Recent Supreme Court Rulings Explained

There’s no doubt that you were personally affected by at least one of the Supreme Court decisions that was handed down in the last few weeks, and there’s no doubt that the scorching heat of an unseasonably warm summer has made those feelings even more oppressive. While the heat doesn’t certain help the decisions made on these hot-topic issues, we here at Palestini Law thought it would be a good idea to throw some cold water on these cases and present to you the outcomes with just the facts:

Affirmative Action: in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court decided that the use of race as an admission policy at American universities is unconstitutional. This decision stands at both private and public universities. The fallout thus far has been tepid: many schools have stated that, while race cannot be part of the application itself, it can come into play into admissions essays. The next big moves will come on the battlefield of race-based scholarships, which many conservative lawmakers are already preparing to attack. It should be noted that this ruling has no effect on Affirmative Action in the workplace… yet.

Student Loans: In another 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan was unconstitutional and the program, which saw an early sign-up period last year, was immediately halted. Student loan payments will restart with most lenders in October. Biden has outlined a new plan that will seek to lower monthly payments and offer some immediate relief to undergraduate borrowers, but the plan won’t fully roll out for another year.

Religious Free Speech: In another 6-3 decision, the Court ruled in favor of a Colorado website designer who felt that creating a website for a gay couple infringed on their religious beliefs. Controversially, the case in question never really existed, but still made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Under the ruling, businesses are free to choose who they do and do not serve on the basis of sexual orientation, a previously protected group. This decision only applies to businesses that produce “artistic or creative” ventures, but one can reasonably expect the next battle will be over exactly what industries fall under that wording.

Federal Elections: In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the previously assumed and recognized authority of state courts to oversee the way states handle federal elections. This decision maintains the current electoral status quo, where a decision otherwise would have allowed state legislatures to pick and choose their own rules for how federal elections are handled. While this decision won’t be the end-all for post-election contest lawsuits -carry on, Kari Lake- it does set a national precedent: the election system as-is works, works fair, and works well.

Stalking: In perhaps the decision that people are talking about least but should be concerned about most, the Supreme Court ruled on a 7-2 line that, for all intents and purposes, stalking is legal. Using another Colorado case in which a man sent threatening and harassing online messages to a local musician for years, the Court decided that any online threats must be “true threats,” meaning some level of malicious intent is expressly stated. In the Colorado case, the defendant went as far as to tell the victim he knew what she drove, where she was, and that he was and would be following her, but, because he never stated what he would do at any point in time, his messages are actually protected free speech.

Whether you agree with the rulings or not, there they are, laid out in as clear of terms as you can get them. It should be noted that the long-term impacts of these rulings cannot be accurately stated - the information is new to everyone, so while some changes may have already started taking place in light of these decisions, there will undoubtedly be more legal challenges to specific portions of these decisions along the way. If you have any legal questions, whether they’re related to these decisions or not, feel free to give us a call anytime here at Palestini Law where, unlike the Supreme Court, we don’t take the summer off - no matter how hot the weather or your charges.


Originally from Toronto, Canada, James Palestini relocated to Arizona where he received his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Studies with a minor in Criminology from Arizona State University. James then attended law school at Phoenix School of Law where he earned a Juris Doctorate degree. While pursuing his doctorate, James interned at a criminal defense firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. James handled a multitude of criminal cases there, including felony, misdemeanor and criminal traffic matters.