Five Impactful Supreme Court Decisions Enacted This July

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It’s impossible to keep up with all the proceedings lately, especially when news sources can’t seem to agree on what has happened. Especially with legal proceedings, it seems like some journalists get lost in translation reading the difficult language and misrepresent the actual events. Often, the actual transcript or document is not included for you to check the facts yourself. Sources like Newtrals, who provide source-checked, unbiased short articles are becoming popular. In the following are brief descriptions of some landmark cases that were ruled upon in July 2020. The official cases are linked in the titles. 

#1. Chiafalo v. Washington

In this case, the discrepancy between the states and the electoral college. This case was brought to the supreme court following the last presidential election cycle. The states have tried to punish electors in the electoral college for breaking their pledge to uphold the opinions of their voters when casting their votes.  In this case there were a select few, a total of seven electors, who voted for a candidate who was not the victor in their state’s popular election. These electors cast votes for ‘faithless” candidates or people who were not possible for election such as other politicians. The plan was to deprive the then-President elect Trump from acquiring the necessary electors to win the nomination. This plan failed. The state attempted to punish the electors via fine or removal. The electors elected to appeal these punishments and they were eventually brought to the attention of the supreme court. The court decided on July 6th, 2020 that the states have the right to punish faithless electors. Therefore, fines and/or removal from the electoral college can be enforced at the state’s discretion. In the future this will make the possibility of withholding the necessary votes from a candidate by casting “faithless” votes less likely.

#2. Barr vs. American Assn. of Political Consultants Inc. 

Another decision made on July 6th, 2020 was a free speech case regarding robocalls. There have been two previous rulings: the telephone consumer protection act of 1991 and the 2015 amendment allowing an exception to be made for collection of debts owed to or guaranteed by the United States. The telephone consumer protection act of 1991 aimed to limit the volume of robocalls made to private citizens from all types of robocalls outlining strong limitations to robocalling. Then in 2015 the Government-debt exemption was amended to the act. Following this, four organizations that take part in the political system claimed a violation of the first amendment. The action stated they were unfairly persecuted as political speech under the first amendment and moved for the 1991 act to be dissolved. After reviewing the two acts, the current supreme court ruled that the 2015 act was unfairly prioritizing government debt collection versus other forms of robocalls due to the monetary motivation. The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection act is still in effect

#3. Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru 

This is a first amendment case that is the result of multiple cases going through the appeals courts under similar circumstances. In these cases, the main dispute was whether or not teachers at religious schools fell under minister exemption. Minister exemption is a freedom given to religious organizations the ability to control the religious leaders that consult their masses without scrutiny. The religious organizations that relieved these teachers of their positions claimed they could do so without scrutiny because of minister exemption. Teachers in secular schools are entitled to certain rights and discriminations claims if they are treated unfairly. Therefore, these claims were appealed and brought to the attention of the court. There was great deliberation and a preponderance of information brought before the court in favor of both claims. The final opinion of the court delivered on July 8th, 2020 was in favor of granting religious organizations minister exemption to teachers employed with religious duties. These organizations are granted protection in disputes between the teachers and the schools under the first amendment. 

#4. Trump v. Vance 

This case was ruled upon regarding a subpoena for financial documents of the current president from a state criminal court. The New York court system issued a subpoena for the documents of President Trump’s personal accounting firm as well as his personal and business records. The President sued stating that he has absolute immunity under article II and the supremacy clause. The case was brought before multiple lower courts that mainly upheld the subpoena regardless of article II and the supremacy clause. On July 9th, 2020, the case was decided on by the Supreme Court. It was ruled that article II and the supremacy clause do not nullify all state criminal subpoenas made towards any currently serving president. The issue was granted “certiorari” which means the case will go to a lower court for further review allowing those courts to decide how to proceed following this ruling. 

#5. Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP

The title of these cases is a bit misleading. This case is the culmination of a few legal proceedings all coming together. In the course of just a few days three committees from the United States House of Representatives submitted four subpoenas that each had broad, varied goals. Despite their differing aims, they also required an overlapping array of president Trump and his family’s financial documents. These four subpoenas were addressed by the president and his family in two lawsuits naming the financial identities compelled to relinquish documents in the subpoenas. The financial entities named are not taking a stance in the lawsuits and the house committees that filed the subpoenas are instead representing the position. The cases were stayed pending a decision on July 9th, 2020. The subpoenas were granted “certiorari” so they can be further reviewed by a lower court.

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