The Supreme Court’s Newest Bombshells // Once again, the U.S. high court makes big changes

“Part of ‘judicial humility’…is admitting, and in certain cases correcting, our own mistakes, especially when those mistakes
are serious.”
—Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the majority opinion in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which overturned a 40-year precedent about the power of federal agencies

The US presidential election season is in super-hot mode, with the two main candidates slugging it out over who is best suited to run the executive branch. But the latest round of Supreme Court decisions should remind voters that beyond all the other actions that a president can take in office, the ability to nominate federal judges, and particularly Supreme Court justices—who serve for life—is one of the most consequential powers.
Donald Trump’s election in 2016 gave him the chance to swing the composition of the country’s highest court toward the conservative side, and that has led to a number of groundbreaking decisions that have changed the country and its politics. The 2022 Dobbs decision on abortion is going to play a large role in the politics of the upcoming election, but several of the decisions released by the court in the past week and or so may be as impactful, even if they don’t have the same cachet as that one.
For example, the court ruled that bump stocks—which can make a semiautomatic rifle fire like an automatic one—are not considered machine guns. The Trump administration’s decision to ban them after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, therefore, was not permissible. In another case, the court ruled that someone who has committed spousal abuse can be legally banned from owning a firearm. They ruled on water rights in the US Southwest, on whether abortion bills were legal, and on the drawing of congressional districts. There were a number of other fascinating and important rulings as well.
But some of the court’s most recent rulings have been especially important. Two in particular may radically change the way the US government functions. We’ll look at some of these cases, ranging from the rights of the homeless to the rights of a president.

Can a president be prosecuted for crimes he committed while president?

For many of them, no.

Special Counsel Jack Smith has been prosecuting former President Donald Trump over his actions in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and his actions on January 6. But Trump’s lawyers argued that the president has immunity from prosecution for acts that he did while he was in office.
The Supreme Court, breaking down along political lines, decided that presidents do have a good deal of immunity for such acts. That decision may entirely upend Smith’s prosecution of Trump, or he may be able to still press forward, arguing that at least some of Trump’s acts were not immune from prosecution. It will certainly make it very hard for the prosecution.

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