme Court after judges found that new redistricting lines enacted by Republican state legislators amounted to unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. While a new map more favorable to Democrats was subsequently imposed by state courts, GOP lawmakers sued, alleging that the state’s high court had no right to overturn the North Carolina General Assembly’s map.

A primary facet of the case will have the high court consider the independent state legislature doctrine, or the idea that would allow state legislatures to have authority over redistricting and the administration of federal elections.

The court's expected decision in the case next year could affect how state courts currently referee federal election rules on matters such as gerrymandered redistricting lines and violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Pending more expansive rulings, the court previously stayed lower court decisions overturning Republican-drawn congressional maps in Alabama and Louisiana amid allegations of racial gerrymandering. A ruling in Moore favorable to Republicans could clear the way for state legislatures to enact redistricting proposals essentially unencumbered by state-level judicial scrutiny.

Affirmative action college admissions

The Supreme Court agreed in January to take up a pair of cases related to race-based admissions policies at two major universities, adding affirmative action to the hot-button issues justices are considering for the fall term.

Justices said they would hear challenges to policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that factor students' race, among several other criteria, to decide who should be granted admission to the universities. The challenges were brought by the conservative nonprofit group Students for Fair Admissions.

Race-based affirmative action has been a common practice to help boost admission chances for disadvantaged racial minorities since the 1960s. In the case against Harvard, petitioners argue the same practices have disproportionately harmed Asian American applicants.

Notably, Jackson said during her Senate confirmation hearings that she will recuse herself from the Harvard portion of the case when pressed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) over her previous position on the Harvard Board of Overseers.

Gay rights and religious liberty

The high court recently agreed to hear the case of Lorie Smith, a website designer and the owner of Colorado-based 303 Creative. Smith is seeking to create websites for weddings, but she cannot because a Colorado law requires her to design and publish websites celebrating same-sex weddings that go against her religious beliefs.

Beyond religious liberty, the case will tackle the issue of free speech.


The court took Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency in January on appeal from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and is positioned to rule in some way on what kinds of bodies of water constitute “waters of the United States” under the federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Michael and Chantell Sackett ran into the WOTUS wall when they began building a home near Idaho’s Priest Lake in 2007. The EPA notified them that wetlands on their property were subject to the agency’s WOTUS regulations, meaning a permit would be required to build on the land.


In a Justice Department brief urging the court not to take the petition in October, the agency asked the justices to be sympathetic to the fact that the Sacketts asked "the Court to impose a categorical limit on the agencies' authority before either the forthcoming rule or the administrative record underlying it has been finalized" and to decline the case.

Sackett will be the first case the court will take up on Oct. 3 for the fall 2022-2023 term.


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Tags: Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elections, Gay rights, Affirmative Action

Original Author: Kaelan Deese

Original Location: Voting rights and affirmative action top Jackson's Supreme Court docket


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