The Supreme Court is almost done for the summer, and the justices announced some of the last decisions of the term on Monday. Daily Intelligencer already wrote about the outcome of the case on Oklahoma’s use of the lethal-injection drug midazolam (upheld); here’s a roundup of what else happened.
EPA Regulation of Power-Plant Emissions Blocked
The Supreme Court decided 5–4 that the Environmental Protection Administration regulations on toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants will have to be rewritten after a cost-benefit analysis has been written. Supporters of the regulations seem confident that the EPA will be able to quickly rework the rules. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion. Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent that the majority was “micromanaging” the EPA. Twenty-three states joined industry groups in the case against the EPA. “EPA is disappointed that the court did not uphold the rule,” a spokesperson said in a statement, “but this rule was issued more than three years ago, investments have been made and most plants are already well on their way to compliance.”
Supreme Court Says Effort to Stop Gerrymandering Is Legal
Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission was saved today with a 5–4 Supreme Court ruling. Arizona voters voted to take redistricting away from the state legislature in 2000, in an effort to make redistricting less partisan. Similar setups exist in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, and Washington. The state legislature sued the commission, saying that it violated the Constitution’s stipulation that “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion. “Arizona voters sought to restore the core principle that voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,” she said. “The elections clause, we affirm, does not hinder that endeavor.” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his dissent, “No matter how concerned we may be about partisanship in redistricting, this court has no power to gerrymander the Constitution.” He ended by noting if Arizona voters wanted to change redistricting, they should have just amended the Constitution.
Next Term, Get Ready to Hear About Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin Again
In 2013, the Supreme Court neither ended nor endorsed affirmative action in its consideration of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The case was sent back to a lower federal appeals court, which was tasked with reexamining the case and deciding if the University of Texas at Austin had a compelling governmental interest in being race-conscious when admitting students, after the institution has already admitted all of the top students in schools around the state in its race-neutral “Top Ten” program. According to the Austin American-Statesman, about three fourths of University of Texas freshmen are admitted in the “Top Ten” program.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided last summer that the UT program satisfied “strict scrutiny,” and that the court was “persuaded that to deny UT Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience.” The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, a white student who was not admitted to the University of Texas at Austin and sued the school for discrimination, appealed to the Supreme Court once again, and the justices have agreed to hear it this fall. “I am very grateful that the Supreme Court will once again hear my case,” Fisher said in a statement, according to the American-Statesman. “I hope the justices will rule that UT is not allowed to treat undergraduate applicants differently because of their race or ethnicity.” Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself; she worked on the case before becoming a Supreme Court justice, while serving as Solicitor General.
Nine Texas Abortion Clinics Can Stay Open — for Now
The Supreme Court blocked part of a law in Texas that would have closed several abortion clinics only two years after another part of the law closed many of the state’s 41 abortion clinics. The Supreme Court’s issued a stay on a federal appeals court’s decision that would have closed nine abortion clinics while the High Court decides whether to consider an appeal.
The Texas law in question — the same one that Wendy Davis filibustered — requires abortion clinics to have access to a hospital and resources befitting surgical centers. If the law is upheld, there will be no abortion clinics left west of San Antonio, according to the abortion centers challenging the law.
This post has been updated.