Columbia Faculty on the Recent Supreme Court Decisions

In June, the Supreme Court issued several major rulings that impact the lives of millions of people in the United States. Find out what faculty members think about these outcomes.

July 07, 2022

The Supreme Court’s precedent-breaking decisions have been dominating headlines. Read what Columbia faculty members have said in the media about the rulings, and what those rulings might tell us about how the court will treat other established practices.

This article will be updated as more news clips become available.

What These Recent Decisions Say About the Current Supreme Court

The role of Supreme Court “should be and a long time has been to lower the stakes of our political conflicts rather than to raise them,” said Jamal Greene, Dwight Professor of Law, Columbia Law School. According to Greene, the Court is not balancing the rights of all citizens by making partisan decisions. (Amanpour and Company on PBS, June 30)

West Virginia v. EPA

This ruling strips some regulatory authority from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Michael Gerrard (CC'72), Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, wrote an op-ed describing how while the recent ruling is a blow for the EPA's regulation powers, it still retains many tools to fight climate change. (Los Angeles Times, July 7)

Gernot Wagner, senior lecturer at Columbia Business School, noted that while this Supreme Court decision is narrow, it will allow the coal industry to delay upgrades and changes to its industry because this ruling will enable coal producers to litigate cases in court. (CNBC, July 1)

Gerrard noted that while the battle for climate change has been lost on this ruling in the Supreme Court, "the war against climate change very much goes on.” According to Gerrard, government agencies through federal, state, and local rules can still fight climate change. Romany Webb, senior fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law said that the ruling was “a blow, but it is nowhere near the worst-case scenario.” (The New York Times, July 1)

While this ruling does take away some power from the EPA, it "still leaves many tools available to EPA, other federal agencies, states, cities and the private sector to cut greenhouse gas emissions," said Gerrard. (The Washington Post, July 1)

Gillian Metzger (LAW'96), Harlan Fiske Stone Professor of Constitutional Law, stated that this ruling on the EPA reflects a decades long push to roll back government regulation. (The New York Times, June 30)

Jason Smerdon and Radley Horton, both research professors at the Columbia Climate School's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, commented on how this SCOTUS ruling will make it more difficult to accomplish climate change goals. Smerdon said that you have "absorb it, mourn it, and feel crappy about it, but ultimately it needs to spur action." (The New York Times, June 30) 

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

The Supreme Court decided that abortion was not a constitutional right and overturned Roe v. Wade.  

Carol Sanger, the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law at Columbia Law School who specializes in reproductive rights, opined on how hard women have fought for freedoms and what was taken away in Dobbs. (CBS News, June 26)

Olatunde Johnson, the Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, where she focuses on constitutional rights, spoke about how the court decided that the Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to an abortion and how other long-standing precedents might be overruled. (ABC News Live, June 24)

Sanger also talked about how the mental health of the mother will probably not be considered an exception to abortion bans. (NBC News, June 24)

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen

Guns will be less restricted in public spaces in New York.

Jeffrey Fagan, the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and a professor of epidemiology at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health with expertise on gun control, noted that New York City can try to enact laws to counteract the recent Supreme Court gun ruling, but those could lead to future legal challenges. (Gothamist, June 23)

Carson v. Makin

Religious schools in Maine are now allowed to receive funding from local school districts.

Columbia Law School’s Katherine Franke (BC'81), the James L. Dohr Professor of Law, stated that the Supreme Court’s decision to reject Maine’s ban on funding to religious schools will have a far-reaching impact. (The Hill, June 25)