Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as SCOTUS issues major rulings on climate and immigration

By Maureen Chowdhury, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 6:02 p.m. ET, June 30, 2022
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11:28 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

White House calls Supreme Court decision on EPA "devastating"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

A White House spokesperson calls the Supreme Court decision on West Virginia v. EPA "another devastating decision from the Court that aims to take our country backwards."

Read the full statement from the White House official:

“This is another devastating decision from the Court that aims to take our country backwards. While the Court’s decision risks damaging our ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, President Biden will not relent in using the authorities that he has under law to protect public health and tackle the climate change crisis. Our lawyers will study the ruling carefully and we will find ways to move forward under federal law.  At the same time, Congress must also act to accelerate America’s path to a clean, healthy, secure energy future.”
11:26 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Key things to know about the "Remain in Mexico" immigration policy that SCOTUS will allow Biden to end

From CNN's Tierney Sneed and Priscilla Alvarez

Migrants live in tents in Tijuana, Mexico, in April.
Migrants live in tents in Tijuana, Mexico, in April. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave President Biden the green light to end the controversial "Remain in Mexico" immigration policy that originated under the Trump administration.

Since the beginning of his administration, Biden has tried to wind down the policy, which sends certain non-Mexican citizens who entered the US back to Mexico — instead of detaining them or releasing them into the United States — while their immigration proceedings played out.

The ruling was 5-4, and states that immigration law gives the federal government the discretion to end the program, formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols.

Here's what you need to know about the Supreme Court's decision and the immigration policy it is allowing Biden end:

  • The program was first implemented in 2019 under then-President Donald Trump.
  • Biden campaigned on ending the policy and has said it "goes against everything we stand for as a nation of immigrants." The policy has been criticized by immigrant-rights advocates, who argue that it's inhumane and that it exposes asylum seekers with credible claims to dangerous and squalid conditions in Mexico.
  • No other administration prior to Trump had embraced such an approach toward non-Mexican asylum-seekers that required them to stay in Mexico over the course of their immigration court proceedings in the United States.
  • Biden has grappled with a growing number of border crossings over the course of his administration amid mass migration in the Western hemisphere. Since October, border authorities have encountered migrants more than a million times along the US-Mexico border, though many have been turned away under a separate pandemic-emergency rule. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), though, has maintained that the "Remain in Mexico" policy comes at a steep human cost and is not an effective use of resources.
  • Biden first sought to suspend the program on the day he took office in 2021, prompting the red states' lawsuit. That June, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memo formally ending the policy — but a federal judge in Texas blocked that move in August. The Supreme Court days later refused to put that ruling on hold while the appeal played out, effectively requiring Biden to revive "Remain in Mexico."
  • The policy restarted last December. More than 5,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico under the program since then, according to the International Organization for Migration. Nicaragua, Cuba, Colombia, and Venezuela are among the nationalities enrolled in the program.

Read more here.

11:24 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

SCOTUS asks lower courts to reconsider disputes on abortion and Second Amendment

From CNN's Tierney Sneed and Ariane de Vogue

The Supreme Court on Thursday sent three abortion-related cases back down to lower courts to be reconsidered under the justices' new ruling ending federal protections for the procedure.

The move was not a surprise and reflects the dramatically changed legal landscape around abortion after the new Supreme Court ruling, issued last week in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. It is expected that the states that had asked the Supreme Court to review court orders blocking their restrictive abortion laws will soon be allowed to carry out those measures.

The court, having decided the term’s big Second Amendment case invalidating a New York law that restricted where people could carry a concealed weapon in public, also sent several cases they had been sitting on back to the lower courts for further deliberations.  

The lower court will look at Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion in the New York case that changed the way judges should analyze gun laws, to reconsider the disputes they had previously decided.  

Two of the abortion cases being sent to lower courts concerned measures that states had passed prohibiting abortions sought solely because the fetus had been diagnosed with certain genetic abnormalities. After last week’s Dobbs' ruling, one of the states, Arkansas, enacted an outright ban on abortion. 

In Arizona, the other state seeking to revive a ban on abortions sought because of genetic abnormalities, state Attorney General Mark Brnovich has vowed to revive a 1901 law criminalizing abortion, and some clinics have stopped offering the procedure. 

In the meantime, the Supreme Court said Friday that, in Arizona's genetic abnormalities case, a court order halting the law had been lifted. 

The third abortion case sent back to lower courts concerned an Indiana parental notification law. Like Arizona, abortion remains legal in Indiana, though the state’s Republican leaders are planning to reconvene the legislature later this summer to consider additional anti-abortion measures. 

Due to lower court rulings citing the now-defunct Supreme Court precedents favoring abortion rights, Indiana has not been able to implement a 2017 law, which requires that minors who have successfully secured permission from a judge to obtain an abortion notify their parents before the abortion is performed. 

11:22 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

EPA says it's "committed to using the full scope of its existing authorities to protect public health"

From CNN staff

Following the Supreme Court's decision to curb the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to broadly regulate carbon emissions from existing power plant, the agency released a statement reacting to the opinion.

“We are reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision. EPA is committed to using the full scope of its existing authorities to protect public health and significantly reduce environmental pollution, which is in alignment with the growing clean energy economy," an EPA spokesperson said in a statement.

The courts decision represents a major defeat for the Biden administration's attempts to slash emissions at a moment when scientists are sounding alarms about the accelerating pace of global warming.

11:15 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Here's what some justices wrote in their decision to allow Biden to end "Remain in Mexico" policy

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave President Biden the green light to end the controversial "Remain in Mexico" immigration policy that originated under the Trump administration. 

The case now goes back down to a lower court for additional proceedings around Biden’s latest attempt to end the program. A hold on Biden’s bid to end the program remains in place, but Thursday’s ruling suggested that that order should be lifted shortly.  

The Supreme Court said 5-4 that immigration law gives the federal government the discretion to end the program, which sends certain non-Mexican citizens who entered the US back to Mexico – instead of detaining them or releasing them into the United States – while their immigration proceedings played out. 

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that “Congress conferred contiguous-territory return authority in expressly discretionary terms.” 

The Supreme Court’s decision is a major victory for the Biden immigration agenda as the administration has suffered several losses in lower courts in its efforts to reverse Trump’s hardline immigration policies.  

Several of the red states that challenged the termination of Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) have also brought lawsuits challenging other attempts by Biden to pivot away from his predecessor’s aggressive approach and those cases are still working their way through lower courts. 

Roberts was joined by the liberal justices and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, with Kavanaugh also filing a concurring opinion. Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett wrote dissenting opinions joined by the other dissenters. 

With its ruling, the court said that lower courts must now consider whether the government complied with administrative law with the more recent attempt that the Biden administration made – with a memo rolled out in October – to end the Trump-era policy. 

Biden’s bid to terminate the program had been challenged in court by a coalition of red states led by Texas that argued that ending it ran afoul of immigration law. They also argued that administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act — which requires that agencies take certain procedural steps when implementing policy — in how it went about unwinding the program, formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols.    

The lower courts, which refused to consider the October memo, will now examine whether that latest attempt to end the program complied with the Administrative Procedure Act. 

Roberts wrote that the government’s authority to release some migrants on parole, rather than detain them or send them back to Mexico is not “unbounded,” while noting immigration law’s requirement that parole be used “on a case-by-case basis.” 

“And under the APA, DHS’s exercise of discretion within that statutory framework must be reasonable and reasonably explained,” Roberts said.  

His opinion also said that the lower court erred in blocking Biden’s termination of the program, citing Thursday a court ruling from earlier this term that said lower court could not grant class-wide orders that barred immigration officials from carrying out certain policies. 

11:25 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Here's why the Supreme Court ruling on the EPA is so devastating for the climate crisis

From CNN's Angela Fritz

Emissions rise from the Kentucky Utilities Co. Ghent generating station in Ghent, Kentucky, in April 2021.
Emissions rise from the Kentucky Utilities Co. Ghent generating station in Ghent, Kentucky, in April 2021. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

At the heart of Thursday's Supreme Court ruling was a question over the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate planet-warming emissions from power plants, which are a huge contributor to the climate crisis.

Around 25% of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions around the globe and in the US come from generating electricity, according to the EPA. And coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, powers about 20% of US electricity.

Emissions from power production rose last year for the first time since 2014, an increase that was mainly driven by coal use.

The surge in fossil fuel use is worrying not only for Biden’s climate goals – the President in his first months in office pledged to slash US emissions in half by 2030 – but also the planet.

Scientists have become increasingly urgent in their warnings: to make headway on the climate crisis, emissions not only need to be reduced going forward, but the world needs to develop ways to also remove the greenhouse gas that’s been pumped into the atmosphere in decades past.

In a landmark report last year, scientists reported that the planet is warming faster than they had previously imagined it would. As it does, they said, extreme weather will become more deadly; water crises will develop and worsen; food insecurity will grow and disease will spread.

To avoid the worst consequences, the world must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (it’s already passed 1.1 degrees), and the only way to do that is to keep the vast majority of the Earth’s remaining fossil fuel stores in the ground.

11:16 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Supreme Court agrees to hear redistricting case that could have major implications for voting rights 

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a dispute over redistricting in North Carolina, in a case that could have major implications for voting rights and fundamentally change the landscape of election law.  

Central to the case is the so called “Independent State Legislature” theory — a legal doctrine pushed by former President Donald Trump and his supporters during frantic efforts to call into question 2020 election results. At issue is the power of state courts to reject rules adopted by a state legislature in a dispute over federal elections.  

Critics say, if it is blessed by the Supreme Court, the theory could lead to rogue legislators unchecked by state courts.  

The doctrine relies on the elections clause of the Constitution that vests "state legislatures" with control over the "Times, Places and Manner" of holding elections.  

Under the theory being pushed by some conservatives, the word "legislature" excludes a role for state courts. 

Traditionally, according to Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California's Irvine School of Law, legislatures have set ground rules for conducting an election, but those rules are also subject to state processes that include a role for election administrators and state courts to interpret the meaning of state election rules.

“If the Supreme Court adopts this theory, voters would have their rights further eroded by a neutering of state courts’ ability to be more protective of voters than federal courts,” he said. 

Some background: The appeal at issue was brought to the high court by Republicans in North Carolina who are challenging congressional maps drawn by state judges that favor democrats.  

The dispute began after North Carolina gained a seat in the House of Representatives, and the North Carolina General Assembly twice adopted new congressional districting maps. On both occasions, however, the state's Supreme Court rejected the maps and finally ordered that the 2022 election go forward with maps drawn by judges. The court held that the General Assembly’s maps amounted to partisan gerrymanders and violated provisions of the state constitution.  

Lawyers for republican state House Speaker Timothy Moore and state Senate President Pro Tempore Philip Berger asked the Supreme Court to step in to block the lower court ruling on an emergency basis back in March.    

Back then, the court declined to step in over the dissent of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Alito, writing for his colleagues, said that the case presented an “exceptionally important and recurring question of constitutional law.”

“If the language of the Electors Clause is taken seriously, there must be some limit on the authority of state courts to countermand actions taken by state legislatures when they are prescribing rules for the conduct of federal elections,” Alito wrote. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh concurred with his conservative colleagues that the court should eventually take up the issue of the role of state courts. But he joined the majority in the case at hand, allowing the maps to be used for upcoming election procedures.  

"This Court has repeatedly ruled that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election laws in the period close to an election," Kavanaugh wrote. 

After that defeat on the emergency application, David Thompson of Cooper & Kirk, a lawyer representing the North Carolina Republicans, came back to the court asking the justices to take up the appeal and decide the issue in time to impact future elections.

In court papers, he acknowledged that the 2022 congressional elections in North Carolina will take place under the current maps but said that the court should “intervene now to resolve this critically important and recurring question and ensure that congressional elections in 2024 and thereafter are conducted in a manner consistent with our Constitution’s express design.”   

He argued that the elections clause “creates the power to regulate the times, places and manner of federal elections and then vests that power in the ‘legislature’ of each State.”

“It does not leave the States free to limit the legislature’s constitutionally vested power, or place it elsewhere in the State’s governmental machinery, as a matter of state law,” he said. 

10:57 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

Supreme Court ruling on EPA challenges future of US climate action

From CNN’s Ella Nilsen

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on curbing the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to fight climate change calls into question the future of federal-level climate action in the US, and puts even more pressure on Congress to act to reduce planet-warming emissions.

But broad action from Congress is unlikely. Democrats in Congress have been embroiled in difficult negotiations on a climate and clean energy bill with their main holdout, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia for months, with no clear end in sight.

It’s unclear whether those negotiations on a package of clean energy tax credits and other emissions-cutting programs will yield a result.

And without both major investments on clean energy and strong regulations cutting emissions by the EPA, Biden has very little hope of meeting his climate goal, independent analysis has showed.

In a statement Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday's Supreme Court decision makes it "all the more imperative that Democrats soon pass meaningful legislation to address the climate crisis."

10:56 a.m. ET, June 30, 2022

"I cannot think of many things more frightening," Kagan says on curbing EPA's ability to fight climate change

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

Steam billows from a coal-fired power plant in Craig, Colorado, in 2021.
Steam billows from a coal-fired power plant in Craig, Colorado, in 2021. (Rick Bowmer/AP/File)

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the dissenters, sounded the alarm about global warming after the Supreme Court issued a ruling curbing the EPA’s ability to broadly regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants.  

“Today, the Court strips the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time,’” she wrote. 

She criticized the majority’s holding that Congress did not authorize the agency to act. “That is just what Congress did when it broadly authorized” the agency to select the best system of emission reduction for power plants, she said. 

“The Clean Power Plan falls within EPA’s wheelhouse, and it fits perfectly,” she said. 

“The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision-maker on climate policy,” Kagan said. 

“I cannot think of many things more frightening,” she concluded. 

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “our precedent counsels skepticism toward EPA’s claim” that the law “empowers it to devise carbon emissions caps based on a generation shifting approach.” 

Roberts said that capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal may be a “sensible” solution to the “crisis of the day.”  

“But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme” under the law in question, he wrote. “A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.” 

Writing separately, Justice Neil Gorsuch emphasized the court’s move to limit agency power, which he considers unaccountable to the public. 

“While we all agree that administrative agencies have important roles to play in a modern nation, surely none of us wishes to abandon our Republic’s promise that the people and their representatives should have a meaningful say in the laws that govern them,” Gorsuch wrote.