Upcoming First Amendment Cases in the 2023-2024 U.S. Supreme Court Term

The U.S. Supreme Court's 2023-2024 term, commencing on the first Monday of October, promises a series of significant First Amendment cases. The court began announcing its docket on September 29, 2023, including a mix of cases accepted for hearing and those declined.

Here's a look at some of the key First Amendment cases on the schedule.

Cases Set for Oral Argument

  1. O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier and Lindke v. Freed (Oct. 31, 2023): These cases explore if public officials violate the First Amendment when they block critics on social media. The 9th Circuit found such actions by school board members on Twitter and Facebook unconstitutional, whereas the 6th Circuit held a different view in the case of a city manager’s Facebook account.

  2. Vidal v. Elster (Nov. 1, 2023): This case questions if federal law, prohibiting trademark registration of a mark identifying a living individual without consent, violates free speech when the mark criticizes a public official. It originated from the denial of a trademark for the phrase “TRUMP TOO SMALL.”

  3. NetChoice LLC v. Paxton and Moody v. Netchoice LLC: The constitutionality of Texas and Florida laws regulating social media content moderation is at stake. The 5th Circuit upheld Texas' law, while the 11th Circuit blocked most of Florida’s law. The cases, yet to be scheduled for oral argument, deal with the platforms' First Amendment rights versus state efforts to prevent alleged censorship of certain viewpoints.

  4. Murthy v. Missouri: Set for hearing likely in spring 2024, this case involves claims that social media companies suppressed views, particularly about COVID-19, due to government coercion. The 5th Circuit largely upheld a federal judge's injunction against federal officials and agencies, but the Supreme Court stayed the injunction.

  5. National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo: This case examines if the First Amendment permits a government regulator to threaten adverse actions against entities doing business with a controversial speaker. It arose from New York’s response to the NRA post the Parkland shooting.

Cases Denied Review

  1. North Carolina Farm Bureau v. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Stein v. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: The Supreme Court denied review of North Carolina's "ag-gag" law, previously blocked by the 4th Circuit, which targeted undercover newsgathering at farms.

  2. Blakenship v. NBCUniversal: This case involved the “actual malice” standard for public figures in libel claims. The Supreme Court denied review, despite Justice Clarence Thomas's noted disagreement with the established standard.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court's docket for the 2023-2024 term includes a range of First Amendment cases that could have significant implications for free speech, particularly in the digital age. From social media moderation to trademark law, these cases reflect the ongoing evolution of First Amendment jurisprudence in modern society.