Recent Supreme Court Rulings and What They Mean for Americans

On top of overturning Roe v. Wade and ending 50 years of abortion protections last week, the Supreme Court also made the decision on June 23 to protect police from “Miranda” lawsuits.

As reported by Reuters, the Supreme Court has “transformed a Reconstruction-era law meant to protect the rights of freed slaves and marginalized Americans into a formidable shield for the most powerful, including police, prosecutors and businesses.” 

The ruling came about in the Vega v. Tekoh case, in which nurse assistant Terence Tekoh said Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Vega didn’t read him his Miranda rights and strong-armed him into confessing to sexual assault and threatening to deport his family. Tekoh was tried and convicted by the State of California twice but has never been found guilty. 

While Miranda rights are still in place, they have been restricted by this ruling, which states that suspects who are not made aware of their right to remain silent cannot sue the police for damages even if evidence was used against them in their criminal trial. 

Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told the news outlet that the ruling doesn’t get rid of the Miranda right. “But it does make it far harder to enforce. Under this ruling, the only remedy for a violation of Miranda is to suppress statements obtained from a suspect who’s not properly advised of his right to remain silent. But if the case never goes to trial, or if the government never seeks to use the statement, or if the statement is admitted notwithstanding the Miranda violation, there’s no remedy at all for the government’s misconduct.”

Brett Max Kaufman, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU, reacted to the court’s ruling, saying that the decision limits people’s ability to “hold government officials accountable for violating” guarantees found in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. 

“The warnings mandated by the Supreme Court in Miranda have been part of the fabric of law enforcement interactions with the public for more than 60 years. By denying people whose rights are violated the ability to seek redress under our country’s most important civil rights statute, the Court further widens the gap between the guarantees found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the people’s ability to hold government officials accountable for violating them.” 

“We fought for the Supreme Court to recognize these rights, and we’ll keep fighting to make sure our country lives up to the Constitution’s guarantees,” he added. 

Supreme Court Expands Gun Rights

In yet another controversial decision, the Supreme Court last week struck down a decision that required people in New York to provide a unique need for self-protection if they wanted to carry a handgun, making it much easier for millions of people in the state to carry handguns in public. 

In the 6-3 decision, Supreme Court justices said the restriction was unconstitutional. It’s unclear how long officials have to put a new permitting process in place, but it has been sent back to a lower court, which should give officials more time to adopt a new concealed-carry application system. 

Moments after the ruling was handed down, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, “said she was prepared to call the state legislature back in session,” NBC News reported. 

“We’re not going to cede our rights that easily,” she said, adding that New York officials have been talking with legal and gun safety experts in preparation of the ruling for weeks. 

The Supreme Court’s ruling could question the validity of similar concealed-carry restrictions in other states such as Maryland, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey. These states also require people to provide a good cause, reason or justifiable need for carrying a handgun. 

Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel and Policy Director with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence told NBC that the states mentioned, which is a small number, contain a quarter of the population and that “1 in 4 Americans are going to feel the impact of this case.”

The Supreme Court said in its 135-page ruling that those states “may continue to require licenses for carrying handguns for self-defense” going forward as long as Maryland, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey follow the less restrictive requirements used by 43 other states.