The U.S. Supreme Court is back in action for 2023 and staring down a long list of blockbuster decisions due for release in the weeks ahead.
The justices, who convened Monday for oral arguments for the first time this year, have been scrambling to draft opinions in 27 cases heard since October. The process is going more slowly than usual: not a single opinion has been released in a case heard over the past three months -- record low productivity, according to Dr. Adam Feldman, who tracks the data at EmpiricalSCOTUS.com.
Reasons for the delay are unclear, but it could signal significant internal debate over the scope and outcome in several controversial cases.
"The five most conservative members of the court are interested in a maximalist strategy, basically to move the law as far and as fast as possible," said Kate Shaw, ABC News legal analyst and professor at Cardozo School of Law.
The conservative majority has appeared ready to roll back, if not end, race-based affirmative action in college admissions; limit Voting Rights Act protections against race discrimination in election maps; and, make it easier for non-native families to adopt Native American children, limiting a landmark law protecting tribes for more than 40 years.
The court is also set to rule on whether some American businesses can deny service to LGBTQ people under the First Amendment. On immigration, they'll rule on President Joe Biden's deportation plan and a dispute over Title 42, as migrants continue to flood the southern border. And as 2024 looms, the court will rule on a major election law case over who decides when, where and how we can vote.
"Is it the state legislature alone? Can they violate the state constitution to do so? Who gets to decide that? Those are huge questions," said ABC News legal contributor and former Justice Department attorney Sarah Isgur of the election case, Moore v. Harper.
The high court next month will also take up a fast-tracked challenge to President Biden’s plan to cancel federal student loan debt for up to 40 million Americans under emergency authority invoked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an emotional case, the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, the only American killed in the 2015 Paris terror attacks, will ask the justices to end immunity for social media companies and greenlight their lawsuit against YouTube parent company Google. The family alleges the tech giant aided ISIS when its algorithms recommended and amplified the group's extremist videos; Google denies the claim.
A separate but related case involving Twitter asks the justices to decide whether the platform can be held liable for aiding and abetting terrorism, even if its services were not used directly in connection with a specific terrorist act.
On environmental issues, the high court will rule on the scope of the Clean Water Act protection of wetlands, and a dispute over water from the Colorado River that is pitting states against Native tribes who demand a fair share.
The decisions are all expected before the end of June, when the court traditionally recesses for summer.