Supreme Court might have easy outs on elections, immigration

Feb 10, 2023, 9:05 AM | Updated: 11:01 am
FILE - An electronic sign flashes "Watch for unexpected pedestrians," Dec. 20, 2022, on the highway...
FILE - An electronic sign flashes "Watch for unexpected pedestrians," Dec. 20, 2022, on the highway next to the fenced US-Mexican border just east of downtown El Paso, Texas, next to one of the three bridges that connect the Texas city with the sprawling metropolis of Juarez, Mexico. The Supreme Court soon could find itself with easy ways out of two high-profile cases involving immigration and elections, if indeed the justices are looking to avoid potentially messy, divisive decisions. (AP Photo/Giovanna Dell'Orto, File)
(AP Photo/Giovanna Dell'Orto, File)


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court soon could find itself with easy ways out of two high-profile cases involving immigration and elections, if indeed the justices are looking to avoid potentially messy, divisive decisions.

Off-ramps in those cases could prove attractive in a term with no shortage of big cases that could divide the court’s six conservatives and three liberals. Affirmative action, voting rights, gay rights and student loan forgiveness also are on the agenda for a court that is less than a year removed from overturning nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion and seeing a significant dip in public confidence.

The Biden administration provided one possible way out for the court this week. A legal fight over turning away immigrants at the border because of the coronavirus pandemic, under a provision of federal law known as Title 42, is about to become irrelevant, the administration said in a court filing Tuesday.

That’s because the administration recently announced that the public health emergency that justified the quick expulsion of immigrants will expire on May 11.

“Absent other relevant developments, the end of the public health emergency will (among other consequences) terminate the Title 42 orders and moot this case,” wrote the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar.

The use of Title 42 began during Donald Trump’s presidency and continued after Joe Biden took office. It has been used millions of times to quickly turn away migrants at the border.

Title 42 is at the root of a Supreme Court case that the justices in December put on a fast track, with arguments set for March 1. At issue isn’t the use of Title 42 itself but the question of whether a group of Republican states can insert themselves into a lawsuit over the policy. The states support keeping it in place. If it ends, they say illegal immigration will increase and they argue their interests aren’t represented in the case.

The court could still rule before May 11, though that would be faster than usual. It’s also possible the policy’s end date will be pushed back beyond that date. But if the public health emergency ends as planned and the justices do nothing until then, the case could end without a decision.

When the court agreed to take the case in December, the justices were split. Five justices wanted to wade in and four justices — the court’s three liberals and conservative Neil Gorsuch — said they would not have gotten involved in the first place.

The other case the court could dodge involves a closely watched elections issue and comes out of North Carolina. Last week the state’s top court ordered a new look at the case.

Republicans in North Carolina have asked the justices for a ruling that could leave state legislatures virtually unchecked in making rules for congressional and presidential elections. Such an outcome would for the first time validate what is known as the “independent state legislature” theory, which would dramatically enhance the power of state lawmakers over elections for president and Congress at the expense of state courts.

The justices heard arguments in December in an appeal from Republicans who argued that the state Supreme Court, then with a Democratic majority, improperly tossed the state’s Republican-drawn congressional districts as excessively partisan and adopted a new map that produced a 7-7 split in November’s elections.

Now a new Republican majority on the North Carolina high court has set new arguments for March. It’s unclear how long it might to take to reach a decision.

The justices have been at work on a decision in the North Carolina case for more than two months, but the final word in this and other consequential cases often doesn’t come until late June.

So the court could wait to see what the North Carolina court does before reaching its own conclusions.

Vikram Amar, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, said the court can always find a way out “if it wants to dodge the case,” including if the justices are finding trouble reaching consensus.

But Amar, who filed a brief opposing the Republicans in the case, said it’s important for the court to weigh in.

“The fact that they took the case in the first place tells us they think it needs resolution. Better to resolve this between election cycles,” Amar said.


United States News

In a letter photographed Feb. 13, 2022, Utah professor Taowen Le sent a letter to Utah Gov. Spencer...
Associated Press

Key takeaways from AP’s report on China’s influence in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — China’s global influence campaign has been surprisingly robust and successful in Utah, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. The world’s most powerful communist country and its U.S.-based advocates have spent years building relationships with Utah officials. Legislators in the deeply conservative and religious state have responded by delaying […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Chief Nurse Executive Danielle Maness stands in an empty examination room that was used to p...
Associated Press

New Maryland clinic opening in post-Roe ‘abortion desert’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A new abortion provider is opening this year in Democratic-controlled Maryland — just across from deeply conservative West Virginia, where state lawmakers recently passed a near-total abortion ban. The Women’s Health Center of Maryland in Cumberland, roughly 5 miles (8 kilometers) from West Virginia, will open its doors in June — […]
6 hours ago
FILE - U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., questions Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during a Sena...
Associated Press

Elizabeth Warren running for 3rd US Senate term in 2024

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Monday that she will seek a third term in 2024. Warren, a prominent voice for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and a failed 2020 presidential contender, said she’s running for reelection to end corruption in Washington, make the economy work for the middle […]
6 hours ago
Erik Paul reads a notice from the U.S. Census Bureau reminding his software development firm to com...
Associated Press

Privacy fears stymie government surveyors as responses dive

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Erik Paul didn’t mind answering government questions about where his software development business was located or how many employees it had. But when queries from the U.S. Census Bureau broached the company’s finances, the chief operating officer hesitated. “When you start asking financial questions, I get a little squirrelly,” said Paul, […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Little Rock Police: 2 dead, 5 wounded in separate shootings

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) — Police in Arkansas said two separate shootings Sunday night left seven victims including two fatalities in the state capital. The Little Rock Police Department said in a statement posted on Twitter that emergency services received a report at 9:25 p.m. of a shooting. The two victims sustained non-life-threatening injuries. A […]
6 hours ago
Gwyneth Paltrow carries two beverages as she walks past Terry Sanderson, the man suing her, after t...
Associated Press

Man suing Gwyneth Paltrow to testify in Utah ski crash trial

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — The man suing Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 collision at one of the most upscale ski resorts in North America is expected to take the stand on Monday as the closely watched trial goes into its second week in Utah. Attorneys said Friday that retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, 76, would […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Supreme Court might have easy outs on elections, immigration