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The most influential Supreme Court cases of the past term

  • Sessions v. Dimaya

    Like so many consequential rulings during the term, Sessions v. Dimaya was a split 5-4 decision—but in this case, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court's liberal minority to tip the scales. The majority ruled in favor of a legal immigrant who was set to be deported after pleading guilty to the burglary of an unoccupied home, which authorities labeled a "crime of violence"—the kind of crime that results in deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court ruled that the law was too vague and violated the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

  • Animal Science Products v. Hebei Welcome

    In an era where punitive tariffs and simmering trade tensions dominate the news, the Animal Science Products v. Hebei Welcome ruling loomed particularly large. In response to an American business' antitrust case against a Chinese supplier, which was thrown out in deference to Chinese law, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision. The court came to the conclusion that federal judges must carefully consider, but aren't bound by, a foreign government's position in such a case.

  • Jesner v. Arab Bank

    In Jesner v. Arab Bank, the court ruled that foreign companies can't be sued in U.S. courts for alleged complicity in human rights violations that occurred in other countries. In one of many 5-4 party-line decisions, the court's conservative majority held that the Alien Tort Statute does not authorize lawsuits against corporate defendants. This ruling has major implications in both the business world and the arena of global human rights.

  • Byrd v. United States

    Few cases decided by the court in the past term impact daily life more than Byrd v. United States. In a relatively rare unanimous decision, the court ruled that the police were wrong to search a rental car without consent during a traffic stop. The check of Byrd’s license and rental agreement revealed that he wasn’t listed by the rental company as an authorized driver, was using an alias, and had an outstanding warrant in New Jersey. As the officers weren’t able to contact authorities in New Jersey to seek confirmation that no extradition was required, they searched the rental car finding drugs and a body armour. Nevertheless, the court determined that someone in lawful possession of a rental car has a reasonable expectation of privacy, even when that person is not technically supposed to be driving.

  • Class v. United States

    Class v. United States was a 6-3 decision that saw conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts join the court's liberal wing in bolstering the rights of defendants. The court ruled in favor of a confessed criminal whose attempt to appeal his conviction was denied because he had plead guilty. The Supreme Court determined that a guilty plea in and of itself does not waive the defendant's right to challenge the constitutionality of his conviction.

  • Jennings v. Rodriguez

    In Jennings v. Rodriguez, another controversial immigration-related decision widely hailed as a victory for conservatives, the court ruled in that immigrants are not entitled to periodic bond hearings while in detention fighting deportation. The Supreme Court, whose ruling overturned the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, decided against a detained immigrant whose lawyers argued that the law does not permit such long-term detentions.

  • Carpenter v. United States

    In yet another bitter 5-4 decision, the court ruled in Carpenter v. United States that the Fourth Amendment does in fact require police to get a warrant to search a suspect's so-called "cell site" evidence. This comprises all information gleaned by seizing and searching a person's cell phone records, including the movement and location of the person's phone. Chief Justice John Roberts broke from the court's conservative wing to join the majority and tip the balance in favor of limiting police powers.

  • Janus v. AFSCME

    In yet another 5-4 split along ideological lines, the court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that state agencies are not allowed to force non-consenting public-sector employees to pay union fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining. This was a historic blow to unions, as the precedent the court overturned dated back more than 40 years to 1977.

  • McCoy v. Louisiana

    In McCoy v. Louisiana, the court weighed in on the controversial and timely topic of the death penalty. In a 6-3 ruling, the court determined that the 6th Amendment guarantees the right of a criminal defendant to steer his own defense and maintain his innocence. The court overturned the lower courts that upheld the conviction of a murder defendant in a death penalty case where the defendant's attorney conceded guilt against the wishes of his client.

  • Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute

    When the state of Ohio's Republican leadership aggressively purged large numbers of infrequent voters from its rolls, various civil rights groups filed suit saying the move violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The case was Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, and in yet another bitter 5-4 ruling with massive political implications, the court's conservative bloc formed a majority and ruled that Ohio's roll purges were, in fact, constitutional.

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