Postscript: The Supreme Court’s Decisions on Bump Stocks and Mifepristone


In this episode of our occasional series, Postscript, we focus on the Supreme Court’s recently published decisions in two cases, about guns and abortion, but more about how the Executive and Judicial branches of government function in the United States. Constitutional Law scholar (and New Books in Political Science co-host) Susan Liebell takes us through Garland v. Cargill, which focused on the Trump Administration’s implementation of a prohibition against bump stocks for rifles following the deadly shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2017. Liebell, a published expert on the Second Amendment and the long history of gun regulation in the United States, explains the thrust of the case, which is only tangentially connected to the Second Amendment, but calls into question the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm’s (ATF) expertise, particularly in context of the majority opinion’s decision that the ATF was not using its administrative power correctly. The majority opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, may signal the Supreme Court’s inclinations towards Chevron deference, which is also before the Court this term in the case of Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo.

Liebell, also an expert on abortion access, reproductive health regulation, and citizenship, explains the Court’s unanimous decision in Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. The opinion, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, focused solely on the question of standing, and whether the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine actually qualified to bring the case since there was no clear injury that had been sustained in the suit they brought before the District Court in Amarillo, Texas. Thus, the drug Mifepristone, which was to be banned nationwide in the initial court ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, was not banned as a result of this lawsuit brought by the Food and Drug Administration. This case, not dissimilar from Garland v. Cargill, focuses on procedural questions more than it focuses on other issues. And the unanimous decision is about that legal procedure, not about the FDA, or the process to through which drugs are brought to market in the United States, or about the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine’s indictment of the process for prescribing mifepristone. Our conversation threads through these cases, and others (like Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and District of Columbia v. Heller) that set the foundation for these cases to come forward.

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Lilly J. Goren and Susan Liebell

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