Supreme Court Set to Deliver Major Decisions on Trump’s Immunity, Jan. 6 Charges, Social Media Laws, and Federal Agency Powers

Featured & Cover Supreme Court Set to Deliver Major Decisions on Trump’s Immunity Jan 6 Charges Social Media Laws and Federal Agency Powers

The Supreme Court is set for a critical week, with a deadline looming by the end of June to release decisions on 14 argued cases this term. These decisions will have significant impacts, particularly a ruling on whether former President Trump has immunity from criminal prosecution.

The upcoming decisions include cases involving Jan. 6 defendants, social media regulation, and the authority of federal agencies. The court will release the next batch of opinions on Wednesday. Here are the five major unresolved decisions as the Supreme Court’s opinion season reaches its peak:

Trump’s Immunity Claims

One of the pivotal questions is whether former presidents have criminal immunity for official acts while in office. Trump has delayed his criminal trial in Washington, D.C., on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, by claiming presidential immunity. Lower courts have rejected this assertion, but the Supreme Court seemed inclined during oral arguments to provide some level of immunity, albeit less than Trump’s lawyers desired. This outcome would send the issue back to a lower court, likely aiding Trump in delaying his trial until after the election, when he hopes to regain the presidency and halt his prosecutions. However, even if the justices entirely reject Trump’s presidential immunity theory, it remains uncertain if his case will go to trial before November. Observers have criticized the justices for not expediting their decision, though the court did schedule Trump’s appeal faster than usual. The court’s final potential days of opinions overlap with the first presidential debate, set for Thursday night.

Jan. 6 Obstruction Charge

Another significant case concerns the Justice Department’s use of an obstruction charge against more than 300 Jan. 6 defendants. Joseph Fischer, one of the rioters, challenged the law used against him, arguing that it was improperly applied given its origin in the Enron accounting scandal. The law criminalizes “corruptly” obstructing, impeding, or interfering with an official government proceeding. The justices appeared wary of the government’s use of the charge during oral arguments. Siding with Fischer could disrupt many rioters’ sentences. While most faced other felony counts, 50 rioters were sentenced solely with the obstruction law, according to U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. A ruling favoring the rioters could also support claims by Trump and his allies that the Justice Department overreached in its prosecutions and undermine the narrative that the Capitol riot was an attack on American democracy.

Biden Social Media Contacts

The Supreme Court is also set to rule on whether the Biden administration violated the Constitution by coercing social media companies to remove false or misleading content. This case, challenging the administration’s efforts to curb misinformation after the 2020 election and during the COVID-19 pandemic, could reshape how the federal government interacts with social media platforms. Two Republican attorneys general argue that federal officials violated the First Amendment by coercing social media companies to remove content deemed dangerous. The Justice Department warned that siding with the states could hinder their ability to address public concerns, prevent national security threats, and relay information. However, during oral arguments, the high court seemed to lean towards supporting the government.

Florida, Texas Social Media Laws

Another crucial issue involves laws in Texas and Florida regulating social media bans, raising questions about whether the government can dictate how social media platforms moderate content without violating the First Amendment. These laws aim to prevent social media platforms from banning users for their political views, even if they violated platform policies. Critics, including tech industry groups, argue that the laws infringe on private companies’ First Amendment right to editorial discretion. If upheld, the laws would significantly alter online speech by eliminating unique content moderation decisions, potentially stifling competition between smaller companies and increasing the prevalence of hateful, inappropriate, or incorrect content due to hesitance in moderating material.

Federal Agency Power

The Supreme Court is also poised to reconsider a 40-year-old precedent known as Chevron deference, which requires courts to defer to a federal agency’s reasonable interpretation of ambiguous laws. This doctrine has been invoked to uphold various regulations, from those on fishing boats to cryptocurrency to environmental protections. Antiregulatory interests hope the conservative-leaning court will use two current cases to limit the executive branch’s power by overturning Chevron. These cases have drawn attention from advocacy groups supporting Chevron, who are anxious about the potential questioning of the legal basis for their favored government regulations.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming decisions will have far-reaching implications on presidential immunity, the prosecution of Jan. 6 defendants, social media regulation, and the power of federal agencies. As the court’s opinion season reaches its peak, these cases will shape the legal landscape in significant ways.

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