How the latest Supreme Court Decisions are Shaping State Legislatures

By FOCUS, a Leonine Business

The U.S. Supreme Court concluded its latest term on June 30, punctuated by critical cases addressing affirmative action, student loans and gay rights. The wave of decisions released at the end of June underscored the conservative lean of the court, as six Republican appointees consistently dominated in a series of 6-to-3 decisions. This conservative sway was reminiscent of the prior year’s transformative rulings on abortion, gun control, religion and climate change. In contrast, some rulings this term found the three Democratic appointees in the majority, notably in cases related to the Voting Rights Act, the role of state legislatures in federal elections and Native American adoptions. The verdicts have initiated a surge of state special legislative sessions.

One significant case from last June, New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. v. Bruen, expanded gun rights by striking down New York state’s limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home. The ruling declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense and set a new convoluted test for assessing firearms laws using the “nation’s historical tradition” of regulation.

The ruling notably impacted Tennessee when the state had to change the age limit for its open carry law following a lawsuit, reports in The Tennessean. Republican Gov. Bill Lee is scheduled to call a special legislative session on August 21 to enhance public safety and safeguard constitutional rights, after the legislature’s session concluded on April 21 without addressing gun reform and in the wake of the tragic Covenant School mass shooting in March. The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up second amendment rights again next term with United States v. Rahimi, challenging the constitutionality of banning people under domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms.

On June 8, the Supreme Court found that Alabama violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the Black vote when it drew new congressional maps, reports The Guardian. The 5-4 decision in Allen v. Milligan, drove Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to call a special legislative session on July 17 to revisit congressional redistricting. The state now faces a deadline of July 21 to create a new redistricting plan that includes two majority-minority districts.

Additionally, the decision in Allen v. Milligan led the Supreme Court to restore a federal court’s ruling that Louisiana’s congressional lines likely diluted the power of Black voters in the state on June 26, Politico reports. This is a complete reversal from last summer when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the state’s appeal and additionally imposed a stay of the federal judge’s order, instead lifting the stay and dismissing its decision to hear the Louisiana appeal on the basis they took the case prematurely. Other southern states like Georgia and Texas will likely also be affected by the Allen decision.

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld a 2022 ruling, which blocked the enforcement of a six-week abortion ban on June 16, reports the Iowa Capital Dispatch. The split 3-3 vote allowed abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy to remain legal. However, this decision prompted Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to convene a special one-day legislative session on July 11 dedicated solely to “enacting legislation that addresses abortion and protects unborn lives.” The Republican-led legislature successfully passed HF 732, a fetal heartbeat law banning all abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for the life of the woman, miscarriages and fetal abnormalities. Additionally, the law includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest but only if they were reported to law enforcement. Governor Reynolds signed the legislation on July 14, which took immediate effect. Abortion advocates in the state have already filed a legal challenge to the law, which is was blocked by Polk County District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin on July 17.


FOCUS continues to track states’ evolving response to these pivotal rulings via special sessions and litigation.